Cooking with wine is pretty common, and a lot of recipes you come across will call for some. But did you know you can cook with beer just as easily? You can! Beer can and totally should become a part of your cooking repertoire, particularly during Craft Beer & Spirits Week. Here are some tips to help get you started. Don’t worry, there’s a time and place for every bottle or can in your fridge.
1. Use the right brew for what you’re making.
When you cook with wine, you’ll always use a red over a white or vice versa for certain dishes, and the same holds true with beer. Depending on what you’re making, the type of beer you choose is very important. If, for example, you’re using it to caramelize onions (which is a very good idea, if you didn’t know) and it’s going to reduce quite a bit, don’t use an IPA or a stout; the hops will be overpowering once the IPA reduces, and the stout has too much sugar that will most likely burn (or simply over-reduce into a dark mess). But are you adding that beer to a big ol’ pot of chili? Now you can toss those IPAs or stouts in.
2. Moderation is key, except when it isn’t.
I love beer, but there is a point of too much. As with anything else when it comes to cooking, more is not always better. I love butter and cheese, but let’s be real: It’s totally possible to overdo it with either. So if you add a little beer to your BBQ sauce, make sure you’re not actually adding a little BBQ sauce to your beer. That said, if you’re making something like a pot of chili that's going to simmer all day, then go wild.
3. Drinking beer is not the same as eating beer.
Let me reiterate: I love beer. But there is a big difference between the flavors of straight beer and food made with beer. I want to taste the grains and hops in the beer, but I don’t want to taste the alcohol. Beer should be more of an underlying note than the main event. Make sure you give the beer enough time on the heat to mellow out and really meld with whatever you’re making. If you can still taste the booze, keep cooking it.
4. Don’t be afraid of cooking with domestic swill.
I always have Rolling Rock in my fridge. Why, you ask? Well, reason #1 is micheladas. But after that, it’s because there are a couple things that I always use it for (like my renowned easy beer beans). Domestic pilsners and lagers are some of the best beers to cook with because they won’t overpower anything you make (unless you ignore tip #2), but they will add a grainy umami to your food.
5. Say no to water. Say yes to beer!
Going to make something that calls for water? Use beer instead. It’s that simple, as long as you’re going to heat it at some point. Rice cooked in beer? Amazing. I already mentioned that I cook my beans in beer, but let me explain why, in as much detail as necessary: It’s delicious that way.
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