Marinades 101: The Savory Summer Treat

Sunday June 25, 2017

When grilling (as well as roasting or broiling for that matter) meat, chicken, fish or vegetables, marinating is essential. We all collect at least one or two great marinade recipes. A marinade usually contains acidic ingredients, like lemon juice or vinegar, that will break down proteins and work as liquid tenderizers. They also add flavor to meat and help keep everything moist. They’re especially good on dry pieces of meat, like chicken breast. A mop, which I never could figure out what exactly it was, is similar in taste and consistency to a marinade — thin and acidic. But, unlike marinades, mops don’t usually contain oil or butter, often containing nothing more than vinegar, salt and black pepper. Beer is also a popular mop ingredient. Mops mainly contribute moisture. They aren’t typically used on small cuts of meat.

A good marinade has 5 basic ingredients:

Salt–either sea salt, flavored salt, kosher salt, or pickling salt…just about any salt but iodized table salt
Sugar in some form including various syrups and jam, or pureed fresh fruit
Acid, as in lemon juice or vinegar, including alcoholic beverages, from beers to wines to spirits
Aromatics (herbs, spices, condiments, mustards, garlic)
Oil, either neutral (if you use canola oil make sure it is organic) or something with flavor like extra-virgin olive oil, nut oil, or plain organic sesame oil

How Long To Marinate Fish, Beef, Pork, Chicken

In a nutshell, fish requires the least marinating time and less marinating time than other meats. Beef can handle more marinating than pork and chicken.

Red meats – beef, pork, lamb: 2 to 4 hours per inch of thickness

Poultry – 2 to 4 hours for pieces, 4 hours to overnight for whole or half birds

Fish – about 1 hour per inch of thickness

Five Top Tips for Marinating

•Marinate overnight whenever possible for maximum flavor (unless stated otherwise in the recipe). you need about 2 cups of marinade for every 2 pounds of meat. Make sure you prepare enough to completely soak and cover the surface of the meat.

•Extra virgin olive oil is great, but you should never use it in marinades. It burns and smokes on contact with the barbecue. Use light olive oil, grapeseed oil, or vegetable oil instead.

• If you plan to use marinade as a baste or finishing sauce, don’t use the used marinade. To prevent the spread of bacteria, reserve part of the marinade for basting or sauce before the meat goes in and refrigerate it for later use.

•Keep it clean and simple! Marinate in strong plastic freezer bags, closed securely to prevent leakage when you turn them. Using a plastic container or a plastic bag can greatly reduce the mess associated with preparing. Sealing out the air in a plastic zip bag can reduce the amount of marinade needed as well. Otherwise, always cover food tightly with plastic wrap and use non-reactive containers such as heavy plastic storage containers, glass or stainless steel with leak-proof lids.

•Before placing on the barbecue grill, rub or shake off any excess marinade, particularly if there is any oil in it, to prevent burning or flaring and the consequent smoky bitter flavor.

•The best way to know if protein is fully cooked is to check its internal temperature with an instant-read thermometer.

•Let finished meats rest on a clean platter, tented with foil, for about 10 minutes before carving so juices can redistribute evenly. Never put cooked meat back onto the same dish you used for marinating. Always use a clean serving dish or plate.


Joyce’s Lemon Herb Marinade for Chicken

Julia Child’s Mustard Marinade for Lamb

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