Bottoms Up! Cooking and Baking With Beer
Three cheers for these 20 creative recipes that use beer as an ingredient, from cheese fondue and beef stew to beer-flavored caramel sauce and chocolate stout cake
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Almost every flavor imaginable can be found in a can or bottle of beer — from citrus to chocolate, from bitter hops to syrupy malt. I once drank a stein of Rauchbier with toasted barley components that gave it the unmistakable flavor of smoky bacon — a smoked sausage sandwich in a pint glass.
That incredible variety is what makes beer such a fascinating ingredient to cook with. A can of Guinness can add deep malty notes to a chocolate stout cake; a bottle of sour Belgian ale can add bracing astringency to a bowl full of beer-steamed mussels.
And flavor is not the only thing that beer brings to the table. Those tiny bubbles contribute airiness and lift to breads and batters.
One recipe you won’t find in this roundup is beer can chicken. While you certainly can roast a bird on an ersatz beer can roasting rack, it is, in my opinion, a waste of beer. The beer in the can may be jammed into the chicken’s cavity, but under normal circumstances, the beer doesn’t contribute much, if anything, to the final product. Some may say, “The beer functions as an oven moisturizer and helps keep the chicken from drying out,” but even that claim is disputed (see “Beer Can Chicken is a Hoax” vs. “Beer Can Chicken Revisited”). Better roast the bird traditionally and save the beer for a pint glass.
If you’re ready to cook with beer (and ready to skip the beer can chicken) here are twenty options that make much better use of that can of suds.
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Answers to a few questions that may have bubbled up
So you want to cook with beer, eh? Your lesson starts right here.
Why cook with beer?
Beer tastes good! The same fermentation processes that make pickles and bread and whiskey interesting make beer delicious. As an ingredient in a recipe, beer can add depth to braises and sauces. Plus, beer is carbonated — as a component in a batter, beer adds air and body to deep-fried breadings.
What beers are best to cook with?
It depends on what you’re going for. Because the flavor of beer can run the gamut, its culinary uses are innumerable. Some desserts call for the deep chocolatey malt notes of an Irish stout like Guinness, while some of the seafood dishes call for a light lager to complement the briny taste of the ocean. Just keep in mind, if your recipe cooks the beer down, you’ll see a corresponding increase in the intensity of whatever the base flavors of the beer are. So, a mega-hopped pale ale may not be the best option for a beer-brat reduction as the pleasant bitter notes you get in the glass may overwhelm by the time they appear as a pan-gravy.
Does cooking with beer remove alcohol?
Sometimes! The longer it’s cooked, more of the alcohol in the beer will transform into vapor and float away. But usually not all of it. You’re not likely to get drunk — most of the recipes below divide a single beer (or a portion thereof) among multiple servings. But if you’re trying to avoid even a trace of alcohol, better steer clear.
How to make beer bread
In general, you can substitute beer for water in any standard bread recipe if you want to add a beery element. Some quick breads even rely on the beer’s carbonation to add to the rise. In general, if you love beer, take a wild chance and sub it in any time a recipe calls for liquid. How bad could it be? It’s beer!
What should I do with leftover beer?
Uh. You should … I mean ... Don’t you want to … ? Tell you what, bring it on over here and I’ll take care of it for ya.
Beer recipes that taste a lot like beer
Sometimes you want a lot of beer flavor. These recipes are beer-forward; the flavors in the bottle come bursting out of every bite.
Monasteries across Europe have been brewing beer since the Dark Ages, but the Trappist monks in Belgium have elevated beer-making to sublime (dare I say transcendent) levels. Try a dark and malty beer to complement the deep caramelization of this beefy stew. If you want to keep it Belgian, consider a Trappist Chimay Grande Reserve.
Another Belgian classic, with smoky bacon and rich beer broth to slurp by the shellful. I’m not sure I’ve ever had anything more delicious than a crusty baguette dipped in this silky mussel broth.
To simmer first or to grill first; that is the bratwurst question. I consulted with my BBQ life coach Gary (a native of Milwaukee) who advised that his preference is to simmer his sausages first in beer, mustard, and caramelized onions, then grill them, then top with a sauce made from the reduced simmering liquid. Other Wisconsinites swear that you should simmer after grilling, which allows you to keep your brats ready to eat for the entire duration of a daylong Packers tailgate. Whichever way you go, choose a beer with mild sweetness, since it’ll be amplified by reduction.
