The Classic Soda Andrew Zimmern Brines Smoked Turkey Legs In

Bubbles can be a beautiful thing when you're cooking. That's why celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern uses soda for brining turkey legs. He opts to flavor meat using this unexpected ingredient because it's a science-backed method that produces delicious results.

What makes a soda a soda? It's the carbon dioxide bubbles. These bubbles, which create that fizzing sound when you crack open a can, will have a profound effect on whatever you're making, and you may benefit from understanding why. Baking pros have long used carbonation to make their cakes rise when they run out of baking powder and baking soda. However, soda has a place in cooking, as well. You can boil vegetables in your favorite pop to soften them or reduce Coca-Cola on the stove to make a caramel sauce to go over ice cream. Zimmern swears soda is the ticket for smoked meat magic. The fizz and the flavor take his smoked turkey wings to the next level. 

Dr. Pepper flavors and tenderizes turkey legs

When celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern makes smoked turkey legs, he calls in the doctor — Dr. Pepper. He says the result of this brining method is "magic." The flavor profile of Dr. Pepper includes notes of licorice, amaretto, almond, and vanilla. When the meat bathes in these flavors, it becomes infused with sweetness.

Zimmern applies science for his brined and smoked turkey recipe. Marinades typically employ acidic ingredients to break down the proteins in the meat and create a juicier, more tender turkey. For Zimmern, Dr. Pepper does the job because it's high in phosphoric acid and infuses a touch of caramel flavor.

Zimmern combines a two-liter bottle of Dr. Pepper with Serrano chiles. The turkey legs soak in the Dr. Pepper bath for eight hours before going into the smoker with cherry wood chips. They spend five or six hours in the smoker, receiving a spritz of apple cider every 30 minutes.