How to cook brisket in a slow cooker

The easy way to cook tasty melt-in-the-mouth brisket

A raw cut of beef brisket in a slow cooker, flavored with herbs and spices, and a hand pouring liquid
(Image credit: Alamy)

Beef brisket cooked for hours in a slow cooker is a dreamy comfort food that’s as good on a rainy Monday as it is on a Saturday night with friends. 

The best part is that cooking in a slow cooker is hands-off.  It leaves you free to get on with other things, be it whipping up a tasty dessert, daily chores, or simply taking it easy.

Brisket is a cut of beef that really needs a long, slow cook to break down all the connective tissue. Otherwise, it’ll be tough and chewy. After several hours in a slow cooker, you’ll be rewarded with a deliciously tender and succulent meat that pulls apart.

If you’re not sure how to cook a brisket in your slow cookers, follow my simple steps below. Just make sure you buy a brisket that’s the right size for your slow cooker. Cramming it in and leaving no space for broth and seasonings is a sure-fire route to failure.

You will need

  • 3-4 lb beef brisket
  • Vegetable oil
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 cup red wine or ale (optional)
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1-3 cloves minced garlic
  • A slow cooker - our favorite after testing them is the Crock-Pot MyTime.

The method

slowcooker brisket with mash potato, herbs, and forest mushrooms

(Image credit: Getty Images)
  1. Rub the brisket in oil and heat a frying pan on a high heat. Sear the brisket in the frying pan, moving it frequently to brown and seal all sides - it should take about 5 minutes in a very hot pan.
  2. Transfer the brisket to the slow cooker and add the beef broth, red wine/ ale (if using), onion, garlic and any other herbs such as 1 tbsp fresh chopped rosemary or thyme and 2-3 bay leaves. Season well with salt and pepper.
  3. Set the slow cooker to the low temperature setting and cook for 8-10 hours until tender.
  4. Remove the brisket and rest on a plate.
  5. Serve sliced or pulled with the juices from the slow cooker - if the juices are too thin, dissolve 1-2 tsp cornflour in a small amount of water and add to the juices to thicken. Alternatively simmer in a pan on the stove to reduce, before pouring over the meat.
  6. You can also finish the meat in a hot oven or broil it for a sweet caramelized crust.

Slow cooker brisket FAQs

Can the recipe be adapted?

Yes, of course. For a richer flavor you can add 1 - 2 tbsp worcestershire sauce, 1 - 2 tbsp brown sugar and 1-2 tbsp tomato paste to the recipe above, along with your choice of herbs. Alternatively, switch it up and instead of herbs and red wine, try it with BBQ spices and BBQ sauce. It won't be quite like a brisket made in a smoker, but it's still delicious. The main thing is to make sure that there’s at least 1-2 cups of liquid in the slow cooker so the brisket stays moist and cooks properly. 

What to serve with beef brisket

Creamy, buttery mash potato is a classic accompaniment to beef brisket. But you really can serve it with anything. When cooked with spices or BBQ sauce, it works well shredded in burger rolls, tacos or served with coleslaw and baked potatoes. It’s a pretty good all-rounder, so you can cook a brisket in the weekend and use it for a variety of meals throughout the following week.

Is searing the meat necessary?

No. You can skip this part and put the brisket straight into the slow cooker without searing it first. It will certainly make life easier if you’re doing this bit at 6am before you start work for the day. 

Yet if you have the time, searing the brisket is worth the effort. It caramelizes the outside for improved flavor and many people prefer the darker appearance of the seared meat. 

You aren't only limited to brisket with this recipe. You can also try pork loin or tenderloin - just make sure to reduce the cooking time by a couple hours. 

Helen McCue
Contributing Editor

Helen McCue is a freelance contributor who trained as a Home Economist. After starting her career in the food industry, she moved into home appliance reviews, utilising her cooking skills and experience to put all kinds of products to the test, and over the years has reviewed hundreds of home and kitchen appliances for a variety of publications.

Having completely renovated her current house, Helen reviews kitchen appliances from her open plan kitchen at home in a beautiful Berkshire village. When she’s not working, Helen can be found enjoying the local countryside or dreaming about her next house renovation project.