Cooking with Beer. A How to Guide
Cooking with beer doesn’t mean just having a drink while making food. It means adding it to different dishes in order to make them better. Beer adds some delicate sourness and just a bit of smokiness to your foods.
Beer is one of the world’s oldest prepared drinks. There is evidence that beer was produced at Göbekli Tepe – an archaeological site in the Anatolia region of Turkey – around 8500 BC to 5500 BC. Some people say that cooking with beer is a habit just as old as drinking it.
If you’re among the people who think cooking with beer is a waste of resources, then you should know that the beer turns the most ordinary foods into exceptional dishes, if you use it properly.
You can use beer as a marinade for meat, fish or seafood. When you’re roasting, baking or broiling use beer instead of water as the simmering liquid. Also, you can try to use it in pancakes and bread.
Don’t worry, when cooking with beer, the alcohol evaporates when it’s exposed to heat, leaving only the delicate flavors to manifest in the food.
Cooking with beer tips and tricks
- The first rule when you decide to cook with beer is to use a beer that you would enjoy drinking. Use dark beer for robust dishes (meat, especially red ones) and light beer for lighter foods (poultry, seafood, and desserts). Usually, pale ale beer complements nearly all recipes. Brown beer is recommended for rich dishes such as stews or cheese dishes.
- Decide why you are cooking with beer. To enhance the flavor of the food? To tenderize the meat? To replace yeast in bread and pancakes?
- Always follow the directions of the recipe you choose! Sure, you can experiment sometimes, but the beer is meant to enhance and enliven the flavors of your food, so it’s better to add this ingredient according to directions and respect quantities in the recipe.
- Bring the beer to room temperature before cooking. Depending on the recipe you chose, beer might compromise the entire dish if it’s too cold or too hot when you use it.
What to cook with beer
1. Beer soup
Beer soup is usually roux-based (flour and fat cooked together) and made with beer. In medieval Europe, it was served as a breakfast soup, sometimes poured over bread.
Nowadays, there is a large variety of recipes. Some of them use the starchiness of potato as a thickener, others use bread, and others keep the flour as a thickener and add cheese or/and vegetables in the combo.
2. In marinades
Have you ever braised short ribs in beer? If not, you should totally try it! They’re amazing if you add ketchup and mustard to create an unctuous marinade.
Beer tenderizes the meat, fish, and seafood and brings out all the richness of the ingredients you use in the marinade.
Very light beers tend to add very little flavor to foods, so it’s better to choose a beer with a middle intensity. You can simply soak the meat in beer to tenderize it or boost the flavor of your meat by adding herbs, spices, and other flavorings like soy sauce, garlic, and ginger. Make sure the beer marinade covers the meat entirely and that you let it marinate according to the recipe.
3. In batter
Beer works like sparkling water to carbonate the batter. It makes the batter more crisp, light, and airy. Most recipes call for a light beer, but others call for a full-bodied beer like stout or brown ale. The batter is easy to make: use flour, beer, baking powder, and salt. And whatever spices you want.
Beer batter is great when making deep-fried fish, for onion rings, vegetable bites, calamari or tempura.
If it works for batter, it works for pancakes too. Beer provides the rising action needed to make the pancakes fluffy.
Just replace milk with beer in any pancake recipe, and it’ll work! This trick is important especially if you try to reduce dairy ingredients. Mix flour, sugar, one egg, salt, baking powder, beer, and vegetable oil to make the batter. Cook the pancakes on both sides, then serve them for breakfast or as a dessert with any topping you want: yogurt, butter, fried bacon, cheese, maple syrup, honey, jam, melted chocolate, whipped cream or fruit.
5. Beer bread
Lager is a type of beer that works well for baking breads because it adds levity to the dough. You can also use other types of beer if your recipe says so.
Usually, you will have to knead flour with a bit of sugar and a bottle of fragrant beer. Respect the quantities in the recipe! You don’t need yeast or warm water. The yeast is in the beer already, and it makes air bubbles in the dough. If you want, you can enrich the dough with melted butter and herbs such as rosemary, thyme, or basil. Also, you can use grated mature cheese or garlic in the mix. Shape the bread and bake it for about 45 minutes or as your recipe asks.
If we haven’t yet convinced you to cook with beer, try this Beer and Spinach Mac and Cheese, because the combo is great: