Why Does Coca-Cola Work So Well As A BBQ Ingredient?

When you crack open a can of Coca-Cola, you know you're about to experience a delightfully sweet soda. However, not everyone knows what goes into creating its unique taste profile. According to Delighted Cooking, the primary ingredients behind Coca-Cola's flavoring are citrus oils, vanilla, and cinnamon.

Though you may associate Coca-Cola as primarily being coupled with fast food, its pairing options go well beyond burgers and fries. Vox Creative, in conjunction with Coca-Cola, asked culinary experts to share their favorite Coca-Cola and food pairing, which revealed that the fizzy beverage can be served alongside dishes as dissimilar as a clambake and mushroom pasta.

Many of us have poured a glass of Coke to sip with dinner. But have you ever tried cooking with Coca-Cola? The drink's flavor profile, coupled with its acidity, makes it a fantastic cooking tool that could help bring your barbecue to the next level (per Epicurious).

The science of cooking with Coca-Cola

No one wants to eat a tough cut of meat. That's where Coca-Cola comes in. According to Epicurious, if you braise your BBQ in Coca-Cola, the soda can denature some of its proteins, which will make it more tender. This process is a result of Coke's acidic composition. 

Coca-Cola's pH is around 2.7, thanks to the beverage's phosphoric acid content, per the Royal Society of Chemistry. (Coca-Cola Great Britain assures consumers that phosphoric acid is safe and is only included in Coke products to introduce a little tartness.)

In addition to tenderizing your meat, Coca-Cola can also be an excellent flavor additive. Southern Kitchen explains that Coke's intense sugariness can complement savory dishes and that its acidity helps keep the sweetness under control. When you're braising meats, for example, Coca-Cola can serve as a substitute for wine, so you can avoid wine's tannic flavor.

Kill it at your next cookout by using Coca-Cola

There are countless recipes that call for cooking with Coca-Cola. It's a staple ingredient in countless recipes, from glazed ham to chocolate cake to Coca-Cola can chicken.

On TikTok, many amateur chefs have experimented with using Coca-Cola in their barbecue recipes. TikTok user @igniteeats leans into the sweetness of the beverage, combining Coca-Cola with brown sugar and barbecue sauce to make a marinade for crockpot ribs. And @chebbo utilizes Coca-Cola several times in his rib recipe video on TikTok. First, he marinates the ribs in Coke overnight. Then, as they're grilling, he gives them a generous spritzing with a white vinegar and Coca-Cola mixture. Finally, he crafts a thick sauce from reduced Coca-Cola.

If you're looking to move beyond BBQ, you could make this Coca-Cola carne asada taco recipe, which uses steak marinated in a cocktail of Coca-Cola, lemon, and spices.