The Color Rule You Should Always Follow When Cooking With Beer

There are many crafty techniques chefs can use to elevate an otherwise ordinary dish. From simmering a big pot of flavorful stew all day long to getting the absolute perfect sear on a cut of steak, some approaches work better than others. For a few dishes, like a golden-crusted cod to a classic pot of chili in all its hearty glory, there is one special addition in particular that can really kick things up a notch, per BBC, a generous splash of beer. 

While beer can really heighten a whole lot of dishes, not every type of beer brings the same taste. Whether you're looking to add depth to a marinade or bring even more flavor into your braised pork, some beers just do a better job than others. Well, there's really only one thing you need to know about cooking with beer. Here's the special color rule that you should always follow.

Why should you add beer to your pot?

The reasons why you should incorporate beer into a dish vary because the drink really introduces a whole lot more than just one element to a meal. 

Per NPR, beer is good in many cooking scenarios because it's a great flavor enhancer. This is what makes the drink such a prominent force in many Irish dishes like corned beef and cabbage or hearty potato-based stews. It ties everything together. According to Food Network, beer's enhancing qualities can be beneficial when you're in a pinch for dinner. While soup and stew taste best when they've been simmering all day, sometimes you have to make that meal last-minute. In those cases, it's best to reach for a can of beer alongside your broths and stocks, because it can bring unexpected richness to meals that lack consistent flavors. 

According to BBC, aside from richness, beer can even bring a certain lightness to a dish, which is why it is sometimes used to batter fish. Beer-based batters can make for an airier, crispier texture. So while beer wears many hats in the world of cooking, its use does usually lead to next-level flavor. But before you reach for your favorite IPA or stout, remember the color rule of cooking with beer to make sure you get the results you're really looking for. 

The best kind of brew for your meal

If you're trying to figure out what type of beer to use in your next dish, consider the color first. According to certified beer judge Kate Bernot, if your beer is both dark in color and you enjoy the taste, there's a pretty good chance you can incorporate it in your next meal, via The Takeout. This is because darker brews are typically made from special grains that pair really well with savory flavors. Per Draft Mag, ales like stouts and porters are usually safe to add to your plate for this reason. Now if you're looking to add a splash of a brew to a lighter dish like fish, consider adding something equally pale like a lager or even an IPA. 

According to Taste of Home, no matter what beer you have on standby, as long as you enjoy the flavor, you should be good to go. And while the exact kind of beer you want to use varies per dish, some of the most common uses of beer in cooking include using lighter beers like lagers for fried foods and darker beers for heartier options like stews per experienced chef Jackie Freeman, via All Recipes. So just don't add your pilsner to a BBQ Brunswick stew and you should be fine.