Cooking with beer

Posted on May 21, 2010 by Mary Ellen Brewington

Without even taking a sip, beer can add a little extra zing to your dinner tonight.

Yes, you can drink one too, but try adding a little to the food to transform a regular weeknight supper into something new. Europeans cook with beer often to create flavorful, sophisticated dishes. Because it enhances foods in both flavor and texture, beer is a great tool for any cook.

Beer has wonderful tenderizing properties. It’s a great choice for marinades, especially for tougher game meats like venison. Baked goods using beer are moister and have a longer shelf life, and the effervescence in beer makes it an excellent addition to batters used for frying. The yeast acts as a mild leavening agent, causing batters to puff up and produce a lighter crust. Beer can help make biscuits light and fluffy, and the yeast also adds a distinctive flavor to many dishes.

Christopher Ford, owner of Sweet Ps Barbecue, enjoys a Pabst Blue Ribbon.
Christopher Ford, owner of Sweet Ps Barbecue, enjoys a Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Beer can add or bring out different flavors. Beer hops add bitterness, which makes it a great pairing with sweet vegetables such as carrots, corn and caramelized onions. The malted grain can add sweetness and wonderful flavor to glazes and bastes for poultry and ham. Dark beers also produce a roasted flavor.

Just remember that when cooking with beer – as with any liquid – you’re going to reduce some or most of the liquid in the cooking process, thus magnifying the flavors. Pick beer styles that will enhance or complement your dish, not contrast with the other ingredients. For example, if you’re making a chocolate cake, you may want to enhance the flavor with a sweet stout like Guinness. You wouldn’t want to use a hoppy beer with a lot of bitterness. Due to the hops, reducing beer too much can produce an unpleasant bitter taste in a dish. Avoid India pale ales, which tend to have a lot of hops.

Chris Ford, owner of Sweet P’s BBQ, says he uses beer to flavor the beef brisket he smokes at his Maryville Pike eatery.

“After I smoke it, I take it off the smoker, wrap it in Saran Wrap, and to firm the brisket up, I put it in the refrigerator overnight. I take it out, place it in a shallow pan and pour a good beer like Sam Adams or Sierra Nevada over the top for flavor. I put the brisket in the oven for 30 to 45 minutes, and it comes out nice and moist with a hint of beer flavor.”

Ford has a home beef brisket recipe also. Be sure to buy beef brisket flat, he says.

“At home, put four pounds of beef brisket flat on the grill and cook 30 minutes on each side. You can use your favorite rub on the meat. Take it off the grill and put it in an aluminum pan. Pour your favorite beer over the brisket. Cover it with foil and punch holes in the top. Put it back on the grill for an hour and a half.”

Thanks, Chris, for using those great Cherokee-supplied beers at Sweet P’s.

Here are some recipes you can try to get your feet wet, but don’t be afraid to experiment. Even if that means pouring a little in pot or pan and drinking the rest.

Enjoy!