Will Beer Tenderize Meat? (Steak, Chicken, Pork, Lamb, Turkey, Etc.)

If you’re an avid beer drinker, you’ve probably wondered if you can use beer in any other capacity besides drinking. Especially when you have some leftover beer. Surprisingly, there are a lot of ways we can use beer, including tenderizing meat!

Beer can tenderize meat incredibly well. When marinating meat in beer overnight, the alpha acids and tannins present in the beer will break down the fibers in the meat. This results in more tender and flavorful meat. To achieve this breakdown, the meat must be marinated for a least 2 hours and a maximum of 12 hours. 

If you would like to learn more about what types of beer work best for tenderizing certain kinds of meat, keep reading! 

Can beer be used as a meat tenderizer?

Beer is a fantastic meat tenderizer and can provide a unique flavor when meat is marinated in it. Typically, you will see a caramel-like flavor when you use beer as a tenderizer for your meat. 

The reason why beer can be used as a meat tenderizer is because of alpha acids and tannins. These compounds break down the fibers that are in the meat, hence tenderizing it. More fibrous meats tend to be tough and chewy, which is why it’s important to tenderize any meat you don’t want too tough. 

  • Tannins are polyphenolic biomolecules that bind to proteins and organic compounds such as fiber in meat, causing them to break down. 
  • Alpha acids, in addition to breaking down fibers in meats, are one of the main bittering agents used in beer. 

It is important to let the meat sit for hours soaked in beer to allow this process to happen. That way, the tannins and alpha acids have time to absorb into the meat and tenderize it. Simply spreading beer over your meat or letting it soak for 10 minutes will not be enough time for the process to complete. 

Does beer make a good marinade?

While beer is an excellent meat marinade, I advise looking up specific recipes for a beer marinade rather than dumping the closest beer you have on hand. Using the wrong beer or incorrect beer can easily ruin your dish.

A good beer marinade will use beer as a base and include different seasonings to add depth and complexity to the flavor.

For example, this recipe here is great for any meat and even vegetables. It uses a Guinness Extra Stout beer as its base, then adds several spices and garlic for flavor. 

Luckily, the only issues with using beer as a marinade relate to improper use, such as using the wrong beer or marinading for too long. There are otherwise no harmful factors or additives in using beer as a marinade.

Fun Fact: In 2014, the American Chemical Society completed a study that found beer marinade could reduce the levels of potentially harmful substances in grilled meats. 

How long can you marinate meat in beer?

For the beer the full absorb into the meat you are trying to cook, there are a couple of different time limits

The minimum about of time you should marinate your meat in beer is 2 hours. That is the necessary amount of time needed for the alpha acids and tannins to absorb into the meat. However, overnight is a preferred amount of time if you want the flavor to be enhanced. 

Depending on the type of meat, there is a limit on how long you can marinate your meat. For example, steaks should not be marinated for more than 8 hours. Any more than 8 hours, you will see a breakdown in the meat, and the steam will become mushy. 

For more dense meats such as poultry, it is possible to marinate in beer for up to 12 hours before the meat loses its integrity and the flavor of the meat is lost.

What is the best beer for marinating meat?

Different types of beer impart different flavors when used for marinating meat. The differences in flavor correlate to the flavors of the beer you select, so it is relatively intuitive. But to help you out, here is a list of the different beers that are best for marinating meat:

BEER:FLAVOR:BEST USED FOR:
StoutsRich, Deep, Chocolate, Caramel, Cinnamon, Red Meats, Steak, Lamb
PilsnersCrisp, Clean, Orange, Herbs, HoneyTough Meats, Pork, Steak
IPAsSharp, Bitter, Citrus, VinegarPoultry, Chicken, Turkey
LagersLight, Fresh, SweetFish, Salmon, White Fish
Best beer styles to marinate red meat, steak, lamb, pork, chicken, turkey, and fish

Obviously, different brands and beers will have varying flavors and intensities. Try a couple of different types to see which ones you love.

However, it is important to note that much of that flavor and intensity is lost since you will be cooking your meat after marinating. So don’t worry, your meat will not taste like a fresh beer! Also, there will be no alcohol in your meat after cooking it. All ABV is lost to evaporation when you cook the meat. You won’t be getting drunk off of your steak either! 

Best beer to marinate and tenderize steak

Steak is typically tougher meat depending on the type of cut of beef you use. For tougher cuts, such as rump roast, it is good to use a pilsner or stout. 

Stouts, in particular, are perfect for steaks as the rich flavor pairs nicely with red meat, creating a flavorful experience. However, if you make something like tacos, using an IPA may be better, as the citrus flavor will suit the steak tacos and their other ingredients.  

Here is a recipe that you can use for marinating and tenderizing steak with beer. 

Best beer to marinate and tenderize chicken

Chicken, much like beef, has different levels of toughness depending on the cut of the chicken. Dark meat or white meat will marinade differently, so it is important to consider these differences when choosing the best beer to marinate and tenderize chicken with.

For dark meat chicken, such as thighs, the water content is much higher, and the meat is already juicy. You don’t need to marinate these cuts for as long, and you want to lean towards lighter beers, so the flavor is not too intense.

White meat chicken is much dryer and can be marinaded for longer and with darker beers. An IPA is a great choice for this cut as the vinegar flavor pairs well with chicken. 

Here is a general recipe where you can choose your own dark beer that is perfect for chicken. 

Best beer to marinate and tenderize pork

Pork is typically very tough meat. As such, you want to make sure to marinate it for a long period of time if you hope to tenderize it. 

Pork is a versatile meat and can pair well with most beers. Its strong flavor tends to overpower any beer choice, so there is no fear that a beer flavor will overtake the pork flavor. I recommend using a pilsner for your first attempt. 

Here is a recipe that is perfect for the tough meat of pork. 

Best beer to marinate and tenderize turkey

Turkey is another flavorful meat that, just like chicken, varies in juiciness. Depending on how you cook it, the turkey can lean on the drier side. 

I would recommend using a lighter beer for turkey to retain its flavor easily without becoming too saturated. A light IPA or lager is a great pick for turkey. However, if it is Thanksgiving and you want to bring in that fall flavor, cinnamon stout is also a wonderful choice. 

Here is a great recipe to use when picking a beer to marinate the turkey in. 

Best beer to marinate and tenderize lamb

Lamb is incredibly flavorful meat and one of my personal favorites. Its rich fatty flavor is always mouthwatering. 

Stouts are a perfect pair for lamb. The rich flavors match perfectly and, when combined, create a great dish with incredible depth. Depending on the type of dish you are making, lamb can be marinated for a short or very long time.

Because lamb is one of my favorites, here is a list of many types of beer marinades from around the world that can be used for lamb.