How to cook with beer

It is easier than you think.

Do you like cooking? How about beer? If your answer was yes to both of those questions, then it is time to get creative.

“Cooking with beer is a great way to impart more flavor into your food,” says Joel Norman, kitchen manager at Holy City Brewing in North Charleston, South Carolina. “You can take whatever liquid you were planning on using and use beer instead. Because it has already been brewed by the brewers it has all these complex flavors, and that is a great addition to any food you’re cooking.”

But what beer should you use? How much? Well, it’s not really an exact science (and that’s part of the fun).

“What I love about cooking with beer is you can go in a million different directions with it,” he says. “It is easy to experiment with. It is very forgiving. If you pick a beer that is not exactly right for what you are doing, chances are it is still going to be really good.”

Although Joel suggests cooking with a beer you enjoy, that doesn’t mean your food will taste just like it.

“The biggest misconception with cooking with beer is that the thing you’re cooking is going to taste exactly like that beer. It’s not,” Joel explains. “Actually, a lot of times the flavors change to where you might not recognize that beer, but you can still tell there is something special in there.”

Another thing to note: Cooking with beer won’t get you drunk. A lot of the alcohol cooks out, leaving delicious flavor behind.

Still a bit nervous about which beer to use with what? Alright. Here are a few guidelines from Joel:

  • Saisons and hefeweizens are extremely versatile due to their spicy/fruity notes. These will go well with just about anything.
  • Dark, malty beers match up great with desserts and sweets.
  • Braising liquids are extremely forgiving. Joel suggests something light like a hefeweizen.
  • With vegetables, you can go either way – Use a light, less malty beer to enhance the flavor of the vegetables, or use a stout or porter to create a rich glaze.
  • If you want to use a hoppy beer like an IPA, use it in moderation. The longer you let it cook, the more bitterness it will draw out of the hops.