Ted Reader’s take on how to pair beer with grilling
It’s good to be Ted Reader these days. The Canadian chef and cookbook author recently published Beerlicious: the art of grilling and relaxing (Fenn / McClelland & Stewart), a 300-page ode to beer and barbecue, as Reader puts it, his “two favorite things”. When the Georgia Straight catches up with him by phone, it is almost 30 ° C outside his home in Toronto. The reader drinks a beer and cooks brisket, top sirloin and chicken on a smoker in his backyard.
“My favorite memory in my backyard is anytime with my friends and family, and I’m turning on the grill and I have a beer fridge in my garage,” says Reader, adding that he has about 30 types of beer in it. “I put on music, watch my kids run and play, then I sit and eat, talk and tell stories.”
This memory, which looks a lot like his current reality, is what fuels Reader’s passion for beer and barbecue, which he says go together “like peanut butter and jelly.” When it comes to pairing a beer with a barbecue, whether you cook with it, or throw one with a meal, Reader says that, like wines, some beers are best paired with particular foods.
“Beers would be like red wines if you compared beer to wines, and lagers would be like white wines,” he says. “So white wines [and lagers] would go with fish, seafood, poultry and white meats like pork and red wines [and ales]- for a little more substance – would go with beef, veal, lamb, and game, but can also work well with seafood and can work well with poultry.
In Beerlicious, Reader uses 101 beers as the basis for 101 recipes. These range from the rock-solid Creemore Pilsner steak (a basic New York strip steak grilled over charcoal marinated with beer, soy and Worcestershire sauces, garlic and onions) to the barbecue terrine. from head to toe more complicated with barbecue sauce jelly.
When asked for his favorite recipe, the author is quick to say Beef Wellington, a beer lover’s version of the traditional English dish. In the Reader version, the beef tenderloin is marinated in Duvel Belgian Strong Golden Ale and grilled before being coated in Dijon mustard, covered with Portobello mushroom caps and wrapped in puff pastry. The Wellington is then barbecued on a wooden board – the reader prefers western red cedar – until flaky and golden.
If your idea of outfitting the grill only goes so far as to flip ready-made patties and hot dogs, Reader suggests simply adding some of your favorite beer to whatever’s cooking.
“It can be as simple as grabbing a burger and grilling it and thinking, ‘I’m going to spray it with my favorite beer,’ and see how it tastes,” he says.
For more adventurous cooks who are ready to whip up a beer tasting menu, Reader recommends heading to a reputable liquor store with a menu already planned.
“Tell them you want to have four different beers and what you plan to cook,” he says. “They can then guide you through pairing them. “
When it comes to finding your own mojo behind the grill, Reader has learned it’s about cooking what you know, having fun, and experimenting with different beers and recipes. He says not to dwell too much on finding the specific beer a recipe calls for, but to substitute something similar – and maybe local – instead.
“’All beer is good beer’ is my philosophy,” he says. “You know not everyone is a chef and not everyone is a beer connoisseur, but pretty much everyone I know enjoys barbecuing and drinking beer.”