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When marinating meat for Russian "Shashlik"(BBQ) some people marinate meat in alcohol. My uncle prefers to use beer when preparing pork. My Georgian(this Georgia) friend uses red wine, that was only ingrident I was able to get out of him. His BBQ is always very juicy and tender.

My questions: What types of alcohols should be used to help bring out meat flavor and making it tender without messing with taste? Is there one type of alcohol that works great with all meats or should different types be used for different meats?

Bonus: What properties does alcohol poses that it makes mean tender?

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2 Answers 2

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Alcohol does not make the meat tender. It even prevents the outside surface of the meat to fully absorb the flavours. Then again, most marinades don't penetrate into the meat anyway.

When it comes to Shashlik, I think what is working for your uncle, is the time the meat spends in the fridge getting aged (they probably marinate for a day or more) and the enzymes break down the meat.

It is a myth that Alcohol or Acid make the meat tender. In fact, they have the opposite effect. Per food author Harold McGee's quote:

Alcohol does denature and dehydrate meat and fish tissue, and the stronger the alcohol, the stronger this effect.

What you should do instead, is to cook off the alcohol from your marinade first. The ingredient that keeps the meat juicy is salt which most marinades have.

The less acidic marinade (beer versus wine) the more tender the meat. However, some not so acidic wines end up flavouring the surface of the meat enough to provide a pleasant byte.

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You are right, meat does usually spend 1-2 days sometimes more. What about other alternative some people use my dad for example his version of Shashlik marinate is Vinegar, Salt and a lot of Onions. It is also left in the fridge for couple days. –  Vladimir Oselsky Jan 17 at 21:26
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Most of the marinades are helped by the salt and hindered by acid/alcohol (vinegar is acidic, wine is both). I personally think the onions are good with meat. Here is how I'd do it: 1) two days before BBQ, put meat and chopped onions in a ziplock bag in the fridge. 2) 4-6 hrs before BBQ sprinkle salt on the meat, back in the fridge. 3) 45mins before BBQ, optional: add vinegar, beer, or whatever your kick. 4) right before BBQ, cover the meat with oil (shake in ziplock bag). 5) BBQ to just right. –  MandoMando Jan 17 at 21:39
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I don't agree with that statement on acidity. Sauerbraten is a perfect counterexample. Many marinades also have acid. –  Robert Feb 28 at 16:37
    
Also salt does not keep juices in; quite the opposite is true. Salt draws water out. This is called curing. –  Robert Mar 1 at 20:55
    
@Robert when it comes to meat, salt actually helps retain juices during cooking. Refer to Harold McGee's book. –  MandoMando Mar 11 at 1:53

Marinades do not tenderize meat, except maybe the surface. Some claim a soak in dairy will tenderize, but no one seems able to how that would work. Marinades simply don't penetrate the flesh. Furthermore, high acidic marinades will chemically cook the meat, usually not an ideal situation. The tenderness of your friend's recipes are based on some other thing they are doing to the meat.

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