Why We Should Be Cooking with Hard Cider

November  4, 2015

Cider is no longer the syrupy sweet, gluten-free backup dancer to beer it once was: Funky, dry, complicated ciders made in the European tradition are enjoying a very well earned place towards the front of the stage, and for good reason. As Leslie wrote, funkier, drier, more orchard-focused ciders are just as interesting as wine, if not more so, and I drink them exactly as I might drink wine. 

Bad Seed
Albert Wilklow of Bad Seed Cider in his apple orchard.

Because it shares so many characteristics with wine—from its bright fruitiness and slight sweetness to its balance of tannins and acidity—it follows that cider would make an excellent cooking liquid, and it does, in just about every application you can think of. In fact, "You can sub in a dry cider wherever you might use a white wine in a dish," said Devin Britton of Bad Seed Cider, a cidery in New York's Hudson Valley. He and his business partner, Albert Wilklow, started cooking with cider because they often had opened bottles of cider left over from cider tastings; cooking is a good way to use up cider that's gone flat, but it's just as worthwhile to open a fresh bottle.

"Cider is a little bit warmer in flavor than white wine," Devin told me, which makes it a good choice for holiday cooking. Just be sure to look for a cider without added sugar, so as to prevent over-caramelization or burning and to highlight the cider's flavor. He poaches fish, steams clams and mussels, and braises meats (like chicken with apples) in cider; and in their tasting room at Bad Seed, they make a bacon and brie grilled cheese with a tangle of onions caramelized in cider.

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Another of Devin's favorite uses: "Substitute the beer can in a beer can chicken for a can of dry hard cider. It's so good," he told me. I believe him.

Here are a few more ideas to get you started:

Photo of orchard by author; photo of chicken by James Ransom

Have you cooked with cider before? Tell us your favorite uses for it in the comments!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • AntoniaJames
  • Laura Messersmith | Goldfinch & Scout
    Laura Messersmith | Goldfinch & Scout
  • Bevi
  • Caroline Lange
    Caroline Lange
Writing and cooking in Brooklyn.


AntoniaJames November 5, 2015
Do you think that cider would go well in this wild rice dish
which I'm planning to make without the mushrooms. (Mushrooms are a key player in a savory bread pudding I plan to serve at the same meal - Thanksgiving.)

I'm thinking that a tart apple, chopped and added at the end, would brighten the dish up a bit. The recipe calls for sherry, port or Madeira, but those don't seem quite right with the mushrooms gone. Your thoughts, anyone? Thank you! ;o)
Caroline L. November 5, 2015
hi AJ—that sounds quite good to me! especially if you're making the rich with a deeply flavored chicken or vegetable stock. let us know how it goes if you try it!
AntoniaJames November 5, 2015
Thanks, Caroline. Yes, I'll be using an uber-rich turkey stock, made with roasted necks and backs, lots of aromatics, etc. I'll probably use toasted almonds instead of pecans, given that pecans are always featured in at least one, if not two pies.
I really appreciate the prompt reply. I'm actually putting together my project plan - every task, with a time slot for doing it, from shopping, down to the smallest prep details, to be done between now and serving Thanksgiving dessert, including all dinners between this Saturday and Wednesday the 25th - one of my favorite activities of the entire year. ;o)
Laura M. November 4, 2015
I made this Cider Braised Chicken with Apples a few weeks ago and loved the flavor the hard cider lent to the dish.
Bevi November 4, 2015
Thanks for the shout-out Caroline, but I think you may have meant to link the Chicken Kiev mention to this recipe:
Caroline L. November 4, 2015
thanks for sharing that recipe, too, bevi! i was thinking that your chicken kiev might be delicious with cider swapped for the wine, but you were one step ahead with your cordon bleu version :)