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The secret to a good steak or chicken marinade is already in your fridge

It's not as weird as you think it is

Meat kabobs
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Unless you’re brand new to cooking, you probably already know that the key to a succulently tender, perfectly flavored piece of meat is a good marinade. A marinade is the magic sauce that takes our steaks from good to great, our chicken from nice to spectacular, and our pork chops from mundane to marvelous. With just a few pantry ingredients, dry, flavorless ingredients transform into memorable, delicious dishes that we can’t get enough of. Marinades are typically comprised of three elements – oil, acid, and flavoring agents. Within these perimeters, there’s much freedom to experiment with different ingredients and spices, depending on the dish you happen to be cooking. But no matter how experienced you may be in the kitchen, we’re willing to bet that there’s one marinade ingredient you have yet to try. Soda.

Of course, the mention of soda as a serious ingredient might raise an eyebrow or two, but if you stop to consider that soda contains a good amount of sweetness, acidity, and flavor, it makes a lot of sense. The acidity levels in soda help to break down the muscle fibers of meat, tenderizing tough cuts. The high sugar content of these bubbly beverages also helps to create a beautiful sear and caramelization on the meat’s surface, providing a golden, perfectly crisp crust.

Mix up your ingredients

A wide shot of skewers on a grill
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Our recipe below is a classic Coca-Cola marinade that we love to use with beef, but that doesn’t mean you should stop there. Depending on the dish you’re cooking, you can use just about any soda with any meat you can imagine. For instance, the citrusy lemon-lime flavor of Sprite or 7-Up is delicious in a chicken marinade, especially when paired with fresh herbs from your summer garden. If you have pork chops on the menu, Ginger Beer’s signature spicy bite is perfect with a honey glaze. We like darker colas for beef, which can include Coke, Dr. Pepper, or even Root Beer.

Cooking with soda is a little bit like cooking with wine – if you enjoy drinking it, you’ll probably enjoy eating it, too.

Soda marinade recipe

Steak on a cutting board
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We love this basic Coca-Cola marinade for beef. It makes for incredible steaks, kabobs, or even roasts. Feel free to mix up your spices according to your recipe!

Keep in mind, too, that carbonation makes no difference when used in this way, so this is a great time to use up that soda in the back of the fridge that’s fallen a bit flat.


  • 3 pounds beef
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 18 ounces Coca-Cola
  • Juice from 3 lemons
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 4-5 garlic cloves, minced


  1. In a large plastic container, whisk together soy sauce, Coca-Cola, lemon juice, vegetable oil, and garlic.
  2. Add the meat to the mixture, completely covering it with the marinade. Place the lid on the container and marinate for 24 hours.
Lindsay Parrill
Lindsay is a graduate of California Culinary Academy, Le Cordon Bleu, San Francisco, from where she holds a degree in…
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