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Cooking With Beer: Best Types of Beers For Cooking!

Norah Clark
Bottle of peroni and a glass full of beer.

What is the best way to cook with beer? Beer can be used to marinate or tenderize meats, impart flavor to bread, and introduce a distinct taste to desserts. Beer helps keep food moist and aids in bake goods rising, as it contains yeast. While any beer can be used for cooking, choosing the right one for your recipe is crucial.

Beer, one of the oldest alcoholic beverages, remains among the most popular worldwide. Over centuries, and particularly since the advent of modern brewing technology, thousands of beer varieties have emerged.

Consider this guide as your ultimate resource for any information you may need. So, without further ado, here’s a chef’s guide to cooking with beer.

Cooking With Beer: Can Beer Be Used For Cooking?

Each stage of beer production, from initial harvesting to final bottling techniques, influences the flavor and quality. This results in a plethora of textures, flavors, and characteristics, opening up a wide array of applications.

Each beer (not just the category, but also the specific beer and production year) impacts the final taste of the dish it’s paired with.

Beers are frequently used in soups, stews, casseroles, and other braised dishes or recipes.

They can create remarkable sauces and marinades to accompany meals and enhance flavors.

Beers are often used to lighten batters for crispy fish or onion rings and virtually any deep-fried food.

Another popular cooking technique involves placing an open beer can inside a chicken or turkey cavity, allowing the liquid (beer) to evaporate within the cavity, resulting in a delicious and moist roast chicken.

Interestingly, numerous beers are suitable for seafood dishes. Jamaican beers, for example, are perfect for smoky barbecued fish.

Considering adding beer to cake batter? Give it a try!

Beer contains natural yeast, allowing it to act as a flavor enhancer, consistency adjuster, and leavening agent in baked goods and cakes.

Ultimately, beers can produce some of the most delightful bread. Like cakes, they serve as flavor enhancers and leavening agents, giving a unique flavor and texture to various bread types.

The Types Of Beer Good For Cooking With

It’s all about flavor pairing. As with wine, which is often served with food that complements it, beer can be both consumed alongside and incorporated into dishes.

There aren’t necessarily better or worse beers for cooking; consider what you plan to use the beer for (marinades, cakes, bread, etc.) and the desired flavor profile (smoky, sweet, yeasty, spicy, light, etc.).

Ultimately, it’s up to your personal preferences. Experimentation is key to discovering the perfect flavor match.

Here’s a brief example of food and beer pairings to help guide your choices (flavor-wise, at least) when deciding which beer to pair with specific ingredients or dishes.

Remember, not all beers in a category will work well; experiment with different brands.

Use this as a starting point to help guide your decisions.

Component Examples of ingredients Examples of beer types
Grains Farro Quinoa Arborio rice Wild rice Polenta American Amber Ale
Pilsner
Protector Organic American Amber Ale
Societe The Heiress Pilsner
Beans & Legumes Green beans Butter beans Lentils Chickpeas Fava beans Split peas Brown Ale
Hefeweizen
Modern Times Black House Coffee Ale
Garage Imperial Oatmeal Brown Ale
Shellfish Lobster Shrimp Crab Clams Saison
Hefeweizen
Allagash Saison Violette
Enegren Schoner Tag
Rich meats Lamb Beef loin Beef rib-eye American Brett
Belgian-style Flanders
Crooked Stave Wild Brett
Pork Virtually any pork cut Indian Pale Ale
Belgian-style Dubbel
AleSmith for Hope Hazy IPA
Poultry Chicken Turkey Pale Lager Black Plague Acid Drop Light Lager
Game birds Duck Guinea fowl Quail American Pale Ale
American Brown Ale
Cooperage Captain Curt Pale Ale
Grilled vegetables Virtually any grilled vegetable Dry Stout
German-style Schwarzbier
AleSmith Speedway Stout

Read also: Best Italian Beers – Most Popular Italian Beer Brands

Does Beer Lose Alcohol When Cooked?

Like any alcohol-based beverage – wine, beer, or liquor – alcohol evaporates during the cooking process.

When stirring beer into hot liquid, such as soup, it immediately loses about 15% of its ABV (alcohol by volume) content.

If you simmer the liquid for around 15 minutes, as in making mulled wine, this percentage could increase to 20%.

