Rob McFerren: Braising with craft beer

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“Braising” is a French cooking term that is used in quite a few different cuisines that can turn any meat (especially tough cuts) into something very tender and full-flavored. The protein is seared, or browned, and then cooked in liquid in a covered thick-sided pot on low heat for a long time. The flavors are concentrated and the tough tissues are broken down yielding a tender piece of meat. This method can be used with many different styles of beer which makes for a great tasting meal.

Different proteins can be used such as beef, pork and chicken when braising along with different vegetables and herbs or spices. When choosing what you are going to braise you can pick any beer style which will add the unique flavor profiles of that beer. For me, craft beers that do not have a lot of bitterness work best as sometimes that bitterness will be amplified during the braising process. Chicken works well with the spicy ester flavors of a Saison or a German-style Hefeweizen. A dark non-bitter beer will work great with any beef dish that is braised. The dark beer will bring out the richness of the beef while making a great sauce. Pork will taste amazing with any lighter colored Belgian-style Ale such as a Belgian Tripel.

Often vegetables such as carrots, onions and potatoes will be added to the braising liquid to contribute complexities and richness. These will help to make for a great gravy when the dish is finished. There are many recipes that you can find and even if they don’t call for beer you can substitute it for all or some of the braising liquid. Get out your “Dutch Oven” and give beer braising a try! Cheers!

Rob McFerren is the owner of Wolf Creek Restaurant & Brewing Co.

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