Thursday, April 28, 2011

3 Easy Ways to Cook with Beer

In my last post, I lamented the fact that my last beer didn't come out right. It wasn't so "not right" that I couldn't drink it, but I wouldn't inflict it on others. It dawned on me however that even the worst beer can usually be used in a recipe (as long as the defects are minor.) That slight twang in the finish of my failed fermentation could perhaps be delicious under the right circumstances. Unlike a normal gourmet post, this is more of a rescue operation. With that in mind, here's my 3 favorite beer salvage recipes in order of most funky beer tolerable to least funky beer preferred:

1. Cedar Plank Smoked Salmon with Zucchini and Yellow Squash

This recipe is a super simple summer staple (seriously.) You can use some pretty funky beer here since it won't actually contact the food and may or may not contact your mouth (during cooking only.)

A while back I bought a package of cedar grilling planks. They suggest soaking them in wine or vinegar to keep them moist on the grill (so they smoke instead of erupting into flames.) Not wanting to waste perfectly cheap wine on a plank, I decided to soak it in beer instead. Having a very high sugar content, the beer added a very pleasant and sweet smokey smell to everything in the grill (along with the plank, of course.)

To make this recipe, you just soak the board in your skunked beer of choice for a couple hours, cut up 3 limes into 1/4 inch rounds and arrange them on the top of the board. Place a salmon filet (or any other fish) skin side down on the limes. Salt and pepper the salmon then coat liberally with olive oil. Do the same for any number of halved yellow squash and zucchini but cook them directly on the grill's surface. Since this is the abridged version of the recipe, just cook it until the veggies are soft and the salmon is flaky (turning the veggies then flipping them once.)

2. Beer Braised Sausages

You need slightly less horrible beer for this recipe since it actually contacts your food, but the type doesn't matter much. To start, buy a few large sausages of your choosing (can be frozen.) Brown them in a skillet then put them in a covered baking dish. Add any beer you have lying around so that they are almost covered and bake for 30-40 minutes at 350 degrees. You can't really overcook this, but if the sausages start to break apart they're probably done.

Cover this much when raw
I made this last week using two Indian Chicken Mango sausages and two super hot Pork Chorizo sausages. The beer imparts a nice flavor; I'd just stay away from anything with spices or excessive sweetness. Budweiser or corona would work just fine here (and you can also throw a bud with some hotdogs in the slow cooker for the same effect.)

3. Chili with Beer

This is the closest thing to gourmet in this post but you could still cook it over a fire in the desert. Use your favorite chili recipe here but instead of adding an undrained can of tomatoes or any other cooking liquid, use an equal part of beer (plus drained tomatoes.) Pale ale seems to work best here, but stouts or lager work just fine. The beer imparts a subtle bitter flavor but will definitely help make that chili extra special (and clear out a terrible but untainted beer in the process.) Since chili is generally consumed with a light and refreshing beer try and pair it with whatever was used in the recipe. Corona works well here.

I haven't found my favorite chili recipe yet, or I'd put it up. If you have one to share or a favorite beer recipe of your own, feel free to leave it in the comments!

Check out "Now You're Cooking!" for more ideas on how to cook with beer!


  1. Cheddar beer soup... beer bread.. beef braised in beer (with onion, leek, garlic, carrots and potatoes).. beer batters.. then the joys of game meats and beer.. or using beer to steam

    Yeah.. it all depends on the flavor of the beer as some work better with certain ingredients, but there is a beer for everything.

  2. How do you make cheddar beer soup? Sounds good!

  3. So easy it is ridiculous.. and pretty much endless variations.

    You start with a roux, then add a base liquid (chicken stock or milk), then beer, cheese, salt & pepper.

    You don't have to stick with cheddar.. any nice melting cheeses will work you just want one that works well with the beer you use. Darker beer you use less of as the robust flavors tend to have a bitter twinge.

    If you like to tempt fate...and a potential coronary... render bacon, set it aside.. use the dripping for the roux (although also reduce salt). Then crumble the bacon to go on top of the soup with some chives. Can even toss in to the soup leftover baked potato cut in small cubes.

    Totally unhealthy.. and wickedly good.

  4. Wow, that sounds amazing! I'll have to try it soon! Sounds like it would go
    really well with my honey brown bread...