Cold beers, BBQ, and a hot summer day—three things undeniably made for each other. But lagers, ales, and stouts can do much more than quench your thirst while you flip steaks. Grilling with beer can add a whole new level of flavour to your food, and these four tips can help you get started.
Use beer in a marinade
A tasty marinade is essential for moist, flavourful meat, and beer makes an excellent base. It’s less acidic than wine and vinegar, so it will tenderize delicate proteins like fish and seafood without compromising their texture. It also blends beautifully with other flavours without overpowering them. Studies have even shown that beer marinades can be good for your health! They help reduce a nasty a chemical called heterocyclic amines (HCAs), which is created during the barbecuing process. You can freestyle a delicious beer marinade by mixing your brew of choice with some quality oil, herbs, and spices. Maybe throw in some garlic or even a little fruit for a summery fresh flavour. The general rule of thumb is half a cup of marinade per pound of meat. Just be careful not to add too much oil or you’ll create a smoky mess on the grill.
Baste with beer
Basting your meats and veggies on the grill not only adds layers of flavour, but it also reinvigorates their natural juices when the flames threaten to dry them out. You can brush or drizzle on some beer flavour in a marinade or just use it straight up. Lucy Saunders, author of the book The Best of American Beer and Food: Pairing & Cooking with Craft Beer, recommends filling an empty squirt bottle with beer and powdered spices. The carbonation in the beer actually helps suspend the spices and spreads them more evenly around. A beer baste will also add delicious caramelized flavour to your BBQ because of the sugars in the malt.
Choose the correct pairing
If you think you can crack open any old beer can and start grilling, think again! Pairing the right beer with a dish is just as important in cooking as it is in drinking. Generally, dark beers (such as Muskoka Brewery’s Dark Ale) work better with red meat and game, light beers work better with fish and seafood, and chicken can go either way. But with tons of different beer options, you can really have fun with it. For steaks, experiment with porters and stouts. For chicken, try blonde or amber ales. And for grilled vegetables or shrimp, maybe a wit or a saison. A well-hopped beer will really kick your spicy foods into gear and a beer with roasted or smoked flavour pairs perfectly with anything cooked over indirect heat.
Don’t be afraid to play
You’re already thinking outside the bottle, so use your beer experiment as an excuse to really let loose. Test out new sauces and recipes that use beer in unusual ways. BBQ guru Ted Reader, author of the cookbook Beerlicious: The Art of Grillin’ and Chillin’, recommends melting some butter, mixing it with beer, and injecting it straight into the centre of a barbequed potato. Diva Q, host of the Travel & Escape series BBQ Crawl, suggests mixing beer and lemonade together for a shandy marinade or adding mango nectar to reduced beer for a tropical glaze that’s perfect for pork tenderloin.
So if you’re guzzling beer by the grill this summer, you may want to save a few bottles for a culinary masterpiece. The possibilities are limitless!