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11 ways beer makes cooking and baking better

Beer is a secret culinary weapon hiding in plain sight. Doesn’t that make sense? All the amazing, complex flavours you enjoy in a frosty mug are equally delicious in your favourite foods, boosting their taste and texture in exciting ways. Here’s how your best-loved beers can give a little extra love to your recipes, both savoury and sweet.

Cooking with beer

Pour a little, sip a little, stir a little. Cooking with beer is even more fun with friends, so invite your mates to pitch in.

  1. Marinades
  2. The easiest way to cook with beer is to bathe meat in it. Hearty amber or brown beers work best for marinades, lending both moisture and flavour to any cut. Plus, beer isn’t as acidic as other typical marinade mainstays (like vinegar), so if your meat ends up standing in the mix for an extra day in the fridge, it’s no big deal. Beer also helps caramelize the outside of your meat as it cooks — so it’s especially excellent for grilling steaks.

  3. Pasta sauces
  4. Whether it’s from a jar or homemade, Bolognese is better with about a cup of beer added to it. Stir in your favourite pale ale and let the combo simmer down into a thicker, stickier sauce — it should take only 20 minutes or so. The texture is perfect for coating your favourite long pasta, like spaghetti, fettuccine or tagliatelle.

  5. Salad dressings
  6. Replace some (or all!) of the vinegar in your salad dressing with beer. Usually, pale ales and beers that are low on bitter notes are best. However, if you’re topping sweeter veg, like carrots, corn or caramelized onions, go for a splash of bitter-edged India pale ale (IPA) for contrast.

  7. Hash browns
  8. Toss diced boiled potatoes with dark beer in a frying pan and cook until crusty and well browned. Sprinkle with vinegar and salt, and serve warm.

  9. Soups and stews
  10. Honestly, just about any soup can benefit from a splash of beer. Use milder beers, like lagers, for longer simmers so the flavours stay gentle. (Darker or more-bitter beers can get a bit too concentrated when simmered for hours.) If you have a more flavour-forward beer, like an IPA, on hand, stir in a splash just before serving for extra zip.

  11. Pickles
  12. Refrigerator pickles (a.k.a. quick pickles, which don’t require fermentation) are an easy way to use up leftover veggie odds and ends, and taste so good with burgers. Bring a mix of IPA (which has crisp acidity), vinegar and spices to a boil, then pour over chopped veg in a jar. Seal with the lid and store in the fridge for up to seven days.

Baking with beer

Beer in baking is a thing. And for good reason. Brews enhance the other flavours in baked goods while also lending moisture to batters and doughs. Just be sure to gobble up beer-laced treats while they’re warm and fresh, because the flavours tend to change over time.

  1. Breads
  2. Bread and beer are made from the same basic ingredients — yeast and grains — so it’s no surprise these two work well together. Beer adds a little magic to bread dough thanks to brewer’s yeast, which feasts on flour and sugar, and adds flavour through fermentation. It also adds extra carbon dioxide, which lifts the dough higher. This means you can skip the kneading, sit back and let the beer and bread yeast do their thing. And, actually, beer with fewer bubbles works best, so this is a great way to use up beer that’s gone a little flat.

  3. Cakes
  4. As it does for bread, beer gives homemade cakes a light and fluffy texture. When you’re choosing a variety to use, think of natural flavour complements — porter’s coffee notes are perfect in a chocolate cake, while IPA’s natural bitterness keeps carrot cake from getting overly sweet.

  5. Cookies and bars
  6. Stout brownies are popular for good reason: the rich, chocolaty flavours of the beer only make brownie batter better. (Trust us — our Fudgy Chocolate Stout Brownies are to die for.) But a few tablespoons of stout added to chocolate cookie dough will do exactly the same thing. And if you’ve enjoyed an orange slice in a refreshing white ale, let this crisp brew enhance your favourite citrusy cookies. Got a go-to lemon bar recipe? Try adding a little IPA to the filling.

More sweet inspiration

Sweets are an incredibly good match with beer because they have many of the same caramel, chocolate and toasty flavours. Also, these treats impress without a ton of work. Win-win!

  1. Caramel sauces
  2. These are way easier to make than they sound, and you can use any kind of beer. Just simmer sugar, cream and beer on the stove until reduced by half, then stir in vanilla extract and salt. Done! You get a rich, wonderful sauce to pour over ice cream, fruit or cake. (Just don’t eat it all with a spoon right out of the pan, OK?)

  3. Beer floats
  4. Want a little something sweet without any effort? Add a scoop of ice cream to a glass of beer and you’ve got a float. Try vanilla, chocolate or coconut ice cream with stout; strawberry ice cream with Belgian witbier; or lemon sorbet with sour beer. The sky’s the limit on your flavour options.

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