How to cook for a crowd without breaking the bank

  • SERVES: 6 – 8
  • COOKING TIME: 5.5 hours
  • PREP TIME: 8 hours i.e. to marinade overnight, 10 minutes to make marinade
  • DIFFICULTY: easy to get ready but learning to control fire, temperature is harder (but it’s fun)
  • IDEAL FOR: family, crowds
  • BUDGET: £

As autumn begins to really settle in, we had an opportunity to ignore the looming winter cold and gather good friends to head off to our local Dartmouth Food Festival.

The weekend plan

Enjoy the festival by;

  • watching the World Cup Rugby first (a stressful time in our family/village as I am ‘the only Kiwi in the village’… talk to me after Saturday’s Eng v NZ 😬)
  • taking the stunning hour-long coastal walk to and from the festival with friends (burn those festival calories off 😉),
  • enjoying lots of local food and drink,
  • finishing day with a brilliant supper around our well-used kitchen table with friends and family.

Having said that, trying to time a meal to do all that and hustle all our friends could have turned me into an authoritarian-hell-master (that’s a real thing, btw) which I really didn’t fancy…

A bit more about circumnavigating that problem later.

But first…

Bringing together people who love food, drink and local produce

The Dartmouth food festival.

Not only do we sample great local food and drink but it also attracts inspiring chefs to share their knowledge, expertise and tasty creations, so it’s a stand out event on our calendar.

And it’s hard not to get inspired by the likes of Mark Hix, Mitch Tonk and my personal hero, Angela Hartnett, celebrated chefs and restaurateurs, as they demonstrated simple dishes with such ease and passion.

Quality rulz

One of my biggest take-aways; the importance of sourcing healthy, fresh, ethical produce i.e. quality = taste.

And this simple rule means, you can create uncomplicated yet mouth-watering dishes.

So, after wandering around the stalls and demonstrations, and ok, we perched up at our great local winery’s stall – Michael Sutton Cellars – for perhaps a little too long sampling their fantastic wines…

…it was time to head back and get supper on.

Yes, we had room for more!

How to cook for a crowd and not be chained to the oven

My ace in the hole to cook for a crowd of family and friends and in this case being able to join everyone at the festival… brisket.

I love brisket.

Because, it’s one of the most inexpensive stress-free cuts I use to cook with and creates some unbelievable flavours – so much so, people think I’m a culinary genius. Win.

And what’s more, all I do is cover the brisket with a simple black pepper and sea salt rub (60/40 mix), a good sprinkling of cayenne pepper (more on matching spices with meat, here)

Then put the brisket on a very low heat for 7+ hrs.

So, on this weekend, I used my Kamado Joe and threw in some oak chips to give it a nice smoky flavour as well.

We’re just not quite ready to admit summer is over and in fact I think we are going to try and use it more over winter as well this year… bbrrrr.

However, this time I have included a very simple recipe for creating a similar smokey brisket in a conventional oven… after-all, it’s getting cold out there.

(Own a BBQ or smoker?? Keep an eye out for my recipe to do smoked brisket on a BBQ or in a Smoker.)

Low and slow

The beauty of this method of low and slow… you literally can’t overcook it, the longer the better.

Because, it’s actually more about the internal meat temperature than the internal BBQ or oven temperature so you’ll need a meat thermometer.

In fact, when we ended up coming back later than planned (#michaelsuttoncellars), it just meant the brisket was going to taste even better… hooray for nice wine!

Almost done.

Hang on… what is brisket?

It’s a (beef) cut from the lower chest.

Which is tough and full of fat and collagen (- I’m not selling it, I know BUT just wait… -) which is why it needs a slow cook.

So this does mean that the fat will melt away giving the dish even more flavour.

It’s also a cheap cut so perfect for family meals or gathering crowds without breaking the bank and the best part, they’ll love it.

Smoked brisket. Simple rub, low and slow cooked, rested for an hour. Heaven.

Can I cook brisket in an oven?


This is how… follow the recipe below.

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Low and slow (smoked) beef brisket

Course Main Course
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 5 hours 30 minutes
Marinading time 8 hours
Total Time 13 hours 45 minutes


  • Conventional oven
  • Meat thermometer


  • 2.5 kg (trimmed) beef brisket Try and get one that has some nice fat on the top (called the fat cap) and some marbling. Not the leaner brisket used for corned beef.

The Rub

  • 1/2 cup Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp liquid smoke Can be bought in most supemarkets or online. This is to gain that smokey taste that a bbq gives the brisket (it won't be the same as in a bbq but it will add a new layer of flavour.
  • 1/4 cup sea salt
  • 3 tbsp coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder


  • Take your brisket and if untrimmed, trim any excess fat of the fat cap i.e. you don't want anymore than approx 1 – 1.5 cm of fat.
    Also cut of the tough silverskin (it's the think tough white film).
  • In a bowl, mix in the liquid smoke and mustard and then coat the brisket with it.
    In another bowl, add in the salt, pepper and garlic powder and mix it all together.
    Then sprinkle evenly over the brisket and give it a good massage.
    Now, simply cover the brisket tightly in cling film (or foil) and place in the for the night.
  • Next morning, bring the brisket out and let it come to room temperature (at least an hour) in it's cling film/foil.
  • Heat your oven to approx 150 °C/ 300°F.
    Once ready, wrap your brisket in foil but looser so it can steam a bit, place on a rack and put a couple of small holes in the foil, then place in the oven.
    Cook for 5 – 6 hours OR until the internal meat temperature (at it's thickest) has reached is 85 °C/ 185°F
  • If you want to get a crisp crust on the exterior, then after 5-6 hrs or when the internal temp is correct, undo the foil and cook for another hour but you will need to check regularly so you maintain it's internal temp and doesn't dry out (not you have opened up the foil)


  • You need to rest the brisket for at least 30 minutes in loosely covered foil

How to slice

  • Cut against the grain


Brisket leftovers can be left in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Do you have any other slow cooked brisket ideas you’d like to share? Leave a comment or message me direct…

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