If you love beer but you haven’t made the leap to cooking with it yet, we have one question for you. Why the hell not?
We have been trying out some of Mark Dredge’s excellent recipes in his book Cooking with Beer recently and we can honestly say that cooking with beer is more than just a gimmick – It is a seriously good way of elevating your food and turning humdrum dishes into mouthwatering meals.
Which Beer Should You Choose?
When we say cooking with beer, we mean more than just throwing in a few dashes of whatever generic lager you are drinking into whatever meal you are making. Although by all means, give this a try. As all great beer drinkers know, every beer is unique and has its own flavor profile. It is important to bear this in mind when you cook with beer for the best possible results.
There are a couple of ways to approach this. One is to try and match the flavor of your beer with the food you are cooking. An imperial stout or porter can often have chocolate or coffee notes, for example, so try baking these into a cake or mixing them into a chocolate sauce. Wheat beers can often have spicy, peppery notes, so why not try some in a curry or mixed into mustard and served alongside roast beef?
The other way to approach beer with food is to look for balanced flavors. This is an important rule to consider when your food has a particularly strong flavor profile. For example, a lot of Asian dishes can be heavy on spices and salt, so cooking them with a pale lager or another light beer can help add depth to a dish without battling the pre-existing spicy notes.
If you would like a truly comprehensive guide to the different flavors of beer, you can do a lot worse than the Beer Styles Guide that can be found on craftbeers.com. Be warned the article is long!
The key to achieving an excellent beer and food combination is to understand what flavor you are hoping for before you commence cooking. Remember, that because you are cooking beer, aromas and bitterness can often be lost in the cooking process as the beer reacts to heat. This is not necessarily a bad thing, it might even be what you are aiming for. Ideally want the beer to enhance the flavor of your dish, not to be completely overwhelmed by the taste of the beer you cook with.
Whatever food and beer you decide to match, the most important thing is to have fun doing it. Remember to save some of the beer you are cooking with to accompany your meal – Drinking the same beer that you cook with will ensure that it pairs excellently with your meal!
Ideas For Cooking With Beer
Brining: Brining is an often forgotten process that can add incredible flavor to meat or poultry. Brining helps preserve and season food, whilst also enriching the food with the flavour of spices, herbs and, in this case, beer.
Most brines traditionally use water, quite a lot of salt, herbs, spices and other flavorsome ingredients such as lemon and garlic. By adding beer into the mix you can help add extra layers of flavor to your meat before cooking. As a general rule of thumb, we recommend using existing brine recipes and replacing some of the water with beer. Quantities may vary recipe-to-recipe, but don’t be afraid to go as high as equal parts water to beer!
If you have been to a gastropub, you will most likely have seen “beer-battered fish” or “beer-battered onion rings” on the menu.
As well as adding a greater depth of flavor to your batter, the carbonation in beer (make sure to use a fizzy beer like a lager!) helps to make the batter more light and crisp.
Don’t limit your batter to fish and onion rings. Sausages, fruit, halloumi cheese and chicken are all things that work wonderfully battered and fried!
A marinade is one of the easiest things you can make with beer, as it does not usually require any cooking. You can combine beer with all sorts of other ingredients to create your delicious marinade – Just keep in mind what flavor you are trying to achieve!
For example, combining a dark beer with Worcestershire sauce, sugar, garlic and some mixed herbs such as rosemary and thyme can be a delicious marinade for a joint of beef.
As a general rule of thumb, the longer you leave a piece of meat in a marinade, the more flavor it will take on. Try marinading overnight or even as long as 24 hours for the best results.
The only exception to this rule is delicate ingredients, such as fish. Leaving fish too long in a marinade could lead to it breaking down and falling apart, making it far more difficult to cook.
Beer marinades can work amazingly well on roasting joints, chops, ribs, drumsticks, wings, brisket and a whole host of other cuts – Let your imagination run wild!
Beer Can Chicken
Cooking with a beer can is a technique you may have heard of, but if it is new to you keep with us. This is cooking a whole chicken (or duck) with a can of beer up its… Cavity.
By standing a bird on a can of beer (this also works with cider) in the oven, or barbecue with the lid down, you can produce beautifully moist meat. We are the first to admit that this technique is far from elegant, but the flavors produced are delicious. This works because the beer evaporates throughout the cooking process, flavoring and steaming the chicken or duck from the inside out.
You could even bring double the beery flavor by soaking your bird in a beer brine beforehand.
If you have read this far and are still not entirely sure where to start, the following books are an excellent way to get started:
We hope that this article has given you inspiration for cooking with food. Beer is not only meant to be drunk, but it is also meant to be eaten too! Whether the combination of food and beer you create is weird, wonderful, disgusting or delicious, it will always be interesting. Try throwing some beer into your food the next time you are cooking and see what it does for your meals.
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