“Beer,” write W. Wayt Gibbs and Nathan Myhrvold in Scientific American, “makes such a great base for batter because it simultaneously adds three ingredients—carbon dioxide, foaming agents and alcohol—each of which brings to bear different aspects of physics and chemistry to make [a] crust light and crisp.”
Beer is the classic batter moistener for those hunks of cod in a really top-notch basket of fish and chips. It largely has to do with the amount of CO2 gas in beer. Gasses tend to dissolve at lower temperatures, not high. When CO2 encounters hot oil, its solubility takes a dive. Bubbles form, creating a crisp, airy texture. And since alcohol dissolves faster than water, a beer batter cooks quickly, meaning there’s much less risk of overcooking the food it coats.
So much for science. Here are 7 recipes that put the theory into crunchy, delicious practice.
1. Beer-Battered Onion Rings
Beer makes this batter cook into a crisp, delicious, tempura-like coating. Remember to use the batter right away or the carbon dioxide will evaporate. Get the recipe.
2. Beer-Battered Fish
“The batter,” writes Serious Eats’ Nick Kindelsperger, “is a mix of flour and cornstarch, which comes out shatteringly crisp and remarkably un-greasy. A nice English ale is the preferred beer of choice, though I imagine any good lager would work, too.” Get the recipe.
3. Jamie Oliver’s Fish, Chips, and Mushy Peas
A British classic, from a classic British food personality. The mushy peas (fresh peas and pea leaves cooked down with lemon, mint, and butter) are essential here. Get the recipe.
4. Beer Batter Squid Rings
Light beer, flour, egg whites, and a touch of peanut oil make the lightest, crispiest coating for fried calamari. Get the recipe.
5. Beer-Battered Shrimp with Chipotle-Honey Sauce
The beer- moistened fry batter has a touch of cayenne pepper, and the chipotle-laced BBQ sauce for dipping turns the heat all the way up. Get the recipe.
6. Beer Batter Chicken
Fried chicken turns extra-crunchy when you coat it in a simple batter moistened with a can of beer. Get the recipe.
7. Beer-Battered Apple Fritters
Tender, cinnamon-perfumed apples coated in a light, crisp beer batter. Enjoy with a cool glass of a lower-in-alcohol saison. Get the recipe.