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Beer (Recipe: oven-barbecued brisket)

Oven barbecued brisket

For a few years around the very early 1980s, Ted and I became inadvertent landlords when the person with whom we'd bought our Boston house went bankrupt, leaving us with an empty apartment and a large mortgage to manage on our small salaries.

Our first tenants were not so great (one was a weekend DJ, and it was the '80s), but then the fates smiled upon us, and sent us for many years a series of tenants who worked for one company.

A microbrewery.

Our home was home to the brewer, the graphic artist, the bookkeeper, and the administrative assistant. They all had one thing in common, in those early days of the company: access to free beer. All the beer they wanted, for friends (and landlords), too.

The world's most widely consumed alcoholic beverage, beer is a fermentation of a few ingredients you probably eat in other forms -- barley (or corn or rice), yeast and water -- with hops added (for flavoring and a bitterness that tempers the sweetness of the grain). The fermentation and processing results in an alcohol content by volume of 4-6 percent, though in some beers it can be much higher.

Beer is a tenderizer, which makes it great for marinades in dishes like beer-marinated chicken tacos. Thanks to the presence of yeast, it's also a leavening agent, which makes it great for whole wheat beer bread, Guinness stout brownies, chocolate whiskey and beer cupcakes, and beer-battered fish.

For cooking, follow the same rules you use when cooking with wine. Don't cook with a beer you wouldn't drink. A more well-rounded, flavorful beer will add more richness (remember, the alcohol cooks out). You can substitute a non-alcoholic beer for cooking, though the flavor might not be as robust; don't use non-alcoholic or "lite" beer for baking.

When I asked on Twitter about favorite beers for cooking, several people mentioned Guinness, specifically, as well as Negro Modelo, Belgian blond ale, Shiner Bock and Boddington's -- all full-flavored ales or dark beers. And more than a few said, "Whatever's in the house," which, today, means Mexican beer for me.


What's the difference between beer and ale? According to Wisegeek, ale is fermented at a higher temperature, and matures more quickly. The yeast rises to the top as the beer ferments, creating a yeasty froth on the top of the beer cask. Ale (which includes porters and stouts) has a brighter, rich, more aggressive, hoppy flavor, and often has a higher alcohol content.

Lager is fermented at a lower temperature, and the yeast settles to the bottom as the beer matures. Lager has a smooth and mild flavor with a clear, clean finish. Lagers include pilsners, dopplebocks, and Oktoberfests.

The classic Belgian stew, carbonnade a la flamande, and variations on Irish stew such as lamb with Guinness in a sea urchin sauce, depend on the yeasty flavor of beer. So does beer can chicken.

If you have any left in the bottle, you can try using it to wash the freckles off your face (an old folk remedy, not personally tested by me).

And if that doesn't work... go ahead and drink it.


Oven-barbecued brisket

This recipe came to me from my friend Mary's sister Peg a decade ago. I think it's based on a Lee Bailey recipe, but to me it's always been Peggy's incredibly delicious, crowd-pleasing, never-fail, knock-your-socks-off brisket. My friend Bob took it one step further, making this in his smoker, but the recipe here is for oven cooking. Serves 12, in theory, though everyone always eats more than they think possible.


9 lbs flat-cut beef brisket, in two pieces, most fat removed
1 tsp minced garlic (good quality from a jar is fine)
1 tsp celery seeds
3 Tbsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp ground ginger
4 large bay leaves, crumbled
12 oz tomato paste
1 cup dark soy sauce
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 cup tightly packed dark brown sugar
2 medium onion thinly sliced
1 bottle beer


Preheat oven to 350°F.

Trim brisket and rub all over with the garlic. Combine celery seeds, pepper, ginger and bay leaves, then rub into all sides of the brisket. Mix the tomato paste, soy, Worcestershire and sugar, and smear this all over the meat. Score the fat side of the brisket and place the onions on top, and place the meat in a heavy nonstick high-sided roasting pan. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Cook for 4 hours.

Open the foil to expose the onion-covered top, and cook for another hour. Remove meat to a heated plate and keep warm. Place the roasting pan on the stovetop over medium-high heat, and degrease sauce with the bottle of beer until the sauce has reduced to a pleasant consistency. [Note: Though it's truly delicious right out of the oven, the flavor improves if cooked a day ahead; refrigerate in the sauce, and slice cold.] Serve at room temperature, or reheat.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Beer marinade
Beef stew

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Oh yes, I can tell from the recipe and photo that this would be delicious, even for a non-beer drinker like me!

Happy Easter!!

This sounds wonderful. I have many stores in my area that sell specialty beers by the bottle, perfect for a recipe like this.

What wonderful tenants! And I'll have to try this recipe.

It looks absoutely amazing...wow..the char is just lovely!

That looks amazing!!! Your story almost makes me want to try landlording...just for the beer. ;)

Kalyn, I'm not a beer drinker either, but the beer does add nice flavor (and no alcohol) to the sauce here.

Janel, enjoy -- you can try it with different types of beer to see which works best for you.

Kevin, we were the most spoiled landlords in Boston, I'm sure!

Noble Pig, the char on this one came from the smoker, but it gets a wonderful "crust" in the oven, too.

Bridget, choose your tenants wisely! Our first ones, the disco boys, nearly drove us crazy -- which is why the free beer came in so handy for years afterwards!

Gotta try this I just finished my yearly corning of beef but there is always room for a good roasted brisket. Since this has a long cooking I think I'll use choice beef rather then prime or the natural beef, wish me luck.
Thanks for the info on the beer. Since I don't drink anymore (health reasons) I don't know one beer from another but your information will be a great help.
Ahh! and another use for left over beer, the means to drown snails in the garden. Look on the bright side they die happy.

