How To Choose The Best Bourbon For Your Bourbon Chicken

Alcoholic beverages and food seem to work together quite nicely. But beyond pairings like red wine and steak, cooks and bakers are using alcohol in their recipes. People use wine to braise their ribs, soak their fruitcakes in booze, and use bourbon to flavor their chicken. Bourbon chicken, in particular, is a delicious recipe. If you've never had it before, The Woks of Life describes it as a "Cajun and Asian hybrid dish" that's actually American by nature. The site goes on to share that bourbon chicken was developed in Chinese restaurants and fuses traditional Asian seasonings like sesame oil, ginger, garlic, and soy sauce with brown sugar and a couple of tablespoons of bourbon to create a truly magnificent, salty-sweet sauce that clings to your chicken like a glaze. 

Bourbon is an American-made whiskey mainly distilled from corn grain that tends to taste like caramel and vanilla but has a sharp kick from the alcohol (via World Whisky Day). By adding bourbon to your chicken, you'll enhance the flavor by multitudes, but the question then becomes: What's the best bourbon for bourbon chicken?

Which bottle is best

Different kinds of bourbon can change the flavor of your food. Not all bourbon tastes alike so some are better suited for other kinds of dishes. According to Whiskey Watch, bourbons that are high in rye are spicier and pair well when mixed into creamy dishes. Adding bourbon to any meat dish will immediately begin to tenderize it. Alcohol breaks down the protein's enzymes, which is why it is perfect for marinades and dishes like bourbon-chile barbecue chicken. However, Whiskey Watch warns not to use your uber-expensive top-shelf bottles for this booze-filled dish. Instead, find a good drinking bourbon that won't cost you a fortune.

The best kind of bourbon to use for bourbon chicken is dependent upon how you're cooking the meat. Ward 3 says that if your bourbon chicken recipe calls for grilling or baking, use a strong-tasting bourbon. When making your bourbon sauce, it is recommended that you choose your bourbon based on flavor preference. If you like a sweeter bourbon sauce, choose a bottle that exhibits notes of vanilla and caramel, and if you want a spicy kick to your recipe, choose a brand with a lot of natural spice flavor. 

A warning for those making bourbon chicken? If you are planning to serve your chicken over rice, you should choose a not-too-powerful bottle of bourbon as the flavor will easily shine against the bland carb backdrop.