Lagers, ales and stouts, oh my!

By Meghan Overdeep
May 04, 2018
Credit: Getty Images/ValentynVolkov

Cooking with beer used to be a straightforward operation. Now, in an era of craft and microbrewers, more beers than ever are filling grocery store shelves. And while some recipes, like Sticky Stout Barbecue Sauce, for example, make it easy to figure out which type of beer to use, others, like Beer Can Cornish Hens, can be decidedly vague.

So what should you do if the recipe just says "beer"? How do you choose?

In instances like this, we recommend following Taste of Home's simple rule: don't cook with a beer you wouldn't want to drink. Remember, cooking with beer is meant to add flavor, so if a beer has a flavor you don't like, it doesn't belong in your dish. And don't worry if it's flat. Leftover beer is fine for cooking, as long as it was refrigerated.

That being said, there are a few guidelines you should follow when it comes to cooking with beer. For the most part, stay away from IPAs (India Pale Ales), which are meant to be hoppy. Too much hops can leave your dish tasting bitter.

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As Taste of Home points out, the beer should match the flavor of the dish in terms of weight and intensity. Hearty, rich meats like beef, lamb and venison should be paired with equally full-bodied brews like stout, porters, and dark ales. More delicately flavored foods, like poultry, pork and seafood, go best with lighter-bodied brews. Finally, light beers and lagers are great for fried foods. Their high carbonation creates a crisp, tasty crust that lets your flavor shine.

Happy cooking (and drinking)!