Tumble your way to tasty meat

I put the Reveo MariVac tumbling meat marination appliance to the test. See how it stands up to the old-fashioned method.

Now even procrastinators can serve up tender, tasty meat as if they hadn't forgotten to start marinating until 10 minutes before their guests arrived.

Meat in barrel
The Reveo requires a surprisingly small amount of marinade. Mmmm...meat juice... Jennifer Guevin/CNET Networks

I recently got to test out the Reveo MariVac from Eastman Outdoors, a funky kitchen appliance that looks suspiciously like a rock tumbler and that the company claims can cut down the time it takes to marinate meat to a fraction of the norm.

To use it, you just put raw meat and marinade into a compartment that tumbles it all together for up to 20 minutes. The idea behind the machine is that it vacuums out the air in the main barrel, stretching the fibers of the meat to allow the marinade to soak deeper into the meat in a shorter amount of time. All the while, the barrel turns, tumbling the meat and the marinade together in a messy bucket of flavor and goodness.

The company says the Reveo can do the equivalent of 4 hours of marination in 20 minutes, so I donned my lab coat and safety goggles and conducted a little experiment to see if the Reveo would hold up to these claims. As luck would have it, a co-worker was having a barbecue over the weekend, so I had plenty of potential judges who were more than happy to weigh in.

Vacuuming
The barrel stands upright like this and connects to the vacuum while air is sucked out. Jennifer Guevin/CNET Networks

Back in the lab (i.e., the kitchen in my apartment), I unboxed the Reveo. It's a sturdy piece of machinery, about the size of a large toaster oven. The black console has a simple interface consisting of three buttons: one for power; one to vacuum and one for setting the time. And then, of course, there's the barrel. I decided to use one of the company's marinades, a dry honey mesquite marinade to which I added water, oil, vinegar and a little orange juice. You simply toss about 1/3 cup of mixed marinade per pound of meat (in this case, chicken) into the barrel and put the lid on. Before you can get on with the tumbling--which is what we've all been waiting for, really--you have to vacuum out the air.

That just takes connecting a cord to the barrel and pushing the MariVac button on the console. This stage was a bit loud--sort of like running a small air compressor in the kitchen--but it was done in less than 2 minutes and the Reveo automatically shut off at that point.

Then you simply push the time button until your desired marination time is selected, and away it goes. The tumbling was the most impressive part because it was extremely quiet (it's also oddly mesmerizing). The Reveo counted down the 20 minutes and automatically stopped tumbling when it was done.

Reveo meat tumbler in action
I'll tumble for ya... Jennifer Guevin/CNET Networks

Cleanup is simple. The barrel is dishwasher safe and only the lid has to be hand-washed.

Next I alighted (with the tumbled meat and a separate batch that had been marinating the old-fashioned way for a few hours) to my friend's backyard where the battle of the meats would take place. I entrusted my test subjects to an outdoor chef whose skills at the grill are unsurpassed. Only I knew which chicken was which, but the differences between the two were easily visible to my companion and me. The regularly marinated chicken had a smooth, shiny surface, while the fibers in the vacuumed chicken were pronounced.

When the chicken was cooked, we sliced them up and put them on labeled plates for our judges to do a blind comparison. As it turned out, six of the nine tasters preferred the regularly marinated chicken, saying it was juicier and had more flavor. But all agreed that both were quite good. We concluded that there's no beating the old-fashioned way when it comes to marination. But when you factor in that the tumbled chicken took only 20 minutes (vs. the 4 hours for the other) and still managed to be flavorful and juicy, it wins major convenience points.

The Reveo is not going to change your life. But if you've got the space in your kitchen, are prone to forgetting to start marinating meat ahead of time and you've got about $200 burning a hole in your pocket, you might consider it. Not only will it dramatically improve cooking results for procrastinators, it's also just plain fun to use.

Chicken on the grill
The effect on texture doesn't quite translate in this picture, but in person, we could easily see the grain of the vacuumed chicken (left) while the regular chicken's surface was smooth (right). Jennifer Guevin/CNET Networks
 

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