Save that can! It's time to get cooking with a cold one.
Beer is all too often associated with, well, a beer belly. But finding creative ways to cook with a brew can help you savor the flavor (and malty smells) without such a concentration of calories. Even more: When consumed responsibly, beer can be a healthy addition to a balanced diet, notes Joy Dubost, Ph.D., R.D., a registered dietitian in Philadelphia who is also a beer steward with the Master Brewers Association of the Americas. (Celiac? Try one of these 12 tasty gluten-free drinks.)
Beer, she says, provides a variety of essential nutrients and antioxidants, like the B vitamins niacin, B6, folate, and B12. "The B vitamins are from the malt or cereal adjuncts, so the amount can vary based on the malts chosen," Dubost says. Beer is also a decent source of magnesium, potassium, and insoluble fiber, and it's low in sodium, she notes.
The best part: Most of the minerals and fiber tend to remain intact when you cook with beer, says Dubost. (As with other cooked foods, though, B vitamins may decrease given that they're water-soluble. Generally, cooking creates a water loss). Also, you don't really need to worry about overdoing it with the booze—most of the alcohol itself is cooked off during the preparation process, especially if you're heating things up.
So what food options pair the best with which beers? According to Vaughn Vargus, a certified executive chef in San Diego, beer makes a great addition to marinades, sauces, and brines.
"The variety of flavors in some beers, from the strong hops to fruity pilsners, can accompany a variety of pork, poultry, and beef dishes yet remain undiscovered," he says. (Try Braised Pulled Pork, Beer Brined Grilled Turkey, Crock Pot Chicken Thighs, or Oktoberfest Flank Steak.)
Dubost adds: "You basically want to complement the flavor of the beer with the food, which will enhance the overall dish. Soaking vegetables in a traditional lager can really bring out the earthy yet sweet flavor of vegetables." (Try Vegetarian Irish Guinness Stew and Black Bean and Beer Chili.)
Hungry yet? Crack a cold one and get cooking (we won't judge if you sip one of these low-cal beers we love while you're at it).