Yesterday, I wrote about cooking with non-alcoholic beer. Basically, you can have all the flavour and the health benefits of beer without the alcohol content or the higher price of beer. Be warned that non-alcoholic beer still has caloric content ranging from 35 to 100 calories per 355 ml serving and some brands have added sodium so be sure to read the nutritional label. If you are replacing regular beer with non-alcoholic beer then you will reduce the calories in the dish as non-alcoholic beers are lower in caloric content than regular beers. If however, you are replacing water with non-alcoholic beer you will be increasing the calories in the dish. Calories aside, those non-alcoholic beers containing sodium could be problematic for those on a low-sodium diet so choose a non-alcoholic beer without sodium added.
When it comes to grilling, one way to add flavour without adding calories involves smoke. The smoke is generally created using wood chips but liquids can be used to extinguish any flames which can impart a flavour to the resulting smoke. The smell of beer on the grill is amazing imparting a wonderful flavour to the grilled meat. It has a deep nutty, almost sweet aroma. That flavour permeates into whatever is being cooked on the grill. What I was looking for when testing out the non-alcoholic beers was flavour combined with results consistent with using regular beer without the alcohol, getting that same aroma and flavour when grilling with a non-alcoholic beer.
I grilled four chicken legs on the propane side of our outdoor grill on medium high heat. Once small flames appeared, I spooned non-alcoholic beer over the legs and continued grilling until flames appeared again and repeated the beer application. A baster can be used to apply the beer if desired. I continued in this fashion, turning the legs and applying beer until they were golden brown with nice grill marks and the juices were clear. Despite being very simple the additional subtle flavour was impressive. I used about a half can of President's Choice Blonde non-alcoholic beer (355 ml can: <0.5% ABV, 80 cal, 17 g carbohydrates, 55 mg potassium, 3 g protein) to baste the chicken legs as they grilled. This is a nice, smooth flavoured non-alcoholic beer perfect for pairing with poultry. PC Blond is brewed for Loblaws by Brick Brewing Co. in Waterloo, Ontario and distributed throughout the Loblaws Companies chain stores (eg. RCSS, No Frills, Zehrs, etc.). If you cannot find PC Blonde, Our Compliments (Sobey's brand) or O'doul's would be fairly similar in flavour. Even a stronger flavoured non-alcoholic beer would work for this method.
The chicken was delicious! It was golden brown with slightly crispy skin, moist and tender flesh nicely flavoured from the beer. Basting chicken with beer is an excellent way to get extra flavour without the calories. It is an easy method to see if you like the flavour the beer imparts because it is a bit more subtle than infused beer (eg. beer can chicken) or beer used in part or whole as a marinade for grilling.