Cooking Meat with Alcohol Adds Flavor, Consumer Appeal

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Alcohol-infused meat marinades, glazes and coatings add authentic taste to meat dishes in foodservice and retail


KerryDigest Fast Facts:
  • With the expansion of the craft beverage movement, alcohol is moving from the bar to the kitchen and evolving into new and exciting formats.
  • Through experimentation, chefs have found that alcohol pairs well with meat flavors, and that cooking meat with alcohol can improve overall taste.
  • To save kitchen steps while maintaining the flavor benefits of cooking with alcohol, more chefs and brands are utilizing alcohol-infused products in their meat preparations.

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Alcohol is increasingly used as a featured ingredient for both savory and sweet dishes. Take beer, for example. Beer was listed as an emerging flavor into Kerry’s 2019 US Taste Charts and, according to Datassential 2018, “beer-infused” grew by 134% on U.S. menus over the past four years. Today, it’s not unusual to find beer-braised proteins, beer-steamed seafood and house-made beer cheeses or mustards on restaurant menus. On the sweet side, there are desserts such as stout or porter chocolate cakes and beer-flavored ice creams.

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Cooking meat with alcohol through the use of alcohol-infused meat marinades and sauces is an emerging area of opportunity. Bourbon was identified as an up-and-coming flavor for savory applications in the 2019 US Taste Charts, and the alcohol-infusion options span the entire bar. Whether in hard cider-infused chicken wings, tequila-lime shrimp tacos or ale-braised short ribs, alcohol can influence and enhance the flavor of any protein and consumers have begun to seek out such preparations. By exploring the breadth of this trend, and experimenting with easy-to-use applications, brands can meet the consumer demand for new, innovative flavors by cooking meat with alcohol and alcohol-infused products.

The Alcohol Evolution

The fundamental social value of alcohol has increased purchase frequency and inspired the expansion of new alcoholic flavors and formats. From beer festivals to whiskey tastings to winery tours, social occasions centered around drinking bring people together. In fact, according to Mintel, 69% of consumers drink with family and friends on a regular basis.

Non-traditional drinking occasions are also on the rise. Happy hour was initially created to increase foot traffic and revenue during off-peak hours, but has now grown to generate up to one-third of adult beverage sales in foodservice. According to Nielsen, the average happy hour check, which includes both food and drink, is $68.99, or $8 more than the average check during other daypart occasions. The adoption of popular alcohol occurrences such as this have led to a natural extension of alcohol into food.

A Perfect Pairing

When used properly, alcohol infusions can improve multiple facets of food dishes, especially taste. By bonding with both fat and water molecules, alcohol intensifies aromas and flavors. When working with meat, adding booze to a marinade or brine will help season the product so that the flavors of alcohol are strong enough to complement, but not overpower, the dish. Darker alcohols, such as a stout beer or whiskey, pair best with dark meats. Similarly, lighter spirits like gin and tequila match with white meat or seafood.

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However, the overuse of alcohol in a marinade could affect the texture of the protein. To avoid this, consumers can forgo direct application and instead elevate a dish with a simple pan or reduction sauce. By deglazing a pan with a booze of choice, the scrapings and caramelized bits of remaining protein become a thick, flavorful sauce. This can also be done with non-alcoholic broths, juices and creams, but the flavor of the sauce will be noticeably different in intensity.

Alcohol-Infused Meat Made Easier

To simplify the creation alcohol-infused meat, more chefs and food brands are relying on pre-made alcohol-inspired coatings, seasonings, marinades and more. This range of products can simplify the process of adding alcohol to meat by delivering flavor and functionality while saving steps in the kitchen and, in products designed for the home-cook, utilizing ingredients consumers might not have at home. Such marinades, rubs, glazes, seasonings and coatings can help brands incorporate beverage, beer and spirit trends into meat, seafood, alternative proteins and appetizer applications. These on-trend tastes can enhance the appeal of dishes and products for today’s dynamic consumer.

For more information on Kerry’s alcohol-infused product line, or to learn more about key growth opportunities, consumer-driven trends and proprietary insights in the meat and protein market, contact Kerry.

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