Chemist in the Kitchen

September 30, 2015 at 12:50 pm

Beer Beef Brisket

Beer Beef Brisket

After a crazy September full of Jewish holidays, challahs, and an unhealthy dose of bubbe-meise, I bring to you a bombshell of a brisket recipe that will cut like butter and takes *almost* no work at all. Yes, yes, I know… You’re welcome.


Before we get into the delicious details of this boozy brisket, what IS brisket? What IS meat? Seems like such a deceivingly straightforward question, doesn’t it? Meat, which is harvested muscle from different animals, is mostly water (~70%), high in protein (~20%), and can vary in fat content depending on the cut. Meat also contains some vitamins and minerals, most notably Vitamin B12 which is only found in meat, fish, and eggs and is necessary for healthy brain function and metabolism. Meat is made up of muscle cells (a.k.a. muscle fibers) that are organized into bundles, hard connective tissue called elastin (often referred to as gristle), and soft connective tissue called collagen which is the solid form of gelatin. Certain cuts of meat have more or less connective tissue. Brisket, for example, is a tougher cut of meat with a lot of hard and soft connective tissue. The science behind the saying “low and slow” all comes down to making sure the connective tissue is completely broken down, which takes a lot of time. Heating up tough cuts of meat very quickly at higher temperatures will cause the muscle fibers to seize up and release all of their moisture, while lower temperatures for longer amounts of time allow the muscle fibers to relax and retain their moisture while the connective tissue breaks down. As the meat cooks it undergoes what is known as the Maillard reaction, where the unraveled proteins break up into the amino acids that they are made of and react with certain sugars resulting in browned meat with a complex depth of flavor.


raw brisket


Now that we know what meat really is, let’s get to the good stuff: the booze. The key is the acidity of the beer, comprised of a 1-2 punch of two similar but different types of acids: a Bronsteid acid (which is characterized by their ability to release hydrogen ions, and are what most people think of when they think of acids), and a Lewis acid (which are characterized by the molecule’s ability to accept a pair of electrons). Alcohols, such as the ethanol in beer, are Bronsteid acids, while the carbon dioxide is a Lewis acid; these compounds give the beer a lower pH (which is described in more detail in my previous blog post about Argentinean Beef Empanadas). Acidic pH environments, such as the beer that the brisket is cooked in, promote the denaturation, or unraveling, of proteins in the meat while simultaneously speeding up the liquefying of the connective tissues, both of which contribute to the end result: a mouth-watering, unbelievably soft cut of brisket.


cooked brisket


I’m not sure who was the first person out there to cook a big cut of meat in a bunch of booze, but I’m sure that booze and meat was the perfect cure for all that bubbe-meise they probably had to deal with. I know it was for me! ;-)


With love,



Auto Draft

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 8 hours, 45 minutes

Total Time: 8 hours, 45 minutes

Yield: About 6 servings

Auto Draft


  • 5-6 pounds beef brisket, preferably second cut
  • 1 1/2 - 2 bottles of your favorite beer (the stronger the better)
  • 1 large sweet onion, chopped into quarter moons
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons table salt
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1 bay leaf, crushed
  • 4 Tbsp flour (optional)


  1. This recipe can either be done in the oven or in a slow cooker. If using an oven, preheat the oven to 225 degrees F.
  2. Trim the hard fat from the brisket. Do not remove the fatback.
  3. Spread the chopped onion across the bottom of a metal roasting pan or the bottom of the slow cooker evenly.
  4. Combine the chili powder, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, ground black pepper, sugar, dry mustard, and crushed bay leaf in a small bowl and mix to combine. Rub the spice mixture evenly all over the brisket (including the fatback).
  5. Place the brisket onto the bed of onions, make sure the fatback is side up.
  6. Pour the beer around the brisket and a little bit on top as well. Be sure not to completely submerge the brisket in beer.
  7. If using the oven, cover the roasting pan with aluminum foil and place in the oven for 8 hours. If using a slow cooker, cover tightly and cook on "low" for 8 hours. No peaking.
  8. Remove the brisket from the oven, uncover, and allow to cool for about an hour.
  9. Once cooled, remove the brisket from the pan or slow cooker and place on a cutting board. Carefully remove the fatback from the brisket and slice against the grain into desired pieces. Put back into the beer/beef drippings mixture. Beer/beef broth mixture can be made into gravy by adding flour in a saucepan (optional).
  10. Cook sliced brisket in beer/beef drippings for 45 minutes at 250 degrees F if using an oven or on "low" if using a slow cooker. Serve immediately.


To store, remove beef from the beer/beef drippings mixture and store separately either in the refrigerator or the freezer.

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One thought on “Beer Beef Brisket

  1. Ipoel says:

    Guess what? I’m going to pin this! (I feel so technologically savvy!). I felt rlelay haggard while teaching but am going crazy with the slow cooker now. Why did I never use it before? I will totally try this recipe! I’ve been making some good and easy ones I will try to share too. Thanks! You can be the South Plains Pioneer Woman!

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