Marinades. We often marinate meats before grilling them, but have you ever thought of the why’s and how’s that are associated with it? Marination has been traced back to even the times of the ancient Egyptians. It has been a practice, although not necessarily called marination, for all this time.
When I talk about marination, I do not mean to get way too drunk, but if you’re using alcohol as a base for your marinade, well I am sure that the meat can share with you. Marination is the process where the meat is soaked in a liquid before cooking. This adds flavor, moisture and even tenderizes the meat.
Flat and tough cuts of meat benefit the most from being marinated. Larger, odd shaped cuts like a roast, will receive an uneven result, even if it has been stabbed a few times with a fork all over to allow the marinade to soak in. Not only is this an uneven infusion of flavor, but the center is largely untouched. There is a solution. You could use a marinade injector, to literally inject some of the marinade into the odd shaped meat you are trying to flavor.
Acidic marinades are the most common. They begin with vinegar, lemon juice or wine, then oils and seasonings are added to give more flavor.
Common acidic marinade bases are;
- Wine, red or white
- Unsweetened citrus juices
- Apple or white cranberry juice
- Vinegars, rice vinegar, white wine vinegar, red wine vinegar, flavoured vinegar, you get the idea here,
- and Tamari or soy sauce.
(Tamari is similar to soy sauce, but because it is made with more soy beans and fermented a little differently it has a more complex and balanced flavour)
Enzymatic marinades work by breaking down the muscle fiber and connective tissues of the meat. Most enzymatic marinades are fruit based and the most commonly used are;
- Raw Pineapple
- Honeydew Melon
- and Figs
Enzymatic marinades require a careful eye, however, because they have a tendency to cause the meat to go mushy, especially chicken. This is not a marinade that you typically want to leave your meat in for a day.
Dairy based marinades are only mildly acidic. They work because the calcium activates enzymes in the meat breaking down the protein. This process is similar to aging a good cut of meat. Great dairy marinades begin with;
Lastly there are Brines. These are not quite marinades, but more of a salty solution that helps keep the moisture in meats that typically dry out during the grilling process. This is a popular solution for turkey and pork. The things to remember about using brine are;
- Always rinse then pat dry the meat before cooking
- Use a container that is big enough to fully submerge your meat, but not so big that it is allowed to float
- Use a non-reactive container, glass, porcelain, stainless steel, or even a ziploc bag to marinate your food in
- Always marinate your food in the fridge, this prevents bacterial growth
- 1 cup of marinade will do for approximately 2.2 lbs. of meat
- Turn regularly so that all sides of your meat get an even coat of marinade
- You can marinate for up to 24 hours, but any longer and you will begin to chemically cook the meat
- Never use your marinade to baste the cooking meat within the last 3 to 5 minutes of cooking
- Time varies between meats for marinade times
> Red meats can be marinated up to 24 hours
> Chicken should be marinated no longer than 8 hours
> Fish should be marinated for 1 hour or less
Hopefully this ramble into the world of getting marinated has helped make grilling easier. Or at least given you a slight insight as to the history, how’s and why’s of marinating. Now it’s up to you to make the marination happen. What is your favorite marinade recipe? How did you stumble upon it? Submit your own favorite marinade recipes here.
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