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How Do I Choose the Best Cola Marinade?

By Anna B. Smith
Updated May 16, 2024
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To choose the best cola marinade, cooks should select a recipe that compliments the type of meat they are serving. Both the flavor of the soft drink and the additional ingredients should enhance the natural flavors produced by the meat. These recipes can be created from scratch, or located in cookbooks and on the Internet with detailed instructions.

A cola marinade is often used to cook different types of meat using a moist heat. Cola is usually sweetened with high fructose corn syrup and some natural sugars, and can produce a tender dish infused with sweetness. It is usually best to use full calorie colas when creating this type of marinade, and to avoid low calorie or no calorie sodas. Artificial sweeteners can deprive the meat of the intended sugary sweetness provided by the marinade, and can leave a bitter aftertaste in the mouth when cooked for long periods of time in a hot oven.

Any type of cola marinade can be used to flavor chicken, steak, or pork. It is typically not recommended for use with fish, vegetables, or beef roasts. The type of meat used will usually determine what form the marinade will take.

Chicken marinades can incorporate clear or dark colored cola. Additional ingredients should include some form of citrus juice, such as lime or lemon, garlic, and dark vinegars, such as balsamic or red wine. These intense and often bold flavors tend to settle deep into the meat of the chicken without competing or overwhelming its natural juices. Chicken breasts and pieces should be allowed to soak in marinade overnight to achieve maximum flavor infusion. Whole birds can be basted with the marinade throughout the cooking process, and can have an additional can of cola placed open and upright inside the body cavity for added moisture and taste.

A steak or ham cola marinade typically requires fewer additional ingredients than a chicken marinade. These meats possess strong natural flavors than chicken, which should not be masked by an overabundance of secondary foods. Only dark colas are usually recommended for use with these meats.

Steak marinades are often best flavored by cola combined with liquor. The alcohol in liquor will completely evaporate during the cooking process, leaving behind a smoky essence and many natural sugars, depending on the type of drink selected. Bourbons and whiskeys are two common choices for use with this type of cola marinade.

Ham marinades can incorporate brown sugar and dark, spicy mustard or Dijon in a thick glaze that reduces down during the cooking time. Garlic, whole cloves, and cinnamon can be included in this mixture, which melts into the cooking cola to form a thick and delicious brown gravy which can be served over the ham. Though preserves are often recommended for use in this type of marinade, the cooking fruits tend to create an overabundance of sweetness in the final glaze that masks that saltiness and savoriness of the ham.

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