Brisket on a Budget

Brisket on a Budget

We’re really thrilled to be starting a new column here at SPC: Lisa’s Letters Home. Lisa Durbin, who wrote this post for us way back when, is an old friend from my university days. I can’t say that at the time I would have guessed that the wise-cracking, Kate Bush listening, late night hair dying girl I knew from Vanier College would end up being the Mum that Lisa now is to her three kids. But is she ever. I mean, you should see the cakes that she makes for their birthdays. I hope my kids never see them and realize what a poor job I do! Which might be so hard to arrange as Lisa lives with her family in the U.K. Hence, the letters home. She’ll be writing about baking, cooking on a budget, dealing with allergies… basically all the things that happen in her family’s kitchen. And how did she know I’ve been wanting to learn how to make a brisket? – C.M.

Lisa’s Letters Home

Today I spent £80 to fill up our family car, which is approximately 1 kajillion Canadian dollars, give or take. In my region of England, I currently pay $2.25 CAD for one litre of Britain’s finest diesel. If my car ran on butter, it would be more cost effective. As a family of five with one “working” spouse, we are always looking at ways we can save a few pennies. (Incidentally, I put “working” in quotes because if anyone dares to tell a stay at home mum that she’s not working, she will bury you under six loads of laundry and you will never be heard from again.) Although we have no control over things like the price of gas, we can find ways to cut costs at the supermarket.

It’s not news to anyone that making your own meals and avoiding pre-packaged foods will save you money, but using cheaper cuts of meat and slow(er) cooking have fallen by the wayside. We’ve forgotten how to use cuts that were commonplace on the dinner table a few decades ago. We eat on the run, in our cars, standing in a field watching our kids play sports. We’re impatient. Any recipe that has a cooking time of an hour or more isn’t worth the effort. But fast food and leaner meats cost more money, and more importantly, they can have less flavour.

As we approach St. Patrick’s Day, I think of corned beef. It reminds me of Montreal and parades, and freshly baked bagels with a thick layer of juicy slices of brisket inside. Brisket makes me a little homesick – and hungry. I came across a recipe for Texas oven roasted brisket on the Food Network site that looked easy and delicious. I’m all for anything with a dry rub, but I hadn’t tried that technique with brisket. Normally I slow cook brisket in stock and wine, so I was sceptical about cooking a tough cut of meat in so little liquid. I followed the recipe exactly as written, although it’s worth emphasising that you must use garlic and onion powder, not garlic and onion salt. Otherwise, you’re going to end up with a mouth-puckering meal and an urgent need for a litre of water. After three hours, I could flake the brisket apart with a fork, leaving a deeply delicious mahogany sauce on the bottom of the pan. It was slightly spicy, smoky, and remarkably tender. I served ours with roasted broccoli, and the kids had theirs with added mashed potatoes.

Brisket costs about ¼ of what I pay for a standard roast joint (topside). I bought two rolled pieces of brisket, which was enough to feed all five of us for dinner, with a generous amount of leftovers for lunch the next day. And if there are ever leftovers in our house, you know it must have been a huge amount of food. My husband Paul and I loved it, 4-year-old Mia and 2-year-old Isla cleaned their plates, but my 7-year-old son Jack thought it was “too chewy.” Ah well, there’s always one critic at the table. Erin go bragh, y’all!

Brisket on a Budget


  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1 bay leaf, crushed
  • 4 pounds beef brisket, trimmed
  • 1 1/2 cups beef stock


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Make a dry rub by combining chili powder, salt, garlic and onion powders, black pepper, sugar, dry mustard, and bay leaf.

Season the raw brisket on both sides with the rub.

Place in a roasting pan and roast, uncovered, for 1 hour.

Add beef stock and enough water to yield about 1/2 inch of liquid in the roasting pan.

Lower oven to 300 degrees F, cover pan tightly and continue cooking for 3 hours, or until fork-tender.

Trim the fat and slice meat thinly across the grain. Top with juice from the pan.



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