What does vinegar do to meat?

In this brief guide, we are going to answer the question “what does vinegar do to meat” with an in-depth analysis of the effect of vinegar on the meat. Moreover, we are going to discuss the maximum time for which you can apply vinegar on the meat and the impact of marination on the meat.

So without much ado, let’s dive in and figure out more about it.

What does vinegar do to meat?

The application of the vinegar can tenderize the meat. As we know that to tenderize the meat (chicken, turkey, beef, etc.) you have to denature proteins present in the meat, and for this purpose, you require an acidic pH and vinegar provides you with that.

Moreover, along with some herbs and salt, it also imparts a great tangy flavor to your meat. Moreover, as the vinegar has low pH and is acidic owing to the presence of acetic acid in it, therefore its application on the meat also lowers the pH of the meat, thereby also hinders the growth of bacteria on the meat.

It is worth mentioning here, that if you are using the vinegar to tenderize your meat or to make it more juicy and flavorsome, the meat should not be soaked in the vinegar for too long. If you leave the meat submerged in the vinegar for too long, it can do more harm to the meat, as it can tighten your meat and can make it tougher and no one wants that to happen. So if you are planning to add vinegar to your marinade, it is better to apply it just for the right time (about 2 hours).

You can read how to make beef steak marinade and beef steak here.

How long can you soak the meat in the vinegar?

What you can do is to just add 1 or 2 tbsp of the vinegar to your meat and afterward cook it, make a steak out of it or the roast, it is totally up to you.

Another method that you can try is to soak your fork pierced meat in the vinegar for 1 to 2 hours. You should not leave the meat in the vinegar for more than 2 hours as the vinegar can potentially degrade the protein structure of the meat to such an extent that you will be left with tight and rubbery textured meat. So you should keep this thing in view while soaking your meat in the vinegar. 

How much vinegar should you use to tenderize meat?

You should make a mixture of vinegar and water in a ratio of 1:2 and soak your meat in it for about 1-2 hours. Thus, it means that you have to use ½ cup of water if you are going to use ¼ cup of vinegar to tenderize your meat. 

What are the acidic tenderizers?

The acidic tenderizers are the ones that owing to their acidic content, denatures the protein of the meat. Lactic acid present in buttermilk and citric acid present in lemon juice helps to tenderize the meat owing to their acidic pH. Thus both buttermilk and lemon juice are acidic tenderizers. 

What are enzymatic tenderizers?

The enzymatic tenderizers are the ones that contain some special enzymes which help in the denaturation of the proteins present in the meat. Most of the fruits like kiwi, papaya, pineapple, and raw ginger are enzymatic tenderizers.

Does brining tenderize meat?

Yes, brining can tenderize the meat. Brining is the process that is used to make the meat juicier and to add some extra flavor to it. In brining, we immerse the meat in the water with a little salt, and some herbs added to it.

In the case of brining, the process of osmosis sets in, but as the outer environment is hypotonic in this case (salt is added in a lot of water) so the water moves into the cells of meat and therefore the meat becomes juicier and tender after brining.

It is worth mentioning here that osmosis is the process in which the solvent moves from a point of lower solute concentration to a point of higher solute concentration. The process of osmosis maintains the solute-solvent balance throughout the semi-permeable membranes and this process also plays an important role in the body of living organisms.

What is the effect of marination on the meat?

Marination is the process that is done to impart different flavors in the meat. Marination is done by using some acids (lemon), salt, and different spices. The acid degrades the structure of the protein and imparts the flavor of different herbs and condiments that are added to the marination mixture. Moreover, as the acid denatures the protein it also makes the meat tender and juicier.

Moreover, you can also use buttermilk or yogurt in your marinade. While talking about buttermilk, it has lactic acid present in it that denatures the proteins present in the meat because of its acidic pH. So all you gotta do is to make a marinade using buttermilk, salt, and some herbs like cumin, thyme, etc., and keep it refrigerated for a couple of hours or overnight. Afterward, take the meat out of the mixture, cook it, and enjoy your tender and juicy meat. 


In this brief guide, we answered the question “what does vinegar do to meat” with an in-depth analysis of the effect of vinegar on the meat. Moreover, we discussed the maximum time for which you can apply vinegar on the meat and the impact of marination on the meat.




Mahnoor Asghar is a Clinical Nutritionist with a bachelor's degree in Nutrition and Dietetics. She is compassionate and dedicated to playing her part in the well-being of the masses. She wants to play a fruitful role in creating nutrition and health-related awareness among the general public. Additionally, she has a keen eye for detail and loves to create content related to food, nutrition, health, and wellness.

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