I’m not really a beer drinker unless I’m with friends at a venue or party where I feel socially obligated to have one. But for some reason, when I’m at a restaurant, I always get drawn to that one beer-infused dish on the menu. There’s something about cooking with beer. Something pleasant about the light malty flavour that’s been steeped into the ingredients, giving everything a nice boost of hoppy sweetness.
And it turns out cooking with beer isn’t anything new. In fact, people have actually been cooking with beer for as long as they have been drinking it. It’s true. In Ancient Egypt, beer was consumed daily and considered a viable source of nutrition. It was even used as currency at one point in history. And in many archaeological scriptures, baking bread and brewing beer went hand-in-hand as processes to make both products.
If you’re still unsure about cooking with beer, here are a few tips and recipes to inspire you.
Before we get started, remember to pick the right beer. As a general rule of thumb–just like in wine–use light beers for lighter dishes and dark beers for saporous and robust flavours. And keep in mind that cooking intensifies the flavours of beer, so use just enough.
1. Batter up!
If you’re a fan of British pub food, you’re probably already familiar with beer-battered fish and chips. It’s a not-so-secret ingredient to give it that light and crispy texture. Try using a dark ale or stout, as there’s more yeast to work with. But a lighter lager or IPA will work just fine. And don’t confine your batter to just fish and chips. Try it with your favourite vegetables, calamari, or even corn on the cob!
2. Can you stuff it?
This might be the first thing that comes into mind when mentioning cooking with beer. The idea of having an entire beer can stuffed inside a chicken’s butthole is to let the contents evaporate and steam the bird’s interior, tenderizing and enhancing its flavour. As most recipes only call for half a can, enjoy the other half as the aroma fills the kitchen. And we know you’ve read all about beer-can chicken, but have you tried beer-can cabbage? Stop flipping through your overused family recipe book. Even your daughter is sick of it. It’s time to try something new.
3. Turn it into a glaze.
Ever wondered what a dark, robust beer would be like reduced into a thick, appetizing glaze? It’s everything and more. Take a bottle of your favourite stout, 1/3 cup of honey, 2 tablespoons mustard, and a generous squeeze of lime juice. Place the mixture over medium heat and cook until half the liquid has evaporated then let it cool. You’ll be left with an aromatic, insatiable glaze that’ll complement just about anything. Seriously, ditch the gravy. Bye.
4. Beer stew, anyone?
No, we didn’t forget about your obsession with Guinness beef stews and steak and ale pies. It’s the all-time pub classic. For red meat, you’ll definitely want to find a dark and robust beer. A nut brown beer, an amber ale, or just a classic Guinness stout will do. Beer acts as a natural tenderizer, and the yeasty flavour will stand up well against the flavourful meats.
5. Beer bread. Enough said.
This was the original beer recipe after all. In Ancient Egypt, the main ingredient in beer was yeast left from a lightly baked bread, sieved and washed to ferment the popular beverage. To make beer bread, you’ll want to pick a light, easy-drinking beer that won’t make you feel like you’re eating solid beer–unless you’re into that. No judgements.
Now you can have beer for all three meals all day, every day. It’s a totally legitimate reason to enjoy this ingredient/food/beverage the way it was meant to be enjoyed. Have you tried cooking with beer? Did you fail? Succeed? We need to know.