What You’ll Need to Marinate
Selecting & Preparing a Marinade
Decide whether you want to just add flavor, tenderize the meat, or both. The following tips will help:
- Flavoring marinades do exactly what they should—add flavor. Marinating times for chicken can range from just 15 minutes to several hours.
- Tenderizing marinades include acidic ingredients such as wine, vinegar, yogurt, tomatoes, lemon juice, and lime juice, combined with herbs, seasonings, and oil. Some fruits also contain tenderizing enzymes. These include pineapple, papaya, kiwi, and figs.
Marinades vary from recipe to recipe but they generally contain three basic components – oils,
acids, and seasonings.
- Oils: The oil content in a marinade locks in the natural flavor and prevents the food from drying out. Some oils can also add flavor. Good oils for marinating include olive, sesame, peanut and infused oils (such as chili).
- Acids: These ingredients tenderize meat by denaturing or “unraveling” its proteins – this
softens the surface and allows flavors to be absorbed.
- Acids include vinegar, wine, sherry, citrus juice, yogurt and buttermilk.
- Yogurt and buttermilk tend to keep foods moist, while a citrus-based marinade can “cook” raw fish.
- Seasonings: These provide the unique flavors. Garlic, ginger and onion are generally included. Also used are herbs and chili to spice things up, or honey and sugar to sweeten the food.
- Seasonings include citrus peel, soy sauce, mustard, salt and pepper, and herbs and spices.
- Salt is not just for flavoring. Salt has a brining effect which increases the juiciness of the meat.
- Soy sauce is a common marinade ingredient and many of the great marinades include soy as a substitute for salt.
- Pepper burns and is not a good component of a marinade.
- Sugar or honey are often included in marinades as a sweetener and to add increased browning or to blacken the meat during the grilling process.
- A marinade should be thin enough in consistency to penetrate the meat; otherwise, the flavor desired will not be reached. Keep in mind that there is a difference between sauces and marinades.
- Not all marinades need to contain liquid ingredients – some consist of only dry ingredients, such as herbs and spices. These mixtures are often referred to as “rubs” (because they are literally rubbed onto the surface of your food). Once the rub is applied to your meat, chicken or fish, cover the dish with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to marinate.
Notice whether the marinade contains these three key ingredients: acid (such as wine, lemon juice or vinegar), salt or alcohol. Each one reduces the amount of time the meat should marinate.