Why People Use Soda To Marinate Meat

So, you just went to a dinner party and were a huge fan of the steak — it was juicier and more tender than your usual recipe, you thought. When you asked the host for their secret, you couldn't believe their answer: Along with garlic, soy sauce, salt, pepper, and other meat marinade basics, their recipe includes Coca-Cola.

Like any acidic liquid, soda can indeed help meat become more tender and flavorful due to its low pH of around 2 or 3. The acid in Coke, Dr. Pepper, and a variety of sodas slightly penetrates the meat, gently breaking down the proteins and resulting in a softer, more enjoyable texture. This is the same effect that ingredients like wine, lemon juice, or vinegar have in meat marinades, but cola comes with a sweeter, more caramel-like touch — while a lemon-lime soda would offer a citrusy twist.

Soda marinades can vary widely with additional flavorings and ingredients, such as garlic and brown sugar, and they can be used for any type of meat and cuts, from ribeye steaks to pork shoulder. Try it, and you may find that your steak-night grocery list will forever include soda.

Soda is more than just a drink

Besides using it as a meat marinade, there are a ton of other Coca-Cola cooking hacks you should try. After using half of a large bottle to make a slightly sweet marinade for tender beef, chicken, or turkey, use the other half for another cooking project. One popular choice is using soda as a braising liquid, such as for brisket. Plus, if you let Coke simmer for a while, it leaves a caramel-like syrup behind that's perfect for glazing wings or ham.

Other great ways to use up leftover Coke involve sweets. In fact, chocolate cake featuring a can of soda for extra flavor, moisture, sweetness, and leavening is a classic in the South. You can even implement soda in the frosting recipe.

Keep in mind that soda's acidic, sweet flavor might not be ideal for everyone or every recipe. A TikToker's DIY Coca-Cola spaghetti, for example, was deemed an insult to Italian tradition, so you may want to keep it out of your pasta.