Hard cider can be used for many different recipes, adding delicious and unique flavors to various dishes, whether sweet or savory!
The problem is that there are so many different hard cider options on the market, so it can be difficult to choose the best one to use for cooking.
What are the best hard ciders for cooking?
The best hard ciders for cooking will really depend on what you are making.
There are various types of hard ciders, such as dry cider, off-dry cider, and semi-sweet cider or semi-dry cider, and all of these can have various flavors due to the fruits they were made with.
You have to consider the flavors you want, if you want sweetness or dryness, and any fruit profiles you are wanting to bring out in your dish.
Read on to find out the best hard ciders to use for cooking, as well as how to choose between the options out there.
What Is Hard Cider?
Hard cider is an alcoholic drink, which is made by fermenting fruit, most commonly apples. It is the alcoholic counterpart of apple cider, which is where the ‘hard’ in the name comes from.
Hard cider can also be referred to as cider in Europe, but it is commonly referred to as hard cider in the States, to differentiate it from cider fruit juice which has no alcoholic content.
While most commonly made from apples, hard cider can incorporate other fruits too, and this can change the color and the flavor.
Types of Hard Cider
Hard cider is also available in various degrees of sweetness, with some having next to no sweetness at all, and others having a higher sugar content.
These are the different types of hard cider:
Dry cider has less than 0.5% residual sugar and tends to be quite acidic tasting. This is because the yeast consumes most of the natural sugars.
This leads to an acidic cider that usually has a higher alcohol content. Most dry ciders are left to age in oak barrels to accentuate the rich flavors.
Off-dry cider has a little more sugar, around 1-2%. This cider is typically smoother than dry cider and has a slightly richer, rounder flavor too.
Semi-Dry Cider/Semi-Sweet Cider
Semi-dry cider has a sugar content of around 2%, whereas semi-sweet cider can contain around 4% sugar, which means it is much sweeter than the other options.
Both semi-dry and semi-sweet ciders are similar in flavor and have more fruity notes to them compared to the drier ciders.
What To Look For In A Hard Cider For Cooking
There is some consideration that needs to go into choosing the best hard cider for cooking, as they can vary in flavor quite a bit, and this means that it can alter the flavor of the dish quite a bit.
This is what to consider:
Type Of Hard Cider
You definitely need to consider the type of hard cider you are wanting to use in your dish. You need to keep in mind that dry ciders will add quite a bit of acidity to a dish, and no sweetness.
For semi-dry or semi-sweet ciders, you can expect more sweetness, and more fruitiness to be added to a meal.
For something in-between, an off-dry cider would be the better option.
Some recipes need the added sweetness from semi-sweet ciders, and others make up for the lack of sweetness in a dry cider through other ingredients.
Different types of ciders will have different flavor profiles. Some are very apple-forward, while others have other fruity flavors incorporated into the recipe.
This will have an effect on the flavors of the dish you are making, so consider what fruity flavors you want, and whether you want something oaky, acidic, or even a little bit spicy, and find a hard cider that matches.
Sweet Or Savory
Whether you are making a sweet or savory dish will play a part in the hard cider you use.
Sweet dishes definitely do well with a semi-sweet cider, and more savory dishes will likely be better suited to a dry or off-dry cider.
What Are The Best Hard Ciders For Cooking?
You might have a favorite hard cider already, but this might not be the ideal hard cider to use for cooking!
Here are some of the best hard ciders to use for cooking:
Angry Orchard is a delicious hard cider that is suited for both sweet and savory dishes.
It is made from special apples which are naturally tannic and acidic, and which have a great natural sweetness to them.
This perfect blend makes the hard cider refreshing, crisp, and rich.
If you want a blend, there is a pear-infused Angry Orchard Cider to try as well, which is so great with sweeter dishes.
Bertie Apple Cider is not too sweet, but it is not too dry, which makes it a good pairing for sweet and savory dishes.
It is compatible with many different dishes and types of food, and the balanced flavor goes a long way in the kitchen.
Also, can we just take a moment to appreciate the beauty of their branding?
Stella Artois Cidre was one of the first ciders made by a major beer brand, and it is described as a ‘European-style cider’.
It is a classic hard cider made from apples that are the perfect balance of sweet and dry, and it can be used for so many different recipes.
Crisp Apple Cider
Crisp Apple Cider is as the name suggests – fresh, crisp, and refreshing. The flavor is complex and works as the perfect pairing for many recipes, whether sweet or savory.
It is more on the drier side, but it has a distinctive tangy, apple flavor to it, so if using it in a sweet dish, you might have to add some other sweetener, but in a savory dish it works perfectly as is.
Strongbow Apple Cider is becoming more popular in the States, moving across from England, and for good reason.
It has a classic hard apple cider flavor and is dry and less sweet than some other traditional ciders, but this is balanced so well.
It can give a great apple fruitiness to a dish without adding too much sweetness, making it ideal for savory dishes, such as sauces and stews.
Blake’s Triple Jam Cider is made using the best apples from Michigan, and this shows in the crisp, tart flavor of the hard cider.
To make the flavor more complex and unique, the hard cider is also made with strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries, making it one of the best cider options out there to use for sweet dishes!
If you wanted to try something a little different, you could opt to use mulled cider to make your next dessert.
It is a cider made from fermented apples, but it has an extra warmth and richness added, as it is boiled along with mulling spices.
These mulling spices include cloves, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, and star anise. This gives a warmth to the cider that will allow it to create some delicious desserts.
What Can You Use In Place Of Hard Cider For Cooking?
If a recipe calls for hard cider, but you do not have any, or if you are looking for a non-alcoholic option to use in its place, then the best substitute would be regular apple cider, without any alcohol.
This will give much of a similar flavor to a dish, just without the alcohol, and possibly with a little more sweetness too.
Ciders tend not to be as dry or tangy as hard ciders, and this might be noticeable in the meal you are making.
If you are wanting to achieve that tangy flavor and acidic punch, then you could try using a dash of apple cider vinegar instead.
Only a small amount would be needed to add a tangy apple flavor, but this is most suited to savory dishes.
You might already be a lover of hard cider on a fall evening, but maybe it’s time for you to try adding that cider to your cooking too!
Above, we have gone through everything to think of when choosing the best cider for cooking, and we have listed some of the best options to try.
Think of what you are making with the cider, the flavors you want, and the cider you prefer overall, before picking one out to try in your next meal, sweet or savory!
Is it safe to use hard cider in cooking?
It is safe to use hard cider in cooking, and you can choose to cook the cider down or pour it in as an added flavor near the end of the cooking process.
Can I use hard cider in place of wine for cooking?
You can use hard cider in place of wine for cooking, but just keep in mind that the cider might be slightly more carbonated than the wine, which might make a difference in the dish you are preparing.