Happy National Beer Day! Beer is more popular than ever these days — with the explosion of the craft beer industry, there’s a beer out there to please every palate (even those who think they don’t like beer). You could celebrate today by cracking a cold one and just drinking it (and that’s certainly not something I’d discourage), but beer also works beautifully as an ingredient when it comes to cooking. Beer can add some carbonation and flavour to a number of different dishes; here are five of my favourite ways to use beer in the kitchen:
- Put it in a stewor chili
Beer is a common addition to Irish-style stews, but many other styles stews and chilis can benefit from a bottle of beer. The beer adds liquid without watering your stew or chili down, while adding some sugars and rich malty flavour. Some stew recipes will specify what kind of beer to use (Guinness is the standard for Irish stews, a fruity Belgian beer would work in a Flemish-style stew or braise) but it can also be fun to experiment with different brews which will, of course, result in different flavours. Try this recipe to get started.
- Use it in a batter
Most of us have heard of beer battered fish ‘n’ chips, but what exactly does beer add to a batter? In addition to adding some flavour, the carbonation in beer makes for a quicker frying process, leaving you with a light and airy crust on your fish or any other deep-fried battered food. Lighter beers and lagers are a good option here, but you can also try out slightly darker or bitter beers for a different flavour. Just be sure to use something with plenty of bubbles — flatter beers won’t do the trick.
- Pour it in a soup
As with stew and chili, beer can add some liquidity to a soup without watering down the flavour. I love the flavour of beer cheese dips, and the same concept works wonderfully in a thick and warming beer cheese soup, flavoured with a nice Dijon mustard. Again, the beer you use here is up to you — choose something with enough flavour to cut through the richness of the cheese, but not so strong that it overpowers the soup.
- Marinate your meat
Did you know that beer contains enzymes that can help tenderize meat? This makes beer a great candidate for a variety of marinades (and another reason why it works so good in a stew) and it works particularly well with a simple grilled steak. Since you want something that will impart a bit of flavour but won’t turn the meat bitter, choose amber or brown ales for your marinades, then add in complementary herbs and other flavours.
- Use it to steam mussels
Steamed mussels are always a treat, but they get an extra layer of flavour if you steam them in beer. This recipe recommends using a Belgian-style beer for extra aromatics, but any lighter-style of beer will work.