10 Tips to Start Cooking with Beer

by Jessi Boehme | Updated: June 22, 2016

Her wisdom still carries on to this day, and the quote should help you realize that cooking failures happen to the best of us. Cooking with beer is no exception. Want an example?

One time, my boyfriend made crock pot chicken and vegetables. His secret ingredient? A home brewed IPA that was delicious on its own, but when added to the crock pot  resulted in us eating out that night.

With that epic fail in mind I thought it might be helpful to list ten basic tips to help get you started adding beer to your home cooked meals.

There's more to cooking with beer than just beer can chicken (though we love that too)
There’s more to cooking with beer than just beer can chicken (though we love that too)

“The only real stumbling block is fear or failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell kind of attitude” -Julia Child

Before we dive into the list, remember your basic ingredients of beer: Water, Yeast, Malt and Hops. When selecting a beer for a meal think about those four ingredients and how they’re going to interact with your dish.

  • Yeast is a leavening agent which makes beer an excellent liquid for baking.
  • Malt, depending on the beer you use,it can add sweetness like caramel or honey, bready or biscuity, and roasty or chocolate.
  • Hops always taste bitter, but the flavors vary from citrus to tropical fruits, melon, pine, grassy, herbal, floral, and spicy.
  • Water affects the pH of the beer which in turn can affect the flavors on your palate and it has potential to cause off-flavors from chlorine or contaminants

This versatility makes beer extremely fun to play with in the kitchen.

Side note: We have six different tastes; sweet, sour, salty, bitter, umami, and fat. All six are fun to play with whether you’re cooking with beer or just drinking it!

Beer can be used for baking, broiling, frying, boiling, marinating and much more. Here are ten tips to get your tastebuds wet with beer-filled cooking.

  1. Use a beer you enjoy drinking. If it’s a garbage beer to you, you most likely won’t like it in your cooking.
  2. Keep it simple and experiment with a recipe that calls for some kind of liquid and use beer instead.
  3. Before baking with beer, let it come to room temperature. A cold beer may interact with the yeast differently and it may not rise as nicely
  4. When it doubt, look up beer-in-food recipes to get you started.Just don’t swap a barley wine for an IPA in a recipe unless you’re really looking to change things up.
  5. When you add wine or beer to a recipe on the stove top, remember that it reacts with the air and cooks off the alcohol. This concentrates the flavor without a strong alcoholic aroma. On the other hand, when using a slow cooker, the alcohol gets trapped inside.This doesn’t work so well and you’re left with a boozy, bitter meal.
  6. Think basics for beer and food pairings. If you’re making an earthy dishwith mushrooms and vegetables with herbal notes, don’t toss in a chocolate porter. Instead, try finding a beer that has similar earthy qualities like an English Pale Ale or a Belgian IPA.
  7. Think lagers and lighter beers, such as an American Blonde, Cream Ale, Pilsner or Kolsch, with lighter meats like poultry, pork chops and seafood.
  8. Think dark beverages like porters and stouts with beef and steak — the enzymes in beer are excellent tenderizers
  9. Your goal is to find balance. You don’t want the beer to overpower the food and vice versa.
  10. When in doubt, drink a beer while you cook, gather some friends and try out the dish.The best way to determine if you’ve done well is to get some feedback from your friends and family. See what flavors they pick out from your meal and write down notes in your recipe to remember for next time.

Keep in mind that these ten steps are meant to help you get started with beer in the kitchen.

I started cooking with beer by adding half a can of a light lager to my frying pan full of two or three sliced bell peppers and one or two onions.

Once the vegetables are tender I add the rest of the beer and let it cook another 5-8 minutes (this allows the alcohol to cook off).

Throw some sausages on top and cover until they are  cooked through.

Here's Billy B."s attempt at this simple recipe. He used a bock. The rich malty flavors really balanced the heat from the peppers. It turned out great.
Here’s Billy B.”s attempt at this simple recipe. He used a bock. The rich malty flavors really balanced the heat from the peppers. It turned out great.

Coming soon will be more recipes and examples of how I integrate beer into my recipes and what mistakes I’ve found along the way. Stay tuned and happy cooking!

Jessi Boehme (pronounced like fame) is a registered dietitian and a recent graduate of Central Michigan University’s Master of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics, living in Beer City USA, Grand Rapids, Michigan. She works locally as a dietitian by day and by night you can find her getting flights of beer with friends and family. She’s excited to bring a nutrition and science background to the Homebrew Academy. Cheers!