Remember what I said about cooking down beer to concentrate the flavors? This tangy complex BBQ sauce is a perfect case in point. If you like the flavor of a freshly drawn pint of Guinness, you’ll love this recipe — the simmer draws out the deep, chocolatey, caramel notes of everyone’s favorite stout.
Is there any better snack to go with beer than pretzels? Is there any better dip to go with pretzels than cheese? This appetizer recipe has it all — chewy pretzel nuggets and savory spicy beer cheese dip with a weiss-bier bass note.
Raspberry beer? Raspberry beer! If you haven’t tried Lambic before, get ready to blast away your preconceptions of what beer should taste like. Brewed with fresh fruit, lambics are tart and refreshing. Add a scoop of raspberry sorbet and a little vanilla fro-yo and you’ve got a boozy summer dessert for the ages.
These popsicles are not for kids. Try a hoppier IPA in these citrus beer popsicles — the cold temperatures will tame some of the more bitter flavor elements.
The best part of this recipe is that you don’t need an ice cream maker to produce an extraordinary frozen treat. No, actually the best part is that the ice cream tastes like Guinness. No, actually the best part is the chocolate toffee bar crumbles on top. No, they’re all the best part. Make this ice cream! You won’t regret it.
OK actually, this will be the best part. Whip up this malty caramel sauce and you can have a caramel beer sundae with your Guinness Toffee Ice Cream.
Beer recipes that taste only a little like beer
Sometimes you want a dish where the beer plays a supporting role. These dishes put the beer in the background, letting the other ingredients shine.
I love this easy pressure-cooker chili! Deglaze the pan with lager to get all the caramelized flavor-filled beef bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. You won’t necessarily know the beer is there in the finished chili; it plays a very subtle role in this chili’s symphony of flavors.
This recipe counsels using a sweet or malty brown ale and avoiding hoppier brews. That’s solid advice — the long braising here will concentrate the flavors in the beer you choose, so a hoppy IPA may be a bitter distraction.
The beer in this cheesy soup is a light Pilsner or lager, so you won’t get hit over the head with hoppy notes. Enjoy the balanced mix of cheesy flavors in this perfect soupy beer appetizer.
Like in the soup above, a base of Pilsner or lager plays a clean counterpoint to the rich gooey cheeses melted together in this fondue recipe. Haul the fondue set out from the basement and get to dipping!
Want to get a little beer flavor into any big cut of meat? Try this beer brine! More than a marinade, brining lets salt and time do their work on meat that might otherwise dry out while you cook it. This will work 100 times better than the beer can method to infuse poultry with a hint of the flavor of your favorite brew.
Normally Guinness would be a dominant flavor in any recipe, but alongside the moist chocolate cake and rich fudgy ganache, the flavor of stout recedes into the background and lets this complex earthy cake sing.
Beer recipes that don’t taste much like beer
Beer doesn’t always play a big role in the flavor of the final dish. Here are some recipes that take advantage of other properties of beer for baking and cooking.
This easy quick bread has only the mildest beer flavor — try different styles to push the loaf in different flavor directions. But no matter which way you go, you’ll wind up with a tasty loaf of bread.
Beer can chicken might be a bust, but beer in a fried fish batter is a real winner! You’ll wind up with a crispy yet durable shell on your fish fillets — airy yet sturdy enough to stand up to the pickled cabbage curtido and creamy chipotle sauce.
I confess, I love Pringles. The beer in this recipe is a nice bonus, but the real reason I’m sharing it here is that the fish is coated in crispy blitzed-up salt and vinegar Pringles. Pringles Forever!
Between the spice of the fish boil and the heat of the andouille, I challenge you to pick up any beer-forward flavors in the final product of this low country seafood boil. But the beer plays its humble part in this terrific recipe.
OK FINE, HERE IS THE BEER CAN CHICKEN
You don’t believe me? OK! Try for yourself.
I’m not saying it’s bad. Roast chicken is good. But the beer? It’s beside the point.
More recipes for beer lovers
Raise a glass to these additional Yummly articles, perfect for any beer lover.