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You have been grilling for a while now and you find that you are like most of us. Don’t get caught in a rut and grill or smoke the same thing over and over. It is not that you don’t like flavor but you just haven’t found the flavor for you. I will show you how marinades are the new dimension to awesome flavor.
I will show you what is in a basic marinade and how to construct your own marinade for maximum flavor. You may be surprised at some of the things a marinade can do for your grilling.
I have found from experience that a simple marinade can be more effective and have better flavor than using a dry rub. A dry rub can produce extraordinary results as well but sometimes the flavor profile is not what you expected.
A Brief History Of Marinades
Marinades have been around for centuries. The ancient Egyptians used marinades as well as the Romans. Asians have been using marinades for centuries as well based primarily on soy.
The word marinade came about in the early 17th century from the Latin word mare(which means sea). Some say the word came from the French, others say it came from the Italians and others say it was English.
It does not matter where the word came from as much as the application for delicious flavor. Some things can’t belong to one nation or another when it comes to flavor that all can enjoy.
Early civilizations used salt to preserve meats for cooking later. Some places in the world still put a salt crust on the meats before they put them on the grill. This does produce a remarkable flavor but for those who have heart problems this may not be the preferred way to enjoy grilled meat.
What are the Basic Marinades Characteristics
Marinades are the balance of acids, fats and seasonings. Knowing which acid to use along with the right fats and seasonings make all the difference to how well a marinade performs.
When constructing your marinade try to get a good balance of acid to fat ratio. If you are using oil then you would want to have a ratio of 3 parts acid to one part oil. For example if you were using lemon juice it would be 3 tablespoons lemon juice to 1 tablespoon oil( I prefer olive oil). You could even go to a half and half mixture for an even tastier marinade.
Take a Chance Create Your Flavor
The main reason for this is to keep the acid from breaking the meat down. If there is too much acid you run the risk of having your meat turn to mush. Finding the right balance will require experimentation on your part.
Some of the experts recommend using sugar of some sort for your marinade. I find that using fruits can do that better. Some fruits to consider in a marinade are peaches, papayas, plums, strawberries, and pineapple. Always choose a fruit that is high in natural sugars for the marinade. You must also consider the flavor profile you are looking for.
One sugar that is easily forgotten is honey. With the natural sugar in honey you will also be able to take advantage of some of the natural properties of honey that help prevent illness from certain types of allergies.
This is what the basic marinade will look like:
4-8 oz=70-140 ml
2-4 oz = 60 – 120 ml
1/2 tsp – 2 Tbl
1/2 tsp – 2 Tbl
Wine, Citrus, Vinegar, Yogurt or Buttermilk
herbs and spices
A good rule of thumb is 4 ounces of marinade per pound of meat.
Tumbling, injecting and vacuum packaging will infuse the marinade faster.
After marinating discard any unused marinade unless you are going to heat it for use in basting the meat while it is being grilled or smoked.
Acidic Marinades for Flavor
Acidic marinades are used primarily to break down the connective tissue in the meat.
This is one of my favorite acidic marinades:
This should cover about 2 pounds of chicken thighs:
1/2 – 3/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 – 3/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup cilantro flakes
1 tablespoon tarragon
1/4 cup parsley flakes
salt and pepper to taste.
Marinate your chicken 2 – 6 hours ahead of time
Preheat Grill to 350F (or your preferred temp)
(I use a grill topper to put my chicken on – optional)
place on grill 3 – 4 minutes per side
check internal temp to be sure it is cooked through.
Enzymatic Marinades for Tenderness
While enzymatic marinades are great for tenderness you should be careful not to allow the meat to marinade too long. The enzymes in such marinades are great but if left too long can cause the meat to become mushy instead of tender.
Fruits such as raw pineapple, kiwi, figs, papaya, honeydew melon, and ginger all have great enzymes to break down meats and connective tissue to make them more tender. Pay attention to how long you use this marinade to prevent having your protein in the marinade too long.
Fruit enzymes can be slowed or halted by heat. These enzymes are heat tolerant and require higher temperatures to slow the process of tenderization. That is why when put on the grill it may take a little longer for the slowing the process of the tenderizing enzymes and before the true action of the grill begins.
The use of fruit enzymes will actually help your digestion since the enzymes have already begun the process of making the amino acids in your protein available for easier digestion.
Buttermilk and Yogurt May be the Best Marinades
Buttermilk and yogurt have been used for centuries in countries like India, Iran, Italy, Lebanon and Turkey as a means not only of tenderizing meats but adding flavor into the meat.
Yogurt and buttermilk both are lower in fat than regular milk but also have lactic acid which is the catalyst that starts the tenderizing process. That is one of the reasons that buttermilk is so often used in Southern Fried Chicken.
When using buttermilk as a marinade, find the freshest herbs for your recipe that you can. The fresher your herbs in your recipe the more pronounced the flavor will be. Buttermilk heightens the flavor in a way no other marinade can.
It may seem that chicken is the protein that benefits from marinating in buttermilk or yogurt but that is not the case. Indeed, lamb or pork can be marinated with yogurt to include a flavor that when mixed with the herbs and spices of the local area make for a truly succulent meal. Your meal will not only be delicious but tender as well. Imagine your pride in your grilling prowess after using one of these marinades.
What is the Right Marinade for You
Finding the right marinade for you will depend upon the flavor profile your are hoping to achieve and the cut of meat.
Many people like only the acidic marinades while others like the enzymatic marinades. Dairy marinades have been around for centuries with great success.
The flavor you prefer may indeed be the best one for you due to the ease of preparation or convenience. Some marinades are premade which takes the preparation from you and gives control to the companies that make your favorite marinade.
Each of these methods of marinating have their own strengths and flavor profiles. You will need to make the decision as to which marinade you prefer.
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