Beer, Grilling and Grilling with Beer

by: BeerAdvocate on 05-25-2005
The combination of drinking beer and grilling meat is one of those quintessential, all-American things. Everyone is familiar with the images of sucking back typical American shit beer while grilling some nicely marbled steaks, slabs of salmon, lamb, chicken or whatnot. Everyone is also familiar with the somewhat overrated health risks involved with grilling meat, too. Right? If not, let's refresh your memory.

Grilling with beer is funSeveral studies have been done in the past which concluded that grilling/charring muscle meats (cow, chicken, fish, etc.) create these nasty, little cancer-causing guys called heterocyclic amines (HCAs). There's also that damn benzopyrene, which is the nasty buildup of fat that drips onto hot coals, then evaporates back up to the meat and sticks to it. We've even read that when a pound of meat is grilled over charcoal, it can contain as much carcinogenic benzopyrene as 300 cigarettes! Of course, all this research was performed on warm, innocent little bunnies, kittens and cute mice.

Last year, some tests from Hong Kong scientist found that levels of carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in charcoal-grilled meat can be much higher than in non-charcoal grilled meats. What are PAHs? Organic chemicals that are “probably” carcinogenic to humans. Probably? C'mon! Yes or no, nerds!

Nothing conclusive has yet been found to link grilling meat over a flame with cancer in humans, not to mention that we’ve been eating grilled meats ever since our caveman ancestors employed fire for cooking, and here we are now. Regardless, it's still rather spooky ... but don’t be spooked ... let BEER be your savior!

How so? Well, we’re glad you asked. It seems that a German food chemist by the name of Udo Pollmer discovered that the use of beer while grilling inhibits HCA creation. Similar studies suggested that soaking meat in beer for several hours before grilling also reduces the chance of these carcinogenic compounds forming. It can be any beer, so long that it is not non-alcoholic beer. Other studies have detailed that many of the herbs and spices used in cooking will bind to the carcinogens, allowing them to pass through the system untouched.

Okay, so with this info and the fact that beer also helps to tenderize meats, we’re in business for some marinating action and some "healthy" grilling. First, don’t be frightened if you’ve never cooked with beer before. It's easy and extremely versatile. Just use caution when cooking with extremely hoppy beers and you’ll be fine, as they can get overwhelming. Anyway, here’s an easy one ...

Alström's Doppelbock Steak with Parmesan Garlic Broccoli and Tomato Salad

What you need:

Grilling with beer is fun, especially steakFind yourself the perfect-portioned steak of choice; make sure it’s nice and marbled with fat (despite popular belief, these are the best cuts).

Buy at least one bottle of Doppelbock beer like Thomas Hooker Liberator, Ayinger Celebrator or even Sam Adams's Triple Bock. These beers are malty sweet, less hoppy, and high in alcohol-perfect for grilling with steak. Check with your local brewpub, too-they might have a fresh growler of Doppelbock that you can take home (use only 12-16oz. bottles).

Now gather the following:

* Broccoli (1 average-sized head, per person)
* Parmesan cheese (half a cup or so)
* Chopped garlic (as much as you want)
* Salt and pepper
* Olive oil (a few tablespoons)
* Yellow and orange tomatoes (1 of each, per person)
* Balsamic dressing

And then do the following:

1. Get an airtight container, drop the steak in, and pour the entire bottle of bock over the steak. Seal the container and give it a good shake, then stick it in the fridge at least overnight or up to 24 hours, re-shaking occasionally.

2. When it’s time to grill, simply slap that doppelbock-soaked piece of meat on the grill and get cooking. Personally, we don’t like our steak cooked more than medium rare; anything more is a waste of meat and its goodness. And besides, you just killed any bacteria by soaking it in alcohol.

3. While the steak is grilling, steam up the broccoli, then mix it gently with the olive oil. Shake in the parmesan cheese and chopped garlic (to your preference), then add salt and pepper to taste.

4. Chop up the tomatoes length-wise into meaty slices, then arrange on a small plate and splash on just a bit of that balsamic dressing.

5. Recommended: You can always reduce the leftover beer marinade by cooking it down on low heat, then drizzle it over the finished steak. Feel no need to add anything to it; the beer is tasty by itself and even more so when blended with the juice from the steak.

Pair with more doppelbock beer, or contrast with something light, like a pale ale or lager.

Now go forth and grill with beer ...

Respect beer.
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