Why Cook with Beer?
Contributed by Kate Dowhan
I remember one of my first times cooking with beer. I had come home from university one wintry weekend and wanted to make a creamy potato soup for my family. While cooking, I decided to add a bit of pale ale to the pot as I knew this style’s substantial malt presence would complement the rich earthiness of PEI potatoes. They worked together to create a wonderful hearty soup that my family thoroughly enjoyed. It tasted good, really good.
For many people, their favourite way to appreciate beer is from a glass but I hope to inspire you to reach for beer the next time you are cooking. Beer makes a great drink but is also a great ingredient to cook with!
You might ask, why cook with beer?
Beer adds a more complex depth of flavour to a finished creation. It lends itself to the rich flavours of soups, stews and pastas while light and sweeter beers can be used in desserts. The spicy, fragrant flavours in many beer varieties compliment curries, chicken or even fish. If a recipe calls for a liquid, such as wine, stock, milk, water; you can substitute with beer.
Today, partly due to the growing craft beer industry, beer has become as complex a beverage as wine. Its flavour can be as pronounced, bold, sweet or bitter as the most intricate bottle of wine. It is a nice feeling to think that you can take something that you enjoy to drink and work with it in other ways. Beer can be used to transform, elevate or strengthen various ingredients into a beautiful and inspiring finished creation.
Beer and wine act a lot like salt in terms of their ability to bring out different flavours in food. Instead of wine, you can use beer to “deglaze” a pan. For example, when making a rich finishing sauce to serve alongside meat, sear the meat and pour beer into the pan and let it simmer. The presence of alcohol helps to transfer additional flavour from the meat to the sauce.
Many people think that when adding alcohol to a dish; the alcohol is completely evaporated or burned off, however, that’s not entirely true. Beer’s flavours: the hops, spices, fruit, barley and yeast are all transferred to a dish when you cook with it. How much of that flavour is retained is dependent on the cooking time, the amount of heat applied and truly how much alcohol was added. For instance, if you are cooking with beer in a recipe and the mixture is simmered for a period of time the beer flavour will be apparent but not as much as if you flambé fruit with beer.
It’s simple, if you enjoy beer to drink you will likely enjoy it in your recipes. Even if you do not drink beer you may like what it can do to your favourite dishes.