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How Do I Choose the Best Beer Marinade?

By Cynde Gregory
Updated May 16, 2024
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Folks who like to tip a frosty beer on a sizzling afternoon are also likely to enjoy meat that has gone swimming in a good beer marinade. The best beer marinade depends entirely upon taste. Some like their steaks, chicken, or other meat with a bit of caramelized sweetness, while others prefer it with a little heat.

Serious beer drinkers no doubt have a favorite or two, likely from a microbrewery. Soaking a rib eye, chicken breast, or pork chop in an deeply flavored dark beer or a light, bright pale ale not only tenderizes the meat by breaking down collagen, but it soaks right in and adds subtle flavor that brings out the taste of the meat. Less expensive beer tenderizes just as well, but the flavor might not be as pronounced.

Beer marinade works just as well with scallops, shrimp, and heartier fish, such as sword or tuna steaks. Even tofu or tempeh can take a beer bath, so vegetarians needn’t feel deprived. The trick is timing; red meat can handle a soak of several hours or even overnight. Pork needs less time in the drink, and chicken only needs to marinate for a few hours. For seafood and nonmeats, a half hour or so is sufficient.

There’s nothing difficult about putting together a beer marinade. It can be as easy as just pouring beer over the meat or as complex as the cook desires. A simple beer marinade for red meat might include minced ginger and garlic, a few shakes of tamari or soy sauce, and a little sweetener, such as honey. For those who like a tomato barbeque flavor, a little ketchup or barbeque sauce works fine. Minced herbs such as cilantro or basil add a nice touch.

Pork chops and pork sausage are extra yummy when marinated in beer with lots of minced ginger and a jar of orange or mixed-fruit marmalade. If there’s no marmalade on hand, the wise cook can use a can of cranberry sauce instead. Some garlic and finely minced onion adds zest, and a few drops of hot sauce make this marinade perfect for anyone who goes for the burn.

Chicken runs the risk of drying out when it’s grilled or broiled without marinating first. A 3:1 mix of beer and salad oil will keep even skinless chicken breasts moist. This marinade likes a couple of squirts of lemon or pineapple juice as well. Chop some herbs, and it’s done.

An outstanding marinade for fish and shellfish includes both beer and tequila, to which a good amount of salad oil has been added. Lime juice is a must for this marinade as well as cumin, cilantro, and garlic. For true south-of-the-border flavor, some jalapeno pepper adds heat.

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