Slow Cooker Brisket

A few weeks ago my friend Sarah and I put our heads together to throw our first ever Only Child Party. The evening was conceived as both an electrifying social experiment, and an opportunity to get an incredibly random group of people together for dinner. It may or may not have also been an excuse to write a witty email and get attention and praise.

There were a few things that could be improved upon for next time. First, in one of my emails I promised that there would be an “official center of attention” marked with masking tape in Sarah’s living room. Unfortunately, we were running a little behind on dinner and did not leave ample time for crafts.

If I had it to do all over again (which I most likely will, come the holiday season), I would have gone to Party City and purchased a unicorn poster to have over the center of attention, as well as a Hollywood star for the floor. Sarah also wanted to buy #1 candles and name tags that said “ask me about…” so that she could write ME on all of them.

Despite these failures in ambiance, the food was something that we definitely did right. So what do you serve a room full of so many selfish people, you might ask?

We ended up landing on a taco buffet full of many different fillings and condiments, so that no one would have to sacrifice their individuality at dinner. Luckily all the coping mechanisms we learned at liberal arts schools paid off and we managed to collaborate on all the offerings. We even coaxed a few guests into sharing some extra dishes with us. My friend Sophie, who works at a sustainable seafood company, brought some beautiful wild shrimp that we sautéed with garlic and lime juice. Sarah made a vegetarian black bean filling. And I made the meat.

Selfishly, I knew I didn’t have much time that day to cook, so I chose to make something low and slow that I could just leave alone in the oven. I usually grab a pork shoulder for this. But there seemed to be a high percentage of only children attending who grew up on the Upper West Side, so I thought brisket might be more their speed.

I used similar seasonings as this carnitas recipes and browned the brisket cubes on the stove. You’ve all been asking for slow cooker recipes, so I adapted this one to suit the counter-top technique. Either way you make it, pulled slow cooker brisket makes for an unbeatable taco filling. So good, if you’re an only child like me, you may not want to share.

Slow Cooker Brisket

Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 8 hours
Servings 6 people


  • 3 pounds brisket
  • Sea salt and pepper
  • One 12-ounce bottle hard cider
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 large garlic cloves, crushed


  1. Trim the fat cap off the brisket, leaving just 1/3 inch. Cut into 3-inch cubes.
  2. Add the brisket to the slow cooker along with the remaining ingredients and 2 teaspoons salt.
  3. Cook on low for 8 hours. Remove to a bowl and shred. Return to the slow cooker and keep warm until ready to eat.
  4. Serve alongside taco fixings or as a topping for Mexican brown rice.

To make in the oven:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Place a large Dutch oven over high heat.
  3. Trim the fat cap off the brisket, leaving just 1/3 inch. Cut into 3-inch cubes. Season the brisket with salt and pepper. Sear the brisket fat-side down until nicely browned, about 2 minutes on the first side. Brown the brisket on the additional sides, about 1 minutes per. Remove to a plate. Add the cider and scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Stir in the cumin, paprika, chili powder, cinnamon, garlic, and 2 teaspoons salt. Return the beef to the pot, fat-side up. Pour in enough water to come at least 2/3’s of the way up the beef.
  4. Cover and braise in the oven for 2 hours, until tender. Remove the lid and cook for an additional 1 to 1.5 hours, until nearly falling apart. Shred with two forks and keep in the marinade until ready to eat.

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