Elevate Your Marinades With This Boozy Ingredient

Both professional and home chefs are pretty passionate about marinades and methods for tenderizing meats while maximizing flavors. Combined with carefully chosen spices, the liquid ingredients in a marinade are what determine its effectiveness. But, not all liquids act equally in transforming texture and taste.

As noted by Discover, science is strongly at work in creating marinade magic. Two different types of components can create the intended marinade effect on your food: acid or enzymatic. The enzymatic approach uses enzymes from plants or tree fruits, such as pineapple, papaya, and figs, to aid in breaking down muscle fiber in meat proteins. Acid marination, on the other hand, uses lemon, vinegar, or other acidic components to denature proteins and break them down. And then, there's the alcohol component of popular marinades.

Alcohol enters the marinade discussion because it can replace the processes of an acidic marinade, per Discover. Tannins in some alcohols, such as beer and wine, even lend an extra hand in tenderizing meats. But, there's one boozy ingredient that deserves its own category in the world of marination.

Alcohol marinades that don't overwhelm

From oils to vinegars, and tomato-based sauces, the type of marinade you use in cooking can affect the composition, texture, and flavor of what melts in your mouth (or doesn't). When it comes to spirits, which help tenderize meats and bring out the natural flavors, the danger is allowing the alcohol's own taste to overpower the dish you're creating. This can happen with rum or wine, explains North Beach Fish Camp, but not with vodka, which emphasizes the flavor of a sauce or marinade without adding its own.

That's why countless chefs advocate using vodka to elevate marinades. A Food. recipe by Andreas Viestad calls for marinating a roast in a sealed bag with spices, 13 cup grain vodka, and ¼ cup olive oil for two to three days in the refrigerator, turning the bagged contents twice daily. Food Network shares a "Drunken Shrimp Style" quick marinade that uses equal parts vodka and citrus juice and takes only 45 to 60 minutes to marinate unpeeled shrimp and scallops.

To help increase the aroma of your dish, be sure to cook out about 95% of the vodka's alcohol by simmering the sauce for a couple of hours, suggests North Beach Fish Camp. The outlet also warns to avoid over-marinating, which can lead to excessive loss of texture and color.