Brewpubs across the US, trendy European gastro-pubs and up-market eateries in many countries are all doing it: cooking with beer. Beer is a versatile beverage that can add flair and flavor to simple dishes both sweet and savory.
The benefits of using beer as a staple ingredient in a wide range of recipes are well documented. Beer lends itself to many different food preparation techniques including marinating, deglazing, simmering, poaching, braising, stewing and baking. From casseroles and fish recipes to cakes and desserts, your favorite brew can transform even the most traditional dishes.
Advantages of Cooking with Beer
The main benefits of cooking with beer are threefold:
- The hop content of beer adds bitterness and acidity.
- The malt content adds a subtle sweetness.
- The yeast content produces a light, fluffy texture especially good in batters. Yeast can also help to tenderize tougher cuts of meat.
Use beer in a marinade for meat before cooking on a barbecue. The acidity in the beer helps tenderize the meat.
Tips for Cooking with Beer
The following are some easy ways to incorporate beer into a given recipe:
- Substitute part of the liquid content in traditional brownie recipes with the equivalent volume of stout.
- Slow cook beef casseroles in a combination of beef stock and brown ale for a richer meal.
- Use beer for making batters: deep-frying food in beer batter yields light, golden, fluffy and crisp results.
- Steam shellfish in beer for wonderful flavor.
- Deglazing refers to adding liquid to a pan in which food has just been sautéed to make a quick sauce. When using beer in cooking, especially for deglazing, remember that the beer’s natural flavors become more concentrated as its alcohol and water content evaporate.
- For a professional tasting glaze, baste a ham several times during roasting with the beer of your choice.
- Avoid flavor overkill: cook with a beer that doesn’t overwhelm the flavor of the other ingredients in the recipe.
Tried-and-Tested Beer Recipes
Below are some recipes that make cooking with beer easy.
Vegetables in Beer Batter
(Recipe from Tastes of Wales, by Gilli Davies)
Ingredients (serves 4):
- 100 g (4 oz or 1/2 cup) self-rising flour
- pinch of salt
- 150 ml (1/4 pint) best bitter beer
- 100 g (4 oz or 1/2 cup) cauliflower cut into florets
- 100 g (4 oz or 1/2 cup) snow peas or mange tout
- 1 large carrot cut into matchsticks
- 50 g (2 oz or 1/4 cup) whole button mushrooms
- 50 g (2 oz or 1/4 cup) baby corn
For the mayonnaise:
- 4 tablespoons home-made or quality store mayonnaise mixed with 1 crushed clove of garlic and 1 tablespoon chopped sorrel
- Prepare the beer batter by sieving the flour into the bowl.
- Add a pinch of salt and blend in the beer slowly until the mixture reaches the consistency of thick cream.
- Cover and leave in a warm place while you prepare the vegetables (about 10 minutes).
- Blanch the cauliflower and snow peas by covering with cold water in a saucepan and bringing to a boil. Drain and rinse under cold running water.
- Pat dry and coat the cauliflower, snow peas, carrots, mushrooms and baby corn with the beer batter.
- Deep-fry quickly in hot oil, until golden brown.
Note: You can use any combination of crisp vegetables.
Carbonnade of Beef
(Recipe from Mary Berry’s Complete Cookbook, by Mary Berry)
Ingredients (serves 4 to 6):
- 2 tbsp sunflower oil
- 2 lb (1 kg) chuck steak trimmed and cut into 2-inch (5 cm) cubes
- 2 large onions, sliced
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 2 tsp light muscovite sugar
- 1 tbsp plain flour
- ¾ pint (450 ml) brown ale
- ¼ pint (150 ml) beef stock
- 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
- A few parsley sprigs
- 1 thyme sprig
- 1 bay leaf
- salt and black pepper
- thyme sprigs to garnish
- Preheat oven to 300°F (150°C).
- Heat the oil in a large flame-proof casserole.
- Add the beef in batches and cook over high heat for a few minutes until browned. Lift out with a slotted spoon.
