My Mother’s Brisket Recipe

My mother wasn’t much of a cook. My brother and I talk about growing up on Hungry Man TV Dinners, and many of my favorite holiday recipes involve opening cans to be mixed together and heated. However, there were certain dishes my mother perfected over time. She was proudest of her brisket.

There was a story she loved to tell in the last years of her life about how she emailed the brisket recipe to my cousin Karen, only to receive a reply from a stranger saying, “I don’t know who Karen is, but the brisket was delicious. Thanks!” Ironically, I don’t think she ever actually emailed the recipe to Karen, so when she died I despaired of ever reconstructing it. (My uncle and I tried this year, in a Facebook conversation prompted by my cousin’s request for the recipe.)

This morning, I was going to try to recreate the recipe from memory, but I decided to try one last Google search, just in case. Lo and behold, someone I have never heard of entered the recipe into, attributed to my mother to dispel any doubt. Thanks, Debbie Pullen, whoever you are!

Lest I lose it again, I thought I would preserve the recipe in my own records right here before I try my first attempt at making it. You’ll note it relies on canned goods and onion soup mix. What can I say, my mom was a product of her generation. You’ll also note that these directions assume you’ll be cooking ahead and reheating for the holidays. You might be tempted to serve it hot out of the oven, and that’s fine, but the freezing and reheating process definitely helps tenderize the beef and combine the flavors. I believe that my mother occasionally seared the brisket before the first step of this recipe, but Mark Bittman says the searing doesn’t really change the outcome, so feel free to skip. Enjoy!


  • 3.5 – 5 lb single cut brisket
  • 1 pkg onion soup mix
  • 1 can whole berry cranberry sauce
  • 1 lb carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 3-4 potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 1 cup boiling water


  1. Place brisket in a baking pan with heavy duty foil that can wrap the whole brisket.
  2. Place carrots and potatoes around edges of brisket.
  3. Combine boiling water, onion soup mix, and cranberry sauce. Pour over brisket.
  4. Close foil wrap tightly so liquid cannot escape.
  5. Cook in 350 degree oven for 3 hours.
  6. Once cooled, slice brisket and put in freezer pan with sauce, potatoes, and carrots. Place in freezer.
  7. The night before serving, defrost.
  8. Heat in 350 degree oven until hot.
  9. Serve and enjoy!

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