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Marinades are a great way to flavor and tenderize meat. Although cooks can soak meat in just about anything, a true marinade must contain some type of acid to be an effective tenderizer. Acidic molecules in fruits, vegetables, and vinegar breakdown the connective tissue in meat over time.
Marinades should include three essential elements:
- Flavor. Using seasonings and spices, cooks can give a variety of meats unique flavors.
- Acids or alcohol. Effective acids are found in tomato products, lemons, fruit juices and vinegar. Almost all marinades containing alcohol are made with wine.
- Salt. The acid in a marinade may cause meat to lose its ability to retain water. Adding salt improves juiciness and allows the meat to retain the marinade's flavors.
Marinades need time to work so they are able to penetrate all the way through the cut. Suggested marinating times vary greatly depending on the kind, cut, and size of the meat. Denser meats like pork and steak can marinate for 24 hours or even longer. Lighter meats like chicken can marinate between 2 hours and 24 hours. Seafood marinating times range from 15 to 60 minutes.
Other marinade tips include:
- Do not marinate in a metal container. The acidic mixture can react with the metal. Use a seal-able plastic or glass container and cover with plastic food wrap. Uncover and turn the food over occasionally so all sides are coated evenly with the marinade. Or place food in a plastic food bag, pour in the marinade; seal and refrigerate, turning the bag over from time to time.
- Always marinate foods in the refrigerator, not on the kitchen counter. Place marinating meat on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator to prevent any possible leaks onto foods below.
- Discard the marinade after use because it contains raw juices, which may harbor bacteria. If you want to use the marinade as a dip or sauce, reserve a portion before adding raw food.
Below are two marinade recipes which you can try:
Herb Beef Marinade
- ¼ cup onion chopped
- 2 tablespoons parsley
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- 1 tablespoon prepared mustard
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon basil, dried
Mix onion, parsley, vinegar, mustard, garlic powder and basil. Place meat in plastic bag and pour in marinade. Close the bag securely, place in a bowl and marinate in refrigerator six to eight hours or overnight, turning at least once. Pour off marinade and discard. Broil or grill meat to desired temperature.
Marinade for Poultry
- 1 cup oil
- ½ c. low sodium soy sauce
- 2 T. Horseradish, grated
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- 2 cups lemon-lime soda
Mix all ingredients, except soda. Place cut up turkey breast or chicken in large bowl or dish. Pour marinade mixture over poultry, and then add the soda. Place lid or cover over dish. Marinate for at least 24 hours in refrigerator. Place on grill for 20-25 minutes on low heat, until 165° F.