Beer can chicken and beer battered shrimp are delicious, it’s true, but there’s a lot more you can do with beer in the kitchen. From tacos, to beef stew, to brownies, beer can add flavor to lunches, dinners, and desserts. You can even make breakfast muffins with beer. Whatever your tastes, there’s a beer recipe out there to complement them, and each recipe will have its own unique way of using beer. But there are a few general tips that can prepare you before you get started.

Treat Beer Like Wine

There are three main types of beer: ales, lagers, and stouts. Knowing which beers tend to enhance which foods will help you make the right selection. Fruity beers tend to pair with deserts, ales work with meat dishes. Darker ales best complement red meat, while wheat ales work well with seafood and poultry. Lagers pair well with breads. Pale ales have the broadest use and tend to work with most foods. Just as when you cook with wine, you should choose a reputable, flavorful brand. Stouts are often used in hearty desserts and stews. Don’t cook with a beer you wouldn’t want to drink and enjoy on its own.

Understand Beer’s Role

Beer has dozens of uses in cooking. While the most obvious is adding the flavor of the beer to a dish, beer can also tenderize meat or enhance yeast in breads and pancakes, making lighter, fluffier baked goods. The carbonation in beer lightens up batter, making it crisper and airier. Beer can be used as a deglazing agent that boosts the flavors of other ingredients or as a way to add moisture to meat dishes. Knowing what role beer plays in a particular dish will help you better choose the right beer to use. (You wouldn’t want to use a leftover, flat beer in a recipe requiring carbonation!) If it’s more beer flavor you’re after, you’ll want to use a beer with more malt and hops.

Cook Responsibly

While it might seem like fun to overdo it, adding more beer than a recipe calls for can quickly get out of hand. Depending on the specific role a beer might play—adding flavor, lightening breads and batters, deglazing, etc.—the recipe will call for specific amounts for good reason. Beer can be a magical in measured amounts, adding a complex combination of flavors and textures no other ingredient could. But it can also overwhelm a dish if it not used in moderation. There are thousands of beer recipes out there—find one that looks good and get cooking!

Side Hustle Brews

Cooking or pairing beer with food can be complex, but it doesn’t have to be (and shouldn’t be).

Always remember: the most important rule of cooking and pairing: does it taste good. Understand your ingredients, enjoy your beer and have fun. Follow us on Instagram for details on food pairing and our favorite beer forward recipes.