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Cooking With Beer

Beer can be a useful cooking ingredient in two ways: as a reduction for sauces, gravies, soups and baked goods, or as an add-in flavoring.  Three ways – in a glass as an accompanying beverage while cooking and during the meal.

First, what are you cooking?  Different beers work best toward distinct ends. 
"There's 32 different styles of beer and each style lends itself to something different," said Brian Marin, chef/owner of the Beer Bistro in Toronto, which uses beer as an component of nearly every dish served. 

He and other chefs recommend:
Porters and full-bodied dark beers:  red meat, game and stews. 
European and British pale ales that are light on hops:  chicken and pork. 
Sweeter stouts:  braised meats, stews, pizza dough and chocolate desserts. 
German and Czech pilsners:  cheese fondues.
Belgian fruit lambics: duck and fowl. 

American pilsners, predominantly rice driven, do not pack enough flavor for most cooks to find them useful.  But you can experiment with any beer and any food.

A few rules may apply, because unlike wines and liquor, beer loses much of its malty goodness if it is boiled or reduced.  Many beers become bitter and nasty tasting.  Instead of reducing the beer, you are better served by adding a thickening agent.  Unflavored gelatin is recommended by top chefs.

I will save beer that I don't drink for use in broths and sauces.  Better, use fresh beer, but reduce the carbonation by whisking it briskly. Many chefs advise adding beer at the end of the cooking process so you don't lose all the flavors your brew master worked hard to create.

If your stew or other concoction tastes bitter from the beer, you can remedy that.  Add carrots!  Pureed or sauteed carrots or a few drops of lemon juice will help reduce the bitterness.

Beer as a marinade and tenderizer? No, and no.  The alcohol begins “cooking” the outside of the meat, and actually creates a barrier preventing flavors from penetrating the meat.  It has little effect as a tenderizer. 

Last week:  Treating Asthma with Coffee
Next week:  Tenderizers that do work!

Article ID: TAK5
keywords: the atomic kitchen, beer, meat, stew, soups, sauces, pilsner, lager, porter, stout, lambics

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