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How Do I Choose the Best Spicy Chicken Marinade?

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  • Written By: Eugene P.
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 03 September 2016
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There are many recipes for spicy chicken marinade and several premade mixtures available commercially. Common vinegar-based marinades provide a strong heat but can have a flat flavor if not enhanced with other spices. An Asian spicy chicken marinade usually pairs the heat with some sweetness and saltiness and can form a thick coating on the chicken that will crisp when cooked. Indian marinades can be very spicy but might temper the robust flavor with yogurt or buttermilk. Jamaican jerk, hot buffalo sauce, and even spicy Italian dressing can all be used as spicy chicken marinade to give a deeper, more defined flavor to the meat.

One consideration when choosing a spicy chicken marinade is the source of the heat. It frequently is hot peppers in some form. The type of pepper that is used can determine how intense the spiciness will be and how well the taste of other ingredients will come through. In general, hotter peppers that are used in larger quantities will create a sharp, direct heat; peppers that have been roasted or otherwise prepared that will provide a longer, slower heat in the mouth. Spicy paprika and red pepper flakes add the most subtle form of spicy heat and appear in several types of marinades.

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Another element of a spicy chicken marinade is the liquid that is used to carry the spices. Vinegar and oil are frequent choices, because they penetrate the chicken quickly and can give a sharp taste to the meat. Buttermilk is one alternative that can effectively tenderize the chicken while also taking some of the raw heat out of hot peppers and leaving behind a mild spiciness with more of the actual taste of the pepper. Other acidic liquids, such as tomato juice or lemon juice, can enhance the spicy flavor while imparting a distinct taste that will carry over even after cooking.

The spices used in spicy chicken marinade are the most important aspect to look at when choosing. Common ingredients such as onions, garlic, sage and thyme can add a lot of flavor. Indian marinades can include more distinct flavorings such as cardamom, turmeric and mustard seeds. A jerk chicken marinade uses ingredients such as cloves, allspice and cumin that can withstand cooking to produce a robust final dish. Asian flavors such as garlic, teriyaki sauce, lemongrass and five-spice powder provide a unique taste that can be mixed with sugar or sherry for balance.

A commercially made spicy chicken marinade can be both flavorful and convenient. Italian dressings that are advertised as spicy or zesty can give a nice, sharp tang to chicken. Barbecue sauces also can be used as a marinade with strong sweetness, tomato flavor and, sometimes, an earthy savory flavor.

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