How To Infuse Beer Into Sauces And Marinades, According To An Expert

Beyond being a perfectly refreshing tipple for the backyard barbecue or block party, beer offers an excellent opportunity to inject your cooking with bright flavor. Think of the aromatic notes it can bring to a classic Beer Can Chicken or beer-infused pretzels. But there are even more ways you can get a tasty boost from beer, including using it in a marinade or sauce. Not only does it add flavor to your dish, it tenderizes the meat with its active enzymes.

For a little brew wisdom, we turned to Jessie Massie, Head Chef at the Sierra Nevada Taproom in Mills River, NC. Massie has a couple of tips on offer for those new to the beer marinade game. First, she recommends you start with meat that marinates well, like chicken wings, sausages, or brats. Second, Massie warns cooks to avoid using the more bitter beers for the job. "Be mindful of the IBUs, or bitterness units, in the beer you choose for marinating because sometimes hoppy bitterness can become overpowering once it undergoes a cooking process on high heat," she says.

Picking the right beer for the job

What beers should you be pairing with your sauces and marinades? For Massie, she finds pale lagers, like German-style helles beer, and American-style pale ales to have lower levels of bitterness that make them key starting points for a beer marinade. But your options don't end there. Golden wheat beers, Belgian whites, and sour ales also lack that bitterness and bring plenty of flavor to your meat. The best rule of thumb to follow is to stay away from the hoppier options.

After you've picked the right beer, consider what protein to pair with it. A citrusy ale or sour beer might work nicely with chicken wings or turkey legs, while a Belgian white or wheat beer might add some zip to a pork loin or sirloin steak. Even a plain light beer works wonders for a rack of ribs. To make your own beer marinade, combine a cup of beer with a dash of vinegar, hot sauce, and salt and pepper. Marinate your meat overnight for a flavorful boost and tenderization.

If you want to make a beer sauce instead, begin by deglazing a pan (after searing off a steak or browning brats) with a cup of beer, adding in bright aromatics, and cooking off the alcohol for a fast, delicious finishing sauce. However you chose to use your beer, these tips will help you get the best results.