So I decided to try something new this past week: slow cooking, very slow cooking. And by slow, I mean starting the meat the night before and letting it cook all night while I slept. This recipe for slow cooked root beer braised beef brisket is my first attempt ever at cooking in a Crock-Pot. In the restaurant world, using a Crock-Pot is just something you don’t have time for (and it’s not big enough anyway). I have made many braised meat dishes in the past, but they have always been in a Dutch oven and have never taken longer than 5 hours. This recipe cooks for 9! In my head that seems insanely long, but after tasting the sweet tender brisket I’m a believer in the Crock-Pot.
So why have I never tried using a slow cooker before? Well because I never owned one. Now that I’m a mom though, I thought it was something I should have. Its one of those appliances that is supposed to make life easier when you are busy; just “set it and forget it,” right? My sister was thoughtful enough to give me one for my birthday last week (it had nothing to do with the text message I sent her, I swear), so I decided to test it out this weekend. I have seen recipes for a lot of cool stuff you can do in a Crock-Pot, like lasagna or enchiladas, but I decided to play it safe and have my first attempt be a cut of meat that is supposed to be cooked a super long time…bring on the brisket!
Brisket is not in my normal repertoire at work or at home, usually pot roast or short rib takes center stage, so I thought brisket would be a nice change. Since my plan was to use the cooked meat for tacos for lunch on Sunday while watching football (go Broncos! – my husband is from Denver), I thought I would use a similar spice mix and braising liquid as my carnitas recipe. This means smokey chile powder and paprika, balanced with sweet cola and molasses. In the past I have always used Pepsi as part of the braising liquid; the combination of the sugar and carbonation help tenderize the meat. I thought I would spice things up though by using root beer. I haven’t used it before in a braise and was eager to see what kind of flavor it would add to the meat.
The whole process was pretty simple and I didn’t even start it until 10:30pm on Saturday night. First I made a rub for the meat and then seared it in a hot pan on the stove. Once it was golden in color, it went into the Crock-Pot with the braising liquid. I set the auto-timer for 9 hours, and then then it was bed time. It was that easy.
Well, on Sunday morning we awoke to the smell of mouth-watering sweet beef, and I knew the root beer was a good choice. It was also a good feeling knowing that lunch for the day was pretty much ready and all that was left to do was shred the meat and sauté it with it’s reduced braising liquid. I kept the tacos pretty simple so the flavor of the meat would really come through. The root beer and molasses make the beef somewhat sweet, so I topped the tacos with avocado and jalapeño to add some creaminess and heat. It was a nice balance.
These tacos were perfect for a day of football; easy to eat finger food that was full of flavor and not too heavy. My husband, who has very little patience in the kitchen, and therefore not a believer in slow food, even said we could keep the Crock-Pot (he was joking). Even Naia got in the football and partook in the tacos (well the tortillas were her favorite part).
- 3 lbs beef brisket
- 1 TBSP paprika
- 1 TBSP dried chipotle powder
- 1 TBSP cumin
- 1 TBSP salt
- 2 tsp pepper
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 3 TBSP canola or avocado oil
- 1 12oz bottle of root beer
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 3 TBSP molasses
- ½ onion - chopped
- 1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
- ½ cup red pepper jelly
- 4 cups beef stock - as needed
- Make the rub for the meat first by combining all the dry seasoning powders and the salt and the pepper. Rub the seasoning mix into the meat on both sides, do not remove the fat from the brisket.
- Heat the oil in a large skillet or pot over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, sear the meat on both sides for about 5 minutes until golden and starting to brown. Turn off the heat, and remove the meat from the pan. You do not need to save the oil.
- Place the seared meat into the slow cooker (Crock-Pot) along with the chopped onion, root beer, apple cider vinegar, molasses, diced tomatoes, and red pepper jelly. Add enough beef stock so that the meat is just covered. Place the lid on the slow cooker.
- Set the slow cooker to LOW and let the meat cook for 8-9 hours. The meat is done when it can easily be shredded with a fork.
- When the meat is ready, remove it from the cooking liquid and let it cool. Strain the onions and tomatoes from the cooking liquid and then skim the fat from the top (if you have time, you can put the liquid in the fridge and let the fat solidify which makes it easier to separate). Place the cooking liquid into a pot, and simmer over medium heat until the liquid has reduced to about 1 cup.
- Meanwhile, use two forks to shred the beef. The beef should pull away from the fat layer very easily. Discard the fat.
- When ready to serve, add the reduced cooking liquid to the shredded beef and reheat in a skillet over medium heat.