In dishes like curries or stews that require an hour of simmering, around 75% of the alcohol will evaporate during that time.

For longer cooking times, like roasts that need around 2.5 hours (2 hours and 30 minutes), most of the alcohol will evaporate, specifically around 95%.

Eliminating all of the alcohol is unlikely. However, you could just cook with non-alcoholic beer since it contains less than 0.5% alcohol to begin with.

Is Cooking With Beer Healthy?

You might be surprised to learn that cooking with beer can actually be healthier!

A typical 12-ounce beer bottle contains about 150 calories. Most beers aren’t high in cholesterol or fat.

They are also very low in sodium (salt) and surprisingly rich in various minerals and vitamins like B-type vitamins, magnesium, selenium, potassium, and phosphorus.

Naturally, excessive alcohol consumption is not beneficial for any part of the body. Overindulgence can lead to digestive system, liver and brain function, heart, and motor issues, according to Self.com.

However, when cooking with beer, the evaporating alcohol reduces calories, making it an excellent way to flavor food and a great alternative to other methods or ingredients.

Another benefit is that when cooking with beer, the vitamins and minerals remain intact and aren’t diluted by alcohol. This means you gain added nutritional value when using beer instead of liquids like broth or water.

Dos And Don’ts When Cooking With Beer

Cooking with beer can be a delightful experience, but there are some rules and guidelines to follow.

Do

  • Replace the entire liquid called for in the recipe (stock or water) with beer. Beer adds more flavor and is more nutritious than other recipe liquids.
  • Pay attention to the flavors of the dish you’re making and the beer you’re using. Not all beers pair well with every food, just like wine.
  • Consider moisture levels. Marinating meat in beer before cooking allows the meat to absorb all the moisture, resulting in a tender and juicy dish.

Don’t

  • Refrain from using large amounts of alcohol, even with low alcohol percentages, while cooking. Alcohol’s flavor can overpower the main ingredients and cause odd tastes.
  • Alcohol doesn’t fully evaporate when cooking, so ensure your guests can safely consume alcohol and avoid using excessive amounts.
  • Steer clear of open flames! Some alcohol will always remain after cooking, so keep food away from them unless you’re adept at handling flames.
  • When cooking near an open fire, exercise caution and have fire blankets or extinguishers nearby.

Is It Good To Cook Meat With Beer?

Marinating meat in beer softens the meat and adds a wealth of flavors. 

Beer is packed with enzymes that help break down fibrous strands in the meat, essentially tenderizing it. This results in more tender and flavorful meat.

Most recipes using beer help tenderize meat, particularly in longer cooking methods.

Beer also imparts plenty of flavors. The taste and style of the beer you choose will be infused into the marinated meat.

Using beer as a flavoring ingredient during grilling or roasting is an excellent choice. Beer lends a dark, rich color to basting sauces, which are then absorbed by the meat during cooking.

When beer is used as a substitute for water (preventing dilution), it enhances the flavors of the ingredients and meat in a stew. As the alcohol evaporates, the beer’s flavor is left behind to work its magic.

How To Pair Meat And Beer

Incorporating beer in meat dishes is popular, and we have some suggestions and tips to help you choose the right beer for your specific meat dish.

Select Complementary Flavors

For example, light beers (such as pale lagers) pair well with lighter dishes (like a simple chicken sandwich).

If you’re cooking a dish featuring lemon, consider a beer with lemony notes (or similar flavors), like Robinsons’ Trooper Ale (Iron Maiden beer).

Experiment With Contrasting Flavors

While we’ve mentioned matching flavors, if you’re feeling adventurous, try pairing opposite food and drink tastes (that still work well together).

For instance, combine the sweetness of barbecued dishes like barbecue pork ribs with a bitter beer like Sunriver Vicious Mosquito IPA.

Opt For Subtle Flavorings

You can’t go wrong with pairings when you choose lighter beers with understated flavors. These tastes won’t overpower your food or drink in any way.

Duck Foot Logger Export Lager is a great example of a tasty, light-flavored beer.

Cleansing Flavors

When preparing fried, fatty, or spicy dishes, it’s essential to select refreshing beverages like a light, crisp beer. Consider Almanac Vibes Hoppy Pilsner.

