A Viennese Favorite: Tafelspitz

Franz Joseph I, Emperor of Austria

Franz Joseph I, Emperor of Austria, was a notoriously fast eater. This proved troublesome to the court as every time he entertained his highest military officials, Franz Joseph was the first to be served. The rules of etiquette at the time dictated that once the Emperor stopped eating, everyone at the table must also finish their meals. Because of the rapidity with which he finished his meals, the soldiers were never able to finish their meals, leaving the table as hungry as when they first arrived.

Taking pity on the hungry soldiers, the court chefs created a simple but delicious dish that could be quickly prepared and brought to table: Tafelspitz, or Viennese boiled beef. Franz Joseph was so enamored of the new recipe of boiled beef and vegetables that he insisted upon having it at almost every meal.

Below is a recipe for Tafelspitz from aboutvienna.org. Use a well-aged tri tip, or a piece from the bottom sirloin primal cut, but almost any large cut of beef will suffice for making this recipe. Serve the finished dish with roasted sliced potatoes or a mix of apples, cream and horseradish. Because the process of boiling the beef results in a delicious stock, Tafelspitz is an economical dish — the stock can be saved and used for vegetable soups or stews.


2 qts. water
2 large carrots, cut into thin sticks
1 teaspoon salt
4 celery stalks, cut into thin strips (or substitute one celery root for a more authentic flavor)
3 pound beef brisket
2 leeks, white part only
2 gherkins
1 onion – cut into rings parsley

Heat 2 qt. water with salt. Add beef; bring to a boil. Skim foam from surface until clear. Partially cover pot; simmer 1-1/2 hours.

Cut leeks in 2 inch pieces, then cut in half lengthwise. Add leeks, onion, carrots and celery to beef. Cook until beef and vegetables are tender.

Cut beef into 1/2 inch slices. Cut gherkins lengthwise in thin slices, leaving 1 end uncut. Spread out slices like a fan – garnish beef with gherkins.

Serve vegetables in a separate dish with 4 tablespoons cooking liquid spooned over the top. Garnish with parsley.


Baumgarthuber, Christine. Fermented Foods: The History and Science of a Microbiological Wonder. Reaktion Books, 2021.

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