The Fizzy Ingredient That Will Change The Way You Make Marinades

"Always marinate" is a mantra in many kitchens, whether helmed by award-winning professionals or home-cooking gurus. Pre-soaking meats, veggies, or seafood in a marinade sauce gives you a jumpstart on achieving tender, flavorful food with less effort. The ingredients that go into a marinade can define your dishes, turning them into kitchen triumphs or tragedies, relatively speaking.

Standard marinade mixes put time-tested recipe warriors to work, generally employing a combination of oils, acids, and seasonings, plus a requisite sprinkling of salt and a lot of patience. Time is the essential magic-maker for a marinade, but if your components are blasé or lack the flavor punch you're craving, the whole thing becomes moot.

That's where an adventurous spirit comes in handy, especially with the time and inclination to shake up your kitchen groove. So before sending those carefully planned meal components to the oven or grill, step into your culinary dancing shoes and try this fizzy marinade ingredient.

Sparkle things up with ginger beer

Though better known for its place in Thai or Indian cooking, ginger subtly slides into many dishes without rocking the flavor boat – unless you want it to. Depending on quantity and form, from freshly grated ginger to sprinkly powder or mashed concentrate, this rhizome vegetable brings either subtle hints or loud shouts to the table. When it comes to marinades, ginger sings and zings its way into the evolving flavor equation especially if it happens to arrive via ginger beer.

As a fizzy carbonated drink, ginger beer has the potential for changing the way you create marinades. In the "oil, acid, seasoning" approach to successful marinades, ginger beer brings at least two of those components to the mix. Genuine ginger beer puts citric acid and bubbly carbon dioxide to work tenderizing meats, aided by the naturally occurring protease enzyme in fresh ginger, which essentially "digests" proteins and softens meats. And the natural potency of fresh ginger in the beer brings a seasoning flavor punch that's transformative to many dishes.

It is important, though, to distinguish between ginger beers and ginger ale or sodas. All are canned or bottled liquid drinks, but ginger beer goes through brewing and fermentation processes, employing real fresh ginger. The typical soda or ale version, on the other hand, usually gets its taste from syrupy ginger flavorings. So for marinades, you definitely want ginger beer, which, despite the name, is labeled as a non-alcohol drink. 

Ginger your way to flavor

Consider adding ginger beer as a staple in your arsenal of marinade ingredients, stirring, and sampling to find the right combination for your own palette. Online recipes and imagery abound, with ideas like slower-cooker ginger beer marinades, ginger beer grilled ribs, and Dark and Stormy ginger beer chicken wings with spicy rum. You can even learn how to brew your own ginger beer for the ultimate personalization.

Seek out marinade recipes that call for regular beer or sparkling citrus drinks, and then substitute ginger beer to see how it affects the flavor and texture of your foods. You can also expand beyond meats, and try glazing vegetables such as butternut squash with ginger beer, butter, honey, and cloves. But marinades don't need to be precursors to cooking; experiment with baking vegetables or fish without seasonings, then pouring a ginger beer marinade over the top and letting it soak for a few minutes before serving. 

When working with an unconventional marinade ingredient, there are few rules to follow but otherwise get footloose and fancy-free in your kitchen. You might just create a new secret family recipe to pass along through the years.