Cook Depending on the beer and the dish, beer can add flavors from bold and nutty to sweet and caramelized. And it’s versatile. There are ways to utilize beer in grilling, baking, battering, saucing and every other form of cooking you can imagine.
The basics of cooking with beer
Hops make beer natively bitter. But the malt in beer balances that bitterness with sweetness. Depending on what you’re making with it and what you’re making it with, you can expand that bitterness or elevate the sweetness. Honestly, the only limit to what you can cook with beer is your imagination.
Three rules for cooking with beer
Before you start, remember the only three rules for cooking with beer:
- Always use beer you would enjoy drinking on its own. Your cooking deserves good beer, too.
- Let the beer warm up to room temperature before adding it
- Be safe when working with hot burners and ovens, boiling beer and glass bottles, including keeping an eye on your alcohol consumption while cooking
Here are eight great ways you can impress your crew by cooking with beer, along with some beer suggestions and recipes to try.
1. Fluffy deep frying
Home deep-frying aficionados know the secret to fluffy, airy deep fry coating is fizzy water like club soda or seltzer in the batter. But there’s a reason why “beer-battered” is the most well-known cooking method involving your favorite brew.
Replacing carbonated water with a light, fizzy beer not only infuses a subtle beer flavor profile into your food but helps make the batter crispier, airier and — obviously — lighter. Use your favorite light brew to make your batter or tempura both less filling and taste great.
Adding wheat beers, light lagers and light IPAs to the batter will give your fish and chips, fried green beans or onion rings that beer-bathed taste you’d expect from your favorite sports bar’s game day menu.
2. Marinades for grilling
Hoppy beers are happy beers. And they’re the perfect brew for tasty, meaty marinades for beef, pork, chicken, whatever you wish. Beer can be a substitute for nearly any liquid in a great marinade, especially items like vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and wine.
Beer contains enzymes that help break down tough meat fibers, tenderizing the meat while also increasing the flavor by helping caramelize the exterior of the meat as it sears. It can also be added to barbecue sauce to bring out a bolder, smokier flavor.
And did you know that adding beer to your marinades might actually save your life, or at least make it healthier? Grilling meat over flame releases polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) from inside the smoke from fat dripping onto the coals which absorb back into your meat. A Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry study showed marinating your meat in beer for four hours before grilling over charcoals reduced PAHs by as much as 53 percent.
3. Soup’s on
It’s very simple to add beer to soups and stews. It’s really all about replacing calls for chicken stock, beef stock or wine in a recipe with the appropriate beer. For thick beef stews, try an ale or a stout. Chicken- and seafood-based dishes can be enjoyed with a lighter wheat or amber beer. When brewing up some chili, add in a porter for a rich tailgate taste. Let your favorite Saison boil down when slow cooking French onion soup.
Beer is obviously mostly water, which makes it perfect for slow cooker soup and stew recipes (or any slow cooker recipe). As the beer cooks slowly, it acts as stock to keep your solid ingredients moist and hoppily-infused and the brew flavors enhance the liquid’s flavor profile. But don’t stop with slow cooking. Beer is a perfect ingredient for cooking in your super-trendy Instant Pot pressure cooker, too.
4. Braise be to you
If beer is great for searing meat and beer is great for slow cooking meat, then it only stands to reason that it’s great at doing both in the same dish by braising! In fact, beer can be applied to every step in the braising process.
There are three main steps to braising, and all can be enhanced with beer. First is browning, which, as shown above, can be boosted by using beer in your marinade to tenderize the meat, as well as add a flavorful caramelization while searing. Next is deglazing or, in other words, creating a sauce by adding your favorite light beer to the used sauté pan and stirring to loosen up those tasty fond bits from the bottom.
And lastly, finish up your beer creation by submerging the seared and glazed meat in your favorite brew and simmering the liquidy mixture in a tightly covered pan in the oven. With the beer, your dish will remain both brown and tender, and infused with a great beer taste, from fruity to smoky depending on the style of beer you choose.
5. Something fishy
On first thought, fish may seem too delicate for cooking with beer, but for the most part, anywhere you cook with wine, you can cook with beer. Fish can be marinated in a beer-infused mixture as above, sautéed in a light layer of beer or even slathered with a light glaze made with your favorite smoky or citrusy beer. If you have a great fish recipe that calls for wine, substitute it with an appropriate beer!
6. The great beer bake off
Baked goods made with beer have been a staple for eons. For a long part of human history, beer was consumed rather than water because while untreated, bacteria-filled water could be quite, umm, deadly, brewed beer was relatively safe. So, it would be of no surprise to find that breads and pastries have been made with beer as the chief liquid for just as long.
Beer bread is a common appetizer in America’s sports bars and British pubs. Combined with the natural yeast, bread baked with beer makes a high-rising, fluffy loaf. Lighter style beers, even a highly-carbonated brew like Miller High Life, make for a fluffy, airy bread and dark beers produce a malty, bitter bun like the well-known Guinness Bread.
The same goes for dessert breads, including muffins and cakes, or even waffles. For extra flavor, adding a porter or a stout to a chocolate dessert enhances the chocolate notes. And baking with a flavored beer like a peanut butter porter or cherry wheat will give your baked good a slight hint of the sweet or fruity body.
Beer suggestions:Southern Tier Brewing Company Crème Brûlée Imperial Milk Stout or Lost Abbey Brewing Company Red Barn Ale Belgian Saison
The best idea
The best way to cook with beer is to cook literally anything you want and drink a beer while you’re doing it.