Drinking beer and grilling meat is one of those quintessential, all-American pairings. Almost everyone has sucked back a beer while grilling some nicely marbled steaks, slabs of salmon, lamb, chicken, or whatnot. Everyone also has heard the somewhat overrated health risks involved with grilling meat too, right? If not, let's refresh your memory.
Several studies have concluded that grilling and charring muscle meats such as beef, chicken, and fish creates 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 and then evaporates and sticks to the meat. In fact, some reports say that when a pound of meat is grilled over charcoal, it can contain as much carcinogenic benzopyrene as 300 cigarettes! And most recently, some tests performed by scientists in Hong Kong 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? They are organic chemicals that are "probably" carcinogenic to humans. (Probably? C'mon yes or no, you lousy nerds!)
While nothing conclusive has yet linked grilling meat over a flame with cancer in humans (we have been eating grilled meats ever since our caveman ancestors employed fire for cooking), the reports are still a little spooky
But don't be spooked. Let beer be your savior! It seems that a German food chemist by the name of Udo Pollmer discovered that using beer while grilling inhibits HCAs. Other studies suggested that soaking meat in beer for several hours before grilling also reduces the chance of these carcinogenic compounds forming. Any beer works so long as it's alcoholic.
Don't forget that beer also helps to tenderize meats, so we're in business for some marinating action and some "healthy" grilling.
If you've never cooked with beer before, it's easy and extremely versatile. Just use caution when cooking with extremely hoppy beers (they can overwhelm the meat), and you'll be fine. Here's an easy recipe:
Alström's Doppelbock Steak with Parmesan Garlic Broccoli and Tomato Salad
What you need:
1) A perfectly portioned steak of choice. Make sure it's nice and marbled with fat.
2) At least one bottle of Doppelbock beer: Aying's Celebrator, Paulaner Salvator, Spaten Optimator, Tucher Bajuvator Doppelbock, or even Sam Adams Triple Bock if you can find it. 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 12-16 oz).
3) Broccoli, one average-sized head per person
4) Parmesan cheese, half a cup
5) Chopped garlic, to your liking
6) Salt and pepper
7) Olive oil, a few tablespoons
8) Yellow and orange tomatoes, one of each per person
9) Balsamic dressing
What you need to do:
1) Get an airtight container, drop in the steak, and cover with the entire bottle of bock. Seal the container and give it a good shake, then stick it in the fridge at least overnight or up to 24 hours. Re-shake 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 inherent goodness. And besides, you just killed any bacteria by soaking the meat in alcohol. 3) While the steak is grilling, steam the broccoli, then toss it gently with olive oil. Shake in the Parmesan cheese and chopped garlic, then add salt and pepper to taste. 4) Chop the tomatoes lengthwise into meaty slices, arrange on a small plate, and splash on just a bit of balsamic dressing.
Recommended: You can always reduce the leftover beer marinade by cooking it down on low heat, then drizzling 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, such as a pale ale or lager. n
Taking the Heat
It's time to get serious about summer wines. This frickin' 100 percent humidity makes me want to flee as far away as possible from red wine, no matter what the occasion. Give me something white and cold and give it to me now, baby.
To conquer your sweat, slide out to the deck/pool/patio, roll the chilled, wet bottle across your forehead, and pop open the cork or unscrew the top. It'll provide relief for a little while, at least.
Highfield 2002 Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough -- Meatier than most Sauvignon Blancs, with energizing grapefruit, passionfruit, and a slight buttery aftertaste. $17.
Nora 2003 Albarino Rias Baixas Spain -- The albarino grape thrives in the wet, green earth of northwest Spain. Its bright, tangy acidity makes it a perfect accompaniment to seafood, and it's also a pretty kickin' just-relax wine. There's a taste of peach and green apple, with a hit of lemon-lime. Good price for an albarino. $13.
Caymus 2002 Conundrum California -- This label reads "White Table Wine" because the winemaker blends several different grapes to create this gorgeous, lush beverage. The Conundrum formula changes each year, and this one smells so good, I want to climb into the bottle and live. Seductive and rich with spicy-floral, honeysuckle, and vanilla. A slight hint of sweetness yet tart at the same time. Magnificent. $25.
Baileyana 2002 Sauvignon Blanc Edna Valley Paragon Vineyard -- A refreshing blend of grapes picked at different times during harvest to form a cornucopia of flavors, from grass and lemon to white peach and almonds. $13.
Carmel 2003 Private Selection Chardonnay/Sauvignon Blanc Israel -- Something a little different from Israel: a delicious wine for anytime, not just kosher occasions. It shows off the best of both grapes in this blend: delicious grapefruit with a hefty dose of rich butter on the tongue and finish. $17.
Kings Ridge 2001 Pinot Gris Oregon -- I've seen a lot of overpriced Oregon wines lately, but this ain't one of them. Pinot gris is a fantastic grape for the cool climate in this state. This version yields a clean, melon-y, honeyed, and citrus wine that's great for lounging around the pool. $13.
Faiveley 2002 Chablis -- A solid Chardonnay from the Burgundy region of France, this is a hard-to-find, inexpensive Chablis. (Except for the jug-wine imposters from California. By the way, that isn't Chablis, or Chardonnay for that matter. It's cheap grapes, made into cheap wine, to sell cheap. Needless to say, the French hate that Almaden et al. sullied the name.) Faiveley is the Real Thing: minerally, slightly earthy with a tinge of tangy citrus. $16.
Whitehall Lane 2002 Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley -- A Sauvignon Blanc with strong oak influences and citrus and exotic fruits like mango and lychee. Fascinating. $13.
Montecillo 2003 White Rioja -- Sportin' some lively lime, crisp green apple, and a clean, soft texture in the mouth. It's made from a relatively obscure white grape called Viura. $10.
Alta Vista 2003 Torrontes Premium Mendoza -- A white grape that thrives in Argentina, Torrontes is unlike most wines out there. It reminds me of a gutsy, well-made viognier: very fragrant, full of exotic fruit and flowers in both aroma and taste, yet it's dry. Great for drinking with anything spicy or just for drinking. Easy entry point on the price too. $10.