People who are dieting or are simply trying to live a health-conscious lifestyle will often shy away from the possibility of cooking with alcohol. And it is true that if you regularly consume several beers while you are preparing dinner at night, you are probably going to pack on quite a few extra pounds. However, using the beer to enhance the flavors of the food you are cooking is another matter.
There is no doubt that beer is a high-calorie beverage, with the average 12-ounce bottle clocking in at 150 calories or so. However, it is free of cholesterol and fat and is also, to many people’s surprise, rich in B vitamins and minerals like magnesium, potassium and selenium. In other words, as an additive to many dishes, it can actually be pretty healthy.
Alcohol and Calories
What many people to do realize, however, is that as alcohol is warmed and it evaporates, the calories from the alcohol will evaporate too! While it never entirely leaves a dish once it has been added, much of the alcohol can evaporate depending on how it is heating and at what temperature. For instance, if you make a chicken cacciatore dishes and simmers its sauce for one hour on low heat, nearly 75% of the alcohol (and its calories) will evaporate. This number goes up even higher for dishes like beef stew that can be simmered for several hours: for this kind of dish, on average some 95% of the alcohol and calories burn off. This leaves you with just the wonderful flavor of the dish itself.
Ideas for Cooking with Beer
Now that you are ready to try experimenting with dishes that require beer, consider any of the simple ways below to add it to your repertory.
- Idea One: Simmer chicken thighs in a mixture of beer, sliced onions and browned potatoes for a wonderful one-skillet meal with weekend.
- Idea Two: Add beer to the batter for your fish-fry this Friday night, and watch how fast your family will eat up the beer-battered fish!
- Idea Three: If you are in the mood for a thick beef stew with tomatoes, onions and potatoes, trying also adding a dark lager to the soup pot and see what a difference it makes for the flavor of the stew.
- Idea Four: Sloppy Joes are always a great and simple family meal, but they are even better if you add a little beer to the Sloppy Joe mix and simmer up before serving.
- Idea Five: Brisket is a wonderful dish no matter what, but try braising it in beer when you are making it next: it adds a rich flavor to an already fantastic dish.
So now that you know that many of the beer’s calories will dissipate as you cook with it, you don’t have to worry about the health consequences of using it! Trying it in any of the dishes mentioned above: the alcohol might evaporate, but it will leave its wonderful flavor behind.
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