Atlanta Brisket

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I can’t believe I’d never heard of this recipe until I was halfway through writing this cookbook and then only because my good friend Fran McCullough, a primo New York cookbook editor now retired and living in the historic town of Hillsborough just north of Chapel Hill, e-mailed one morning full of enthusiasm: “Have you ever heard of Atlanta Brisket?” She’d eaten it for the first time the night before at some local “food do” and was blown away by its flavor and succulence. A quick online search turned up this shocker. Eli N. Evans, my across-the-hall Gramercy Park co-op neighbor for nearly 20 years, is an aficionado of Atlanta Brisket. Who knew? President Emeritus of The Charles H. Revson Foundation of New York and like me a born-and-bred Tar Heel, Eli is the author of three acclaimed books: The Provincials: A Personal History of Jews in the South, Judah P. Benjamin: The Jewish Confederate, and The Lonely Days Were Sundays: Reflections of a Jewish Southerner. The irony here is that I’d hand recipe “tests” across the hall to Eli and his family, never dreaming that he knew a thing about cooking.


Makes 10 to 12 Servings

5 pounds fresh beef brisket, trimmed of excess fat

2 bottles (16.5 ounces each) Coca-Cola (not Diet Coke)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons vegetable oil


2 cups Coca-Cola marinade, reserved from above

1 envelope dry onion soup mix (from a 2-ounce package)

1 can (8 ounces) salt-free tomato sauce

1/2 cup tomato ketchup

3 large yellow onions, halved lengthwise and each half sliced about 3/8 inch thick

3 large whole bay leaves (preferably fresh)

  1. Step 1

    1. Place brisket in large nonreactive roaster with snug-fitting lid (I used one measuring 15 1/2 inches long, 12 inches wide, and 4 inches deep). Pour Coca-Cola evenly over brisket, cover, and refrigerate 24 hours, turning brisket once or twice in Coca-Cola marinade.

    Step 2

    2. When ready to proceed, preheat oven to 325°F. Lift brisket from roaster and pat dry. Line large fine sieve with coffee filter and set over medium-size bowl. Pour in Coca-Cola marinade and let drip through.

    Step 3

    3. Rub brisket well on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat oil in very large (15-inch) heavy skillet about 1 minute over high heat until ripples appear on pan bottom. Add brisket and brown 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Return brisket to roaster, now rinsed and dried.

    Step 4

    4. For Gravy: Combine 2 cups filtered Coca-Cola marinade, soup mix, tomato sauce, and ketchup and pour over brisket. Scatter sliced onions on top and drop in bay leaves. Note: If you use fresh bay leaves, crinkle them a bit as you drop them into the roaster to release their flavor.

    Step 5

    5. Cover roaster, slide into lower third of oven, and braise brisket 4 hours. Check roaster at half time and if liquid seems skimpy—not likely—add a little more filtered Coca-Cola marinade, or beef broth, or water.

    Step 6

    6. Remove roaster from oven and set on trivet on counter. Remove lid and cool brisket at least 30 minutes to allow juices to settle and meat to firm up. Note: Some cooks bring the brisket to room temperature before serving. Discard bay leaves and remaining Coca-Cola marinade.

    Step 7

    7. To serve, lift brisket to cutting board and slice about 1/4 inch thick—across the grain and slightly on the bias. Overlap brisket slices on large platter and smother with pan gravy and onions. The best accompaniment? For me nothing beats a tart and creamy coleslaw.

From From a Southern Oven: The Savories, the Sweets by Jean Anderson. Copyright © 2012 by Jean Anderson; photography copyright © 2012 by Jason Wyche. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

How would you rate Atlanta Brisket?

  • This recipe has been the inspiration for the brisket we make for the Jewish Food Festival here in Durham, NC. Granted, we scale it for 170 pounds of brisket at a time. The compliments we get and the way this food resonates with both southerners and transplants from the Northeast is incredibly special. I would put my recipe up against anyone braising brisket. Thank you so much for the inspiration!