- Lower the heat and add the onions, garlic and sugar.
- Cook, stirring for four minutes or until browned.
- Add the flour and cook, stirring for 1 minute.
- Add the brown ale and stock and bring to a boil, stirring until thickened.
- Return the meat to the casserole and add the red wine vinegar, parsley sprigs, thyme sprig, bay leaf, and salt and pepper to taste.
- Bring back to the boil, cover and cook in a preheated oven at 300°F (150°C) for 2 1/2 hours or until the meat is very tender.
- Remove and discard the herbs. Taste for seasoning.
(Recipe from Good Housekeeping Cookery Book: The Cook’s Classic Companion)
Ingredients (s erves 4):
- 8 oz (225 g or 1 cup) cheddar cheese, grated
- 1 oz (25 g or 2 tbsp) butter
- 1 tsp (5 ml) English mustard
- 60 ml (4 tbsp) brown ale
- 4 slices white bread, crusts removed
- Place the cheese, butter, mustard and beer in a heavy based pan over low heat.
- Stir occasionally until the cheese is melted and the mixture is smooth and creamy.
- Season to taste.
- Toast the bread under the broiler on one side only.
- Turn the slices over and spread the cheese and beer mixture on the un-toasted side.
- Place under the broiler until golden and bubbling.
Rich Fruit Cake with Guinness
(Recipe from The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook, by Chris Hardisty)
Ingredients ( makes one deep 7-inch or 18 cm cake):
- 8 oz (225 g or 1 cup) soft margarine
- 8 oz (225 g or 1 cup) dark brown sugar
- 4 medium eggs
- 10 oz (275 g or 1 1/4 cup) whole wheat flour
- 1 tsp mixed spice
- 1 lb 2 oz (500 g or 2 1/4 cup) mixed dried fruit
- 10 tbsp Guinness
- Preheat oven to 325 °F (160°C).
- Cream margarine and sugar together.
- Beat in the eggs one at a time.
- Gradually stir in the flour and mixed spice.
- Mix in the dried fruit.
- Add 4 tbsp Guinness to mix.
- Place the mixture into a 7-inch (18 cm) loose-bottomed cake tin and make a deep well in the center (this allows the finished cake to have a flat top).
- Cook for one hour at 325°F (160°C) and then turn down to 300°F (150°C) for a further 1 1/2 hours.
- Allow the cake to cool in the tin.
- Remove and turn upside down; prick the base of the cake all over with a skewer and slowly pour over the remaining Guinness.
- Store in a cool place for at least a week before eating.
Chocolate Stout Cake
(Recipe from the Great American Beer Cookbook, by Candy Schermerhorn)
Ingredients (makes 1 8-inch or 20 cm 2-layer cake):
- 1/4 cup (2 oz or 50 g) cocoa powder to dust the baking pans
- 2 sticks butter or margarine
- 1 cup (8 fl oz or 240 ml) stout or porter
- 2/3 scant cup (5 oz or 180 g) Dutch-process dark cocoa powder
- 1 scant teaspoon salt
- 2 cups (16 oz or 450 g) unbleached flour
- 2 cups (16 oz or 450 g) sugar
- 1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, sifted
- 2 extra-large eggs
- 1/2 cup (4 fl oz or 110 ml) sour cream
- Heat oven to 350°F (175°C).
- Lightly dust 2 greased 8-inch (20 cm) spring-form pans with cocoa powder.
- In a heavy saucepan or microwave oven, heat butter, beer and cocoa powder until butter melts. Cool.
- Sift dry ingredients together, add the beer-cocoa mixture and beat thoroughly for 1 minute on medium speed. Add eggs and sour cream and beat 2 minutes on medium.
- Pour batter into prepared pans and bake at 350°F (175°C) for 24 to 30 minutes or until a pick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Place pans on a wire rack, cool 10 minutes, remove the sides, and cool completely.
- Use a long serrated knife to even tops of the cakes. Using a flexible spatula, spread each layer with a thin coating of chocolate frosting, stack and cover the sides with frosting.