Find Your Next Chicken Marinade Tucked Inside Your Liquor Cabinet

Chicken is one of the most versatile proteins out there, but all too often, cooks find themselves falling back on the same familiar flavors. The next time you're looking for a way to season your chicken, skip the spice rack or the sauces in the fridge and head to your liquor cabinet instead.

While there are plenty of ways you can approach using booze in your next recipe, it's first helpful to understand why marinating chicken with alcohol is so beneficial. Among the goals of any marinade is to tenderize. Alcohol accomplishes this by breaking down the collagen in the chicken, along with other tenderizing substances like acids and salt. Additionally, many types of alcohol provide a distinctive flavor to the meat that can pair beautifully with other spices and seasonings.

However, it's critical to note one of our tips for cooking with alcohol, which is that it doesn't entirely burn off through most cooking methods, meaning your dishes will retain some actual booziness, not just the flavor of the spirits.

The booze to choose

Which bottle of liquor you should reach for depends on the type of recipe you have planned. Tequila is among the most popular to pair with chicken. It pairs well with citrus fruits like lime, lemon, and orange or Mexican-inspired flavors like chili powder, cumin, or fresh jalapeno peppers. This combination works due to the lighter taste of the spirit compared to the bolder additional spices and seasonings.

Others may prefer a whiskey marinade. Styles can vary dramatically from smoky scotch to sweeter bourbon to peppery rye. However, all provide a complex oakiness and grain-heavy taste that can benefit a wide variety of chicken dishes. Supplement these flavors with bold accompaniments like soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, fresh-ground black pepper, and brown sugar.

These are by no means the only spirits that can be used to marinate chicken. Those looking for a more neutral spirit to take advantage of alcohol's tenderizing effects without interfering with other flavors can add a bit of vodka. On the flip side, brandy and cognac impart a rich, unique taste, as does gin or rum.

Give this marinating trick a shot for your next chicken meal. Keep the bottle out — you may be so pleased with the results that you'll want to pour yourself a drink.