  • First of all, I’d like to address the negative comments regarding marinating in Coca- Cola. There are barbecue sauce recipes that consist of coke and root beer that are on this site and others. I have a great slow cooker pulled pork recipe that cooks all day in root beer. As for using dry onion soup, my mother has made brisket for years and includes it and it really enhances the sauce.
    That said, I made this last night and it was absolutely fabulous! I followed the recipe exactly with the only exception was that I used a regular can of tomato sauce and not unsalted. The meat was very tender and the sauce was to die for. Everyone loved it and I will definitely be making this again,

  • Best brisket recipe I make this in my crock pot!
    Also in the oven meat is tender and flavor great fantastic recipe

  • I’m anxious to try this brisket!
    What are good sides to serve with it?

  • Wanted this to be my new go-to brisket recipe…meat was tough and never became tender. Any idea why?

  • Wanted this to be my new go-to recipe! Flavor was ok, but meat was tough. It never got that fall apart texture….any idea why??

  • Take a look at GRILLED SPARERIBS WITH CHERRY COLA GLAZE on this site. I’ve been making it since 2002 when it first appeared. It has a 4 star rating. It is THE most requested rib recipe by friends and family. Can’t wait to make the Atlanta Brisket. Bet it’s going to be as good as the cherry cola ribs! Get a grip folks. If you want to make it “healthier” use Mexican bottled coke which is made with pure cane sugar.

  • I have begun the prep for making this dish, and decided to read the reviews. It doesn’t sway me from making the dish, but i am very surprised at some of the attitudes from people that haven’t even tried the recipe!
    I was brought up with the ‘canned soup for a sauce’ mentality, and as an adult have become a serious health conscious cook. HOWEVER, I know that marinades with sugar do not translate into sugary foods, and even though it sounds a little ‘red neck’, this recipe has been passed around by many a gourmet chef, so don’t knock it until you’ve tried it! I will let know in a few days how it turned out.

  • Four Forks! I forgot to include that with my review. No kidding folks, this recipe ROCKS!

  • OUTSTANDING! This recipe makes me want to convert! Happy Passover and Shalom Y’All!!!

  • @pwall921: When the marinating time is done, you’ll have somewhere near 4 cups of Coca-Cola marinade. (Not fit to imbibe at this point, so it’s called a marinade in an attempt to prevent confusion). The gravy recipe only calls for 2 cups, so you’ll discard the rest. I had to re-read it a couple of times to figure this out. As a southern boy who is minding his calories at the moment, this recipe brings mixed emotions, but it’s pretty tasty. I’d proudly serve it to other southerners and open-minded northerners. Epicurious, thank you for understanding that many of us cooks still appreciate recipes filled with flavor in spite of the fact that we may be best suited by minimizing our portions or skipping it altogether!
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  • Confused here:
    1: Pour Coca-Cola evenly over brisket…turning brisket once or twice in Coca-Cola marinade….Lift brisket from roaster….Line sieve…filter….Pour in Coca-Cola marinade and let drip through…..then…For Gravy: Combine 2 cups filtered Coca-Cola marinade, soup mix, tomato sauce, and ketchup and pour over brisket….roast in oven…..when done.. Discard bay leaves and remaining Coca-Cola marinade…Overlap brisket slices on large platter and smother with pan gravy and onions…
    If I am discarding the Coca Cola marinade, how am I “smothering it with pan gravy?” Doesn’t the pan gravy include the coca cola that was cooking with the brisket?

  • I made it and it was fabulous. I too try to eat healthy but the coke was for tenderizing the meat and when it was all done, it wasn’t sugary at all. Will definitely be doing this again. BTW, how much sugar does BBQ sauce, or any other sauce you might add, have???

  • I am giving this review 4 forks to balance out the completely unjust ratings by people who didn’t even make the recipe. It’s at least 3-3.5 forks at any rate and delicious! Why is someone who’s interested in a low fat, low sugar dish looking at a brisket recipe in the first place? I’m sure that at least one purpose for the Coke is to tenderize the meat. Without the sugar in the Coke, sugar of some sort would be needed, and many brisket recipes do call for brown sugar. As all true epicureans know, just because the recipe is simple, doesn’t mean it can’t be good. I doubt we’d have seen those complaints if the recipe had called for bourbon. Next time I make it I may try subbing BBQ sauce for the ketchup. Also, my daughter suggested adding carrots and small potatoes. Was a great comfort dish on a cold winter’s day.

  • In order to review a recipe, you must have made it, surely? I shudder at the sanctimony I read in most of these reviews. As an Atlantan, who has made this recipe, I can tell you it is a delicious version of a Southern classic.

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