Brisket: a perfect encapsulation of the American dream

Photo courtesy of Hollenbeck Farms.
Photo courtesy of Hollenbeck Farms.
Photo courtesy of Hollenbeck Farms.

In celebration of Coca-Cola’s 125th anniversary, the company released a cookbook containing a series of recipes featuring the popular beverage. The book includes recipes for nearly everything imaginable, including pork dishes, appetizers and several cakes.

I decided to attempt a simple recipe that featured not only cola soda, but another ingredient which is easy to find in most college students’ kitchens: ketchup.

This recipe attracted me mostly because it seemed like something that would taste terrible and I was curious to discover why it was a popular recipe despite its strange ingredients.

So, I set out to make it using an improved recipe from America’s Test Kitchen. The main difference between this recipe and the original is that the original calls for onion soup powder which has been replaced by real onions, onion powder, garlic powder, brown sugar, and dried thyme in order to improve the flavor and avoid some of the unnatural ingredients in the soup powder; after all, there are already enough unnatural ingredients for one meal between the ketchup and cola.

Next, I will provide a few tips for navigating this recipe. Firstly, although it calls for a 3.5lb brisket, (which is rather large) it is important to note that a smaller brisket may be used. Even if it is smaller, it is not necessary to reduce the other ingredients proportionately, since the brisket should still be covered in the pan and the excess liquid will simply mean that there is more sauce available to put over the meat when served. I used a 2.5lb brisket and didn’t alter the amounts of any of the other ingredients. Secondly, even though the recipe is simple, don’t get lazy. Follow all of the directions. For instance, don’t neglect to pat the brisket dry with paper towels. This step is important because if you do not pat it entirely dry, the brisket will not brown correctly.

Also, poking holes in the brisket is essential so that the salt can get inside of the meat and so that it will be flavored properly. The parchment paper between the brisket and the aluminum foil while it is in the pan is also necessary because the acidic juices in the pan can react with aluminum foil, so if you don’t want to sprout any extra limbs, separating the two is necessary.

Finally, be sure to allow the brisket to rest for the complete 30 minutes after cooking it so that it will be at its most tender. While the meat is in the oven, it gets tight, but if you let it sit after it comes out of the oven, it will loosen up and absorb the juices from the sauce.

At first, the prospect of a ketchup and soda brisket sounded less than appealing, especially since I am not particularly fond of either ingredient on its own, but the novelty factor of the recipe won me over and I was pleasantly surprised with the results.

A bit about making your own ketchup: If the idea of using multiple unhealthy ingredients for a brisket is unappealing, you can whip up your own ketchup. Since I have not yet tried to create my own ketchup, I cannot vouch for the quality of homemade ketchup; however, I have seem multiple recipes, most of them fairly simple.

One of the recipes I found, which has the shortest preparation time and most natural ingredients, calls for tomato paste, maple syrup or agave, mustard, apple cider vinegar, salt and water. Of course the benefit of making your ketchup is that you may simply cut out, replace or reduce any ingredients which you would like to avoid.

I found the brisket to be quite tasty and extremely tender.  In addition, it was easy to make, even for a less-experienced cook. Another benefit of the recipe is that it doesn’t take too much time to prepare the brisket.

However, this is not the most nutritional meal seeing as the recipe contains soda and ketchup, neither of which are healthy – one of the main ingredients of ketchup is the infamous corn-syrup. However, if one eats reasonably small portions, this dish is probably healthier than whatever other plans you had for your soda and ketchup.

This recipe serves six, so it’s the perfect thing to serve to a few friends. Give it a try and wow your dinner guests with a delicious meal made from the most unexpected ingredients. Ingredients

The Recipe


1 3 1/2 lb beef brisket, flat cut, fat trimmed to 1/4 inch ­thick

Salt and pepper

4 teaspoons vegetable oil

1 pound onions, halved and sliced 1/2 inch thick

2 cups cola (coke or otherwise)

1 1/2 cups ketchup

4 teaspoons onion powder

2 teaspoons packed dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon dried thyme


1. Using fork, poke holes all over brisket. Rub entire surface with 1 tablespoon salt. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 or up to 24 hours (I left mine overnight).

2. Adjust oven rack to lower­-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in 12 ­inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Place brisket fat side down in skillet; weigh down brisket with heavy Dutch oven or cast-iron skillet and cook until well browned. Remove Dutch oven, flip brisket, and replace Dutch oven on top of brisket; cook on second side until well browned, about 4 minutes longer. Transfer brisket to plate.

3. Heat remaining 2 teaspoons oil in now-empty skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer onions to 13 by 9 ­inch baking dish and spread into even layer.

4. Combine cola, ketchup, onion powder, sugar, garlic powder, thyme, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper in bowl. Place brisket fat side up on top of onions and pour cola ­mixture over brisket. Place parchment paper over brisket and cover dish tightly with aluminum foil. Bake until tender and fork easily slips in and out of meat, 3 1/2 to 4 hours (my 2.5lb brisket cooked for 3.5 hours). Let brisket rest in liquid, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

5. Skim any fat from top of sauce with large spoon. Slice brisket against grain into 1/4 inch-thick slices and return to baking dish. Serve brisket with sauce.

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