I think we can all agree that game nights, tailgating parties, and barbecues are simply incomplete without a cold can of beer. But true beer fans would know that cooking with the hoppy beverage can be just as delicious as sipping it. The sugary malt and the bitter, effervescent hops complement an array of different ingredients of diverse flavor profiles and textures, making beer a super versatile ingredient totally worth adding to your shopping cart.
But cooking with beer can be overwhelming—especially if you’re a newbie. And that’s why we’re here to help! Below you’ll find tips and tricks that can help you harness the culinary powers of your favorite brews so you can make your favorite dishes even tastier! No matter which beers you decide to experiment with, one thing’s for sure: beer is sure to become your new go-to add-in. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing—even if you’re health conscious.
1. Use a Beer You Enjoy Drinking
If you don’t like drinking a certain beer, you’re probably not going to enjoy any dish that’s doused with it. That said; always cook with a beer that you’re familiar with. And be sure to use one that pairs nicely with the dish you’re making. As a simple rule of thumb light beers like pilsners and lagers go with more delicate fare while darker beers like porters and stouts complement more robust foods. If you enjoy earthy beers like pale ales and IPAs, pair those with herb-infused and vegetable dishes.
2. Know Its ABV
A beer with a higher alcohol by volume (ABV) will be much stronger and far more bitter than a beer with a lower ABV, which can blend into dishes more easily. If your favorite beer happens to have a high ABV, try reducing it before you cook with it so that the alcohol can evaporate. Keep in mind that although cooking beer will reduce its alcohol content, traces of alcohol may still remain in your dish so you may want to save the experimenting for when the kids are at Granny’s.
3. Start With Light Beers
If you’re a hesitant newbie who’s never experimented with beer before, start off with light beers like pale ales and nut-brown ales before eventually easing into darker beers like full-bodied porters and stouts. Light beers are a lot easier to work with and pair well with most foods due to their milder flavor and lower alcohol content.
4. Don’t Pour with a Heavy Hand
We get it; you’re totally excited to add beer to some of your favorite dishes—but not so fast! Dumping the entire bottle into your simmering concoction can lend your dish an overwhelmingly bitter taste. Avoid this rookie mistake by pouring sparingly. Remember, it’s much harder to reduce the beer’s flavor once you’ve over-poured than to add some more later on. Plus, the longer you cook the beer, the stronger its flavor becomes, which is more of a reason to overestimate the beer’s potency and start light.
5 . Use it to Neutralize Acidic Foods
Foods like citrus fruits, tomatoes, mustard, and even vinegar can benefit from a beer reduction. A splash of a sweeter, highly carbonated beer like a pilsner can balance the acidity found in these foods, adding a whole new realm of depth and flavor.
6. Use it to Marinate Meats
Beer is a wonderful tenderizer, which makes it perfect for finally using that tough cut of meat lurking in your freezer. Next time you plan to cook up a steak or piece of chicken, add a splash of stout to the marinade. Dark beers complement more robust meats like beef, while light beers go with lighter fare like seafood, poultry, and pork. Bonus: Soaking steak in pilsner for six hours before throwing it on the grill can reduce the number of carcinogens in the meat by nearly 88 percent, according to a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
7. Harness the Power of Its Yeast
Since beer contains the leavening agent, yeast, it’s the ideal addition to bread and baked good. What’s more, yeast enhances the flavor and “puffiness” of all sorts of batters—including those used to coat meat and fish, which can result in some finger lickin’ good grown-up chicken fingers. The yeast in beer also lends baked goods a rich flavor, light texture, and tastier crust (think Guinness brownies!). And if you’re aiming for perfectly round muffin tops, remember to let the beer reach room temperature before adding it to the mix. Cold beers can hinder the rising process, yielding less-than-appealing pastries.
8. Use it to Makeover Veggies
The bitter hops and syrupy malt in beer complement sweet veggies like corn, bell peppers, onion, and carrots. So next time you’re roasting root vegetables or caramelizing onions, consider dousing them with beer first. To further accentuate the sweetness, you can even add a drizzle of honey or molasses. Yum!