8 ways to cook with beer

8 ways to cook with beer

The merits of beer extend way beyond cracking open a cold one after a long day. Brews of all shades can be used in cooking too…

We’ve long advocated taking the time and effort to match beer with food, but we’re also big fans of using beer in recipes. The same principle applies when using wine to add body and flavour to dishes, and beer is (usually) cheaper than vino. As beer is so complex, you should use different shades and styles for appropriate recipes, and we have a few ideas to get your started…

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8 ways to cook with beer…

Lighten up batter


Fans of gastropub fish & chips won’t be strangers to the concept of adding beer to batter. It works like sparkling water to carbonate the mix, helping to make it more crisp, light and airy. Our recipe for deep-fried fish bites calls for a full-bodied beer like stout or brown ale, but lighter beer such as wheat beer, lager and IPA would work too. Beer batter shouldn’t be reserved for fish – use it to coat onion rings, calamari or tempura too.

Beer-battered pollack bites
Pickled onion rings

Use the can


Now here’s something you don’t see every day – a whole chicken with a beer can wedged up its… you get the picture. This rather ungainly-looking serving method (also known as ‘beer butt chicken’) has a very serious purpose. The method of opening the upright beer can allows the contents of the can to evaporate and keep the meat moist during cooking. Our recipe uses half a can, so you can drink the rest while you wait for the magic happen.

Beer can chicken

In marinades


Michelin-decorated pub owner Tom Kerridge knows his beer and then some. That might explain why several of the recipes he created for BBC Good Food include the hoppy stuff. One dish in which beer is front and centre is his braised short ribs, where American-style craft lager is combined with sticky treacle, ketchup and mustard to create an unctuous marinade for an oft-overlooked beef cut.  

Beer-braised short ribs

On fish


You might be inclined to presume hearty beer works better with red meat, but not so – this sunny recipe uses Jamaican lager to create a smoky glaze for barbecued fish. As the herby, piquant beer marinade makes its way into slashes in the side of the snapper, the whole thing merges to create a Caribbean taste sensation. Obviously a fridge well-stocked with the aforementioned Jamaican lager is an absolute must to serve alongside.

Jamaican grilled fish

Add a dash to soup


The key to this onion soup recipe is letting the onions cook down for a long period – up to 40 minutes – to bring out the sweetness, which is given a boost when the glug of beer boils down to a rich, dark nectar. Serve with the traditional toasts given an Anglo twist with nutty Lincolnshire Poacher cheese.

Onion soup with cheese & herb toasts

In cake


Chocolate & Guinness cake is a great of the baking world. The moist, dark sponge is given a ‘resonant, ferrous tang’ (to quote the great Nigella Lawson) from the stout, and the coquettish cloud of frosting gives a finished effect that mimics a pint of the mighty black stuff. Our version divides the sponge batter into individual dariole moulds, so the ‘baby cakes’ are a little like upturned, less melty chocolate fondants. The cream topping has a splash of Champagne because – why not?

Black velvet baby cakes

To spruce up cheese on toast


Beer and cheese: you’d be hard pushed to find better partners. The winning combo allows you to give cheese on toast some serious snaps by creating a rarebit mix – a kind of turbo cheese on toast with an almighty punch. Combine spring onion, beer, butter, egg and breadcrumbs in a pan, then chill the delicious potion until set. To serve, pile it high onto crumpets or toast and grill until the rarebit mix renders down to a molten, oozy mass. Excuse us while we drift into reverie…  

Rarebit crumpets

For braising

We love lentils for their flavour absorption factor, but we’d never thought of combining them with beer until Tom Kerridge led us on our merry way to uber lentildom. He uses wheat beer in this side dish of puy lentils with shallots, lamb stock and thyme. The dish is designed to be served with his salt-baked lamb shanks, but you can omit the meat and serve with a main dish of your choosing.

Beer braised lentils

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Do you like cooking with beer? We’d love to hear your recipe ideas.