Item Types of beer Try this
Turkey (roasted) Dark malts
Amber ales
Ground Breaker Dark Ale
Protector Organic American Amber Ale
Beefsteak (grilled) Red ale Evans Joaquin Dead Mexican Red Ale
Porterhouse steak (grilled) Porters Left Hand Hard Wired NITRO Coffee Porter
Second Chance Tabula Rasa Toasted Porter
Rare steak and raw beef (steak tartare) Stout Belching Beaver Peanut Butter Milk Stout
Black Plaque Medusa Imperial Milk Stout
Pulled pork (make sure the base flavor matches the type of beer) Pale Ales AleSmith San Diego Pale Ale .394
Pulled pork (for spicy pulled pork dishes) Honey Ale  Pizza Port California Honey Ale
Beef burgers (high-fat content) Pale Ale Duck Foot Old Bro Hazy Pale Ale
Beef burgers (lean) Pilsner Fremont Golden Pilsner
Vegetarian burgers (grilled vegetables) Wheat beers Maui Pineapple Mana Wheat
Chicken Wings (spicy buffalo) Pale Ales
Indian Pale Ales
Temescal Patio Pale Ale
Abnormal Boss Pour IPA
Chicken Wings (spiced dry rub) Brown Ale Big Sky Moose Drool Brown Ale
Chicken Wings (grilled barbeque) Porters Barrel Brothers Dark Sarcasm Porter
Roast Chicken  Amber Ales
German-style Lagers
Bell’s Amber Ale
Enegren Rasenmaher-Bier Lager

Can You Bake With Beer?

Numerous ways exist to bake with beer, covering both sweet and savory categories. You can create cakes, muffins, pancakes, biscuits, and bread.

Beer serves as a flavoring agent and has other functions. Containing yeast and carbonation, it can act as a leavening agent in certain baked goods, helping them rise during baking.

When baking with beer, keep in mind that baked goods demand precision in measurements and processes.

How To Choose A Beer For Dessert Items

When baking with beer, consider the taste profile of both the product and the beer.

For cakes and desserts, start with porters or stouts. Brewed with roasted malt, they feature cocoa and coffee notes.

The top beers for desserts:

  • Porters offer a chocolate-like taste, a less bitter flavor than Stouts, making it perfect for chocolate-based desserts.
  • Stouts excel with coffee-flavored dishes due to their bitter, robust coffee taste.
  • Brown Ales exhibit nutty and caramel undertones, pairing well with sweet sauces.
  • Amber Ale presents complex yet simple flavors, making it an excellent dessert beer.

Tips For Making Desserts With Beer

Use room-temperature, unopened beer. Generally, using room-temperature ingredients for desserts is recommended.

Pour room-temperature beer and let it sit for five minutes before incorporating it into the recipe. This step allows the foam to disperse and excess carbonation to evaporate.

Beer pairs best with full-fat dairy products, not low-fat or fat-free versions. Beer’s acidity could curdle low-fat ingredients.

Desserts made with beer taste best when prepared and consumed fresh. Opened beer’s flavor can change significantly and affect the dessert.

Experiment with various beer flavors and consult a pairing guide to find the best beer for specific desserts.

Items Types of beers Try this
New York Cheesecake Lambic beers 3 Fonteinen Oude Geuze
Tiramisu or Chocolate Chip cookies Brown Ale Garage Imperial Oatmeal Brown Ale
Ice cream (butterscotch) Sour beers Prairie Slush Sour
Carrot cake Indian Pale Ale
Imperial Red Ale
El Segundo Broken Skull IPA
Creme Brulee Belgium-styled Quad
Indian Pale Ale
Urban Roots Where Our Hearts Truly Lie
Key Lime Pie Hefeweizen Enegren Schoner Tag
Lemon Shortbread Pilsner Brouwerij West Popfuji Pilsner
Orange sorbet Witbier Avery Liliko-i Kepolo Passionfruit Witbier
Spice cake Indian Pale Ale 32 North Nelson IPA
Caramel Apple Tart Brown Ale Modern Times Black House Coffee Ale
Pumpkin flan Pale Ale Ground Breaker Inclusion Dry Hopped Pale Ale

The pairings of these flavors are not fixed in stone. The only method of knowing which flavors go well together is to test your own.

