One Ingredient, Many Ways: Beer

By Leah Koenig

Published on October 4, 2012

Beer tastes great swigged out of a bottle in the back of a dimly lit bar. It is delicious pumped from a keg, sloshed in front of the TV while watching the big game, sipped while waiting for the grill to heat up, or nestled next to you in a pile of white sand on the beach. But beer's many distinct varieties, from hoppy pale ales to caramel-scented ambers and dark, textured stouts, also make it a fantastic cooking ingredient. Like wine, adding a splash of beer to a tomato sauce adds a complex layer of flavor. But a brew's carbonated bubbles can also help tenderize meat, making beer a secret ingredient to a good marinade or long-simmering meat stew. Those same airy bubbles add lift to baked goods and batters, which explains why recipes for deep-fried fish and onion rings often include a splash of crisp lager in the batter.

This year, Oktoberfest, Germany's annual national celebration of all things barreled and brewed, runs from September 22 through October 7. Celebrate at home by raising a stein—and then tipping it directly into your stew pot.

Food Recipes with Beer

Beer-Battered Haddock
Battering haddock fillets with a crisp, lager beer leaves them delightfully crisp after frying.

Pasta with Spicy Tomato Beer Sauce
A bottle of bock beer enriches the puttanesca-style sauce topping this pasta dish.

Coq-a-la-Biere (Chicken in Beer)
Chicken legs get a nice long simmer in wheat beer flavored with onions, juniper berries, cloves, bay leaf, and paprika.

Beer-Battered Onion Rings
Use a lager-style beer to enhance the flavor of crispy, deep-fried onion rings.

Spicy Guinness Mustard
Dark beer, like Guinness, adds depth to homemade mustard.

Beef and Guinness Pie
Hearty meat pie gets an extra hit of flavor from Guinness.

Beer-Battered Fish Tacos
Pour 1 bottle of dark beer from a six-pack into the batter for these tacos, and serve the other bottles with dinner.

Crepes with Mushrooms, Gruyere, and Spinach
A glug of cold lager helps flavor savory crepe batter.

Stout Ice Cream
This Jamaican ice cream gets its rich, caramelized flavor from dark stout beer.

Smitten Kitchen: Cheddar, Beer and Mustard Pull-Apart Bread
Richly dense beer bread is generously layered with shredded cheddar.

Drink Recipes with Beer

Mix a light-bodied Mexican beer (like Corona) with tomato juice, lemon, and hot sauce for a spicy and refreshing drink.

The classic Mexican "beer cooler" combines beer with lime juice, hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce.

The Pledge
Stir together oatmeal stout, sherry, Benedictine, and nutmeg for a deep, easy-drinking beer cocktail.

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