Using Vinegar in Your Cooking
Vinegar is often used as a chief component in marinades and sauces. That’s because the properties found within the substance helps to accent the taste of the foods it touches, giving them more depth of flavor. However, vinegar can be a more hidden component in a dish, an acidic flavor used in the background that combines with other ingredients to give the dish a pleasant taste (like in chicken vinaigrette). When used this way, vinegar becomes a hidden treasure for a given recipe. (Reminder: Please refrain from cooking with balsamic vinegar because its primary purpose is to be used on foods after they have been cooked—not in the preparation of the food.) To store the vinegar and save space in your kitchen, an oil and vinegar cruet is almost essential.
When marinating, make sure you combine vinegar with oils and spices (like a vinaigrette) because the acidity of the vinegar alone will dry the meat out, making it have a tough texture. That’s because the acidic quality of vinegar tends to break down the protein tissues in meats. However, on proteins like beef, pork, and lamb, vinegar tends to have a problem breaking their proteins down, which means you would have to slice the meat thinner in order for the marinade to work successfully.
The problem with slicing the meat thinner means the meat would dry out when it cooks, which is not a pleasant texture to taste either. So, it is recommended that a dry marinade (like a combination of parsley or rosemary, the zest of lemon, and garlic) should be applied to cuts of beef, pork, and lamb to maintain that marinade flavor. (Note: If you are using cubed or smaller pieces of meats, oil and vinegar marinades can be used.)
It’s important to monitor our use of vinegar when using certain types of proteins because of the denaturing effect vinegar has upon it. While it can keep us from overcooking sauces that have eggs in them, it can have the opposite effect and cause the proteins to clump and become lumpy substances in the sauce if the sauces cook too long (like being heated as high as 195 degrees Fahrenheit). To prevent this undesired effect (especially if you’re one who’s easily distracted in the kitchen), cook your sauces at a temperature no higher than 160 degrees (when you begin to see the butter emerge from the mixture).
Cooking with vinegar is not as easy as cooking with oil. You don’t want the vinegar to dominate all the other ingredients in the dish. So your choice in vinegar combinations will largely depend on how you desire your dishes to be flavored. As mentioned earlier, vinegar is a powerful enough flavor to be the essential seasoning in a dish. For example, use a mignonette sauce to enhance the flavor of your oyster dish and impress your guests.
You can use vinegar as an essential ingredient in other seafood dishes as well. When the fish is cooked in parchment paper, the evaporating vinegar will give the fish a nice and smooth taste not commonly associated with the taste of vinegar (which has a mostly tart taste). Even if you’ve been skeptical about cooking with parchment, once you try one of these delectable dishes, you will quickly change your mind.
Vinegar has the power to amplify the taste of other ingredients in condiments like ketchup, hot sauce, and chutney. This is because the tart flavor of vinegar tends to make other natural flavors blend together more smoothly.
Unfortunately, our society overlooks vinegar as an important cooking ingredient because most people are either eating prepared foods from fast food and takeout restaurants or the grocery store. For most modern moms, the biggest cooking they do is press the microwave button.
However, whenever we do cook, we need to have the needed ingredients to make savory meals. Things liked certain broths, pastas, oils, and vinegars can make putting together a simplistic meal even easier. So, make it a habit to have on hand the types of oils and vinegars you know are needed in the types of foods you cook at home. Most oils and vinegars will last at least six months and began to decrease in flavor after that. Keep this in mind when determining how much of a given type of oil or vinegar you need to buy at one time.