Read also: How Long Does Beer Last In The Fridge? Bottles/Cans of Beer

How To Choose A Beer For Making Bread

Baking bread with beer alone (no yeast or other leavening agents) is possible, and we highly recommend giving it a try.

Selecting the right beer for your desired bread is essential. Experiment with various beer types to achieve your preferred results.

Consider the following when baking bread with beer:

  • Stouts, brown ales, and some porters work best for bread (at least flavor-wise).
  • Using a beer with a strong taste (too heavy) may result in a bitter loaf, while a mild-tasting beer might not be noticeable.
  • When replacing other liquid ingredients in bread recipes (like buttermilk or milk), maintain the fat content for the right texture and flavor.
  • Contemplate how to include fat in your recipe through trial and error.
  • Allow your beer to reach room temperature for optimal results.
  • Like oven-baked desserts, don’t leave the beer open for too long. Maximize carbonation for proper bread rising during baking.

Best Beers For Bread Making

Brown ales, stouts, and porters are the safest choices for bread-making.

Consider the following beers for bread-making:

  • Garage Imperial Oatmeal Brown Ale – Barrel Aged
  • Belching Beaver La Beaver Mexican Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout
  • Clown Shoes Hammer of the Lion Imperial Stout
  • Jackie O’s Hell Bettie Imperial Porter
  • Pohjala Ohtu American Porter

How Is Beer Made?

While we won’t delve into beer-making intricacies or the various types, we will outline the process to understand how each component affects your food and final taste.

Beer’s four basic ingredients:

  • Grains
  • Water
  • Hops
  • Yeast

The primary goal for brewers is to extract sugars from grains and convert them into alcohol and carbon dioxide (CO2) to create beer.

Step 1: Malting

Malting involves germinating grains until they reach around 45% moisture content. Then, they are dried and roasted.

Step 2: Mashing And Lautering

Grains are steeped to activate enzymes in starch, which release sugars. Water is drained, leaving a sweet, syrupy liquid. Lautering removes any remaining grains.

Step 3: Adding Hops

Hops and other spices are added to the liquid for flavor. This step imparts unique aromas and flavors to most beers.

Hops contribute bitterness to the mix—the more hops, the greater the bitterness. Over 150 hop varieties exist, each with a distinct flavor.

Step 4: Fermentation

Before bottling, yeast is added to the mixture to ferment (break down) sugars.

Like different hop types affect the taste, so does the yeast variety used.

Every step, from harvesting to bottling, influences the final appearance, aroma, taste, and mouth feel. All these aspects should be considered when using beer in food.

Like wine pairings, beer pairings are essential for the right flavor combination.

Different Types Of Beer

Beers fall into two main categories: ales and lagers.

Ales

Ales are produced at higher temperatures and can be ready to drink in about three weeks.

Ales include numerous subcategories, such as:

  • Porter
  • Stout
  • Brown Ales
  • Amber/Red Ales
  • Pale Ales

Lagers

Lagers ferment at lower temperatures than ales and are stored for weeks or months at near-freezing temperatures.

Read also: How Long Does It Take Beer To Freeze?

There are five primary lager types, each with unique characteristics and flavors. No two beers taste identical, making beer selection exciting.

Park Lager Amber Lager Bock Dark Lager Speciality Lager
American Light Lager Marzen/Oktoberfest Traditional Bock Munich Dunkel Winter warmers / holiday beers
Pilsner Vienna Lager Helles Bock Schwarzbier Herb & Spice
Dortmunder Rauchbiew Maibock Fruit
Munich Helles Doppelbock Smoke
Eisbock

FAQs

What is cooking with beer called?

Numerous cultures that consume beer feature several recipes incorporating it, ranging from the iconic Irish beef and Guinness stew to beer-battered fish and Belgian waterzooi. Unquestionably, Belgian cuisine elevates cooking with beer to its highest potential, showcasing a whole array of dishes appealingly referred to as cuisine à la bière.

Profile Image Norah Clark

Norah Clark

Norah Clark, Editor of Boyd Hampers! Norah is a food writer with over a decade of experience in hospitality as a pastry chef, sous chef, and barista; former chef at the Savoy Hotel, Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons and Plaza Hotel.

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