Even though I am a fanatic about living alone, if the tenants had endless access to beer, I might be convinced to rethink my position. I recently braised a cut of beef in beer with onions. So simple and absolutely superb!

Oh my gosh! Your brisket looks so succulent.


Amazing photo that brisket looks so good I almost ate my laptop! haha... As for the freckles, I don't think anything removes those, so better off drinking the beer. Besides I am told freckles are cute. ;)

I'm all for using beer in cooking! that brisket has me drooling over my keyboard!

Kim, I don't drink beer either, so I'm in the "whatever's in the fridge" school of cooking with beer. As to the beef, yes, braises are not the place to use prime; same as long-cooking dishes are not the place to use very expensive wine. And, having found slugs in my garden last summer, I'm definitely stocking up on beer for them this year!

TW, even a non-beer-drinker like me had fun backing my car up to the brewery doors and having cases of beer loaded in! Beer and onion braised beef sounds delicious.

Paz, thanks. It was truly delicious.

Tai-tai, freckles are cute, and while beer probably won't remove them, it won't hurt, either....

Veron, of all the recipes I've tried for brisket, even including my grandmother's tried-and-true method, I do think this oven barbecued brisket is my absolute favorite.

I'll drink to this one Lydia...STUNNING!

This would be an awesome addition to my brisket recipe list especially when it is to cold to fire up the smoker.

Guiness is by far my favorite beer to cook with followed closely behind Dos Equis.

Yum...I haven't had red meat in a while and this looks pretty good! I love cooking with beer too and when I do it's special because I don't drink beer much but I am starting to live Hoegaarden's beer. Quite floral in flavor and mild, have you tried this beer before?

- Elaine

Deeba, thank you!

Jeff, you can never have too many brisket recipes.

Elaine, I've never heard of this beer, but definitely will check it out. Thanks!

I've seen beer in the cupcakes like you mentioned and in chili, but never in brisket! This looks fantastic! Thanks Lydia! Stumbled!

this looks amazing - the brisket looks so moist! I am going to make this!
I usually use dark beer to cook stews or to braise in or in marinade. But to make batter and such I like using white beer like hoegaarden wit or normal pils.
Hoegaarden is my favourite beer esp the white one.

Hillary, beer is great for degreasing the pan for many sauces -- and almost any type of beer will do.

Valisa, I have got to try this Hoegaarden beer; you're the second person to mention it, and I've never heard of it before. Will take care of that immediately!

I like beer in cooking but never drink it. The smell doesn't appeal to me and my aunt told me when I was young that beer "tasted like horse piss" so that kept me off it for years. I've sipped a couple of tastes from my husband's various beers and just don't like it. Doesn't work on my tongue at all but I know it tenderizes meat something fierce! So, I'll try this recipe - what a delectable photo!

I made this recipe for some friends that were deploying to Afghanistan this past weekend. It turned out PERFECT, Everyone loved it! I was a little nervous about making brisket since I'd never attempted it before and I don't have a smoker, but it was quite a success! Thanks so much!!

I just finished making this, and it came out great! However, I'm wondering about the 3 whole TABLESPOONS of ground pepper! This made it pretty spicy - is that perhaps a typo, and should only be 3 teaspoons? I like it on the spicy side, but I know a lot of people for whom this would be too much. Thanks for the recipe though - it is wonderful!

Ricki, the original recipe I got said 3 tablespoons of black pepper, and I was skeptical when I first made it, too. The pepper gives heat (not like hot sauce, but a definite bite), and you can cut back to make a milder seasoning. We never have leftovers when I make this, and I hope that's your experience, too.

I found this recipe while searching for brisket bbq recipes - it sounded fantastic. I made it last weekend - but I only used about 4 lbs of brisket since I had a smaller crowd. I used the full recipe for the sauce however, figuring Id just have more sauce to serve alongside. It smelled great the first couple of hours - then all the sugars from the tomato paste and brown sugar started to burn along the edges of the pan (plus I only cooked it for 3 hrs instead of 4 since I figured I had a smaller amount of meat) and it started to smell slightly burnt. The burnt smell translated to a burn taste after I finished cooking the sauce - and the bottom of my brisket had gone beyond being caramelized to being tough and dry. It was covered tightly and the oven cooks accurately temperature-wise. Wondered if anyone else had experienced this as I like the concept of this and would like to make it again. Should I have poured all the sauce into the pan as I did or just rubbed it on the meat?? I am a pretty experienced cook and have made many briskets and oven roasts - and this was my first not great attempt... thanks. Guess I dont understand how you can keep all that sugar from burning after being in the oven for so long??

Donny, thanks so much for your feedback. I'm sorry the recipe didn't work for you and the only thing I can think of was the pan. I use a very heavy roasting pan. Here's my suggestion, because of course I hope you'll try again: encase the meat and sauce inside aluminum foil, and set that in the pan. That will put an additional layer of protection between the meat/sauce and the hot pan, and that should help keep the sugar from burning. This is a dynamite recipe, so I hope we can find a way to get it to work for you.

Very disappointed in this recipe. Almost inedible. Amount of black pepper is way off--too much. "Sauce" of Worchestershire, soy sauce, tomato paste and beer (plus spices) has an off- taste. I tried to salvage the dish by adding beef broth and some BBQ sauce but on a scale of 1 to 10 this was not more than a 2. The meat was tender but that's about the only positive aspect of the entree.

Ellie, you can see by the comments that some people have adored this recipe, and some not. I'm sorry it wasn't to your taste.

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