Few things are more satisfying than the smoky flavor of a perfectly cooked steak, ribs, or pulled pork. But before you devour your meal, it’s time to think about what drink will best complement the dish. Pairing meat with beer, cocktails, and wine can be tricky; after all, there are plenty of options for quenching your thirst that go beyond water and cola.
So which beverage is right for your smoked meat? Join us as we explore the principles to follow when choosing a drink and the examples of meats and drinks that make the perfect pair. Unleash your creativity with these tips to create an unforgettable dining experience in the comfort of your own home.
How to Match Meats with Beer
When it comes to meat and beer pairings, there are two things to consider: fat content and carbonation. Fattier cuts of meat often stand up to more robust flavors—think lamb or duck—while leaner meats like fish tend to pair better with less intense beers.
Additionally, fizzy beers may overpower lighter-tasting foods; on a hot day (when you want light beer), match your light brews with salads or seafood dishes instead of steaks or burgers. In short: The type of food you’re serving can affect what kind of beer you choose.
A rule of thumb is that the stronger and heavier a beer tastes or smells, the better it goes with meats that have a strong taste. Full-bodied beers like IPAs and stouts are great for beefy dishes like steak. If you’ve got a dish that’s been simmered in wine—say short ribs—then try to find a lighter beer as an accompaniment. However, there are no hard and fast rules when pairing meats with beer (or anything else), so don’t be afraid to mix things up!
How to Pair Meats with Wine
The trick to pairing any type of alcohol with food is all about finding a balance between two elements. The first element is flavor, and the second is intensity. There are times when stronger flavors such as gamey meats will overpower lighter wines like Chardonnay or Sauvignon blanc, so it’s important to learn how to pair wine with meat to consider elements such as seasoning, cooking method, and preparation time before making your decision.
Wine and Red Meat
Usually, most wines will go well with any type of meat as long as it is not too fatty. You’ll want to pair different cuts of beef—such as filet mignon and flank steak—with different kinds of red wines (but keep in mind that specific varietals are often always better than blends). Red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon and merlot go well with beef. The tannins in red wine help cut through the fattiness. Fruitier white wines like Chardonnay pair well with lamb and pork.
Sweet dessert wines like port work beautifully with gamey meats. And if you have a lean piece of steak, try pouring a glass of crisp Pinot Grigio; its zesty flavor contrasts nicely with the meat.
Poultry and Fish
As far as chicken goes, dark poultry meat like drumsticks or thighs usually works best with full-bodied white wines, while white meat can go equally well with rosé or fruity reds. If you have fowl by itself, then medium-bodied reds like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Pinot Noir should work well.
If you have fowl paired with potatoes and squash or anything in a butter sauce, try lighter reds like a Californian Pinot Noir to complement all those nice winter warmer ingredients. Chardonnay also works well here because of its oaky nuances, which go nicely with richer dishes.
Whitefish makes for a very versatile option; its natural delicateness means you could pair it with anything from sweet Riesling to Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, or even Sauvignon Blanc.
From there, we move on to white wines. Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc, Sancerre, and Gruner Veltliner would be good picks. These wines aren’t very fruity, so they won’t overpower your dish, but they do have more body, which will match up with most white meats fairly well.
How to Pair Meat with Cocktails
Pairing meats with cocktails is just as simple as matching them with wine and beer. Here are some things you may want to consider before choosing your cocktail: the amount of fat (fatty meats hold up well against heavier cocktails like martinis), seasoning (seasoned meats stand up to fruity cocktails), cooking method (grilled meats tend to go well with smoky drinks).
The key to successful meat and beverage pairings is matching cuts of meat with drinks that won’t overpower them. However, experimentation is part of what makes food fun. If a pairing doesn’t work out, give it another shot on your next occasion. If heavy or light beers don’t seem to go well with smoked turkey, you could try pairing them instead with rye whiskey! You might be surprised by what you discover in the process.
Check out a few more articles on meat pairing with beer, wine, and cocktails:
The Ultimate BBQ Food and Beer Pairing Guide
BBQ and Wine Pairings for the Best Cookouts
5 Delicious Types Of Smoked Meat & Cocktail Pairing
For more great ideas on how to get the most out of your Bradley Smoker, check out the awesome articles on our Bradley Smoker Food Smoking Blog for more tips & tricks.