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You have been grilling for a while now; like most of us you’re in a rut. Try grilling new things for a change in flavor; you may surprise yourself and find a new awesome flavor. You enjoy new flavors but haven’t found the one the speaks to you the loudest, it hasn’t caught your attention long enough. 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 how marinades can enhance your grilling and overall satisfaction with the results.
I have found that often a simple marinade may at times be a better choice than a dry rub. A dry rub while it can produce extraordinary results; may not be the best solution for the flavor you are looking for.
A Brief History Of Marinade
Marinades have been around for centuries; the ancient Egyptians used marinades as well as the Romans. Asians have been using marinades for centuries that are 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. There are distinctions from region to region about the use and design of marinades. Each region has their own marinade that stands out from the others. Marinades make use of different spices, herbs, yogurt and buttermilk to create a robust flavor that defies description.
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. The right amount of salt can enhance the flavor of many marinades.
What are the Basic Marinades Characteristics
Marinades are the balance of acids, fats and seasonings. Knowing how to best use an acid in a marinade; along with the right fats and seasonings, can make all the difference to how well a marinade performs. More marinades today are reducing the amount of salt and using substitutes to achieve the same flavor.
When constructing your marinade try to get a good balance of acid to fat ratio. If you are using oil; the ratio of 3 parts acid to one part oil should bring about the results you are looking for. For example, if you were using lemon juice, it would be 3 tablespoons lemon juice to 1 tablespoon oil( I prefer olive oil) for the best ratio. You could even go to a half and half mixture for an even tastier marinade.
It is as equally as important to remember that when making your marinade consider the herbs and spices you will be using. When combining your acid, oil and spices remember that some spices and herbs don’t work well together. Try to find spices and herbs that compliment one another but do not take away from the flavor you are creating.
Take a Chance When Creating Your Flavor
The main reason for this ratio is to keep the acid from breaking the meat down too much. If there is too much acid; you run the risk of ruining your meat. Finding the right balance will require some experimentation on your part to achieve that balance.
Some of the experts recommend using sugar in your marinade; using certain fruits may be a better substitute. Some fruits to consider for great marinades are: peaches, papayas, plums, strawberries, and pineapple. Always, choose a fruit that is high in natural sugars, this gives you a sweeter flavor; you must also consider the flavor profile you are looking for sweet or tangy.
One sugar that is easily forgotten is honey; honey while it is sweet, also, has other properties that may help you avoid certain illnesses. Honey, while a sugar, can act as a catalyst for extraordinary flavor.
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 and at times penetrate even deeper for a richer flavor. You will need to decide which method is best for you and your grilling event.
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. The application of using the marinade as a base gives your meat a good coating to help enhance the flavor.
Acidic Marinades for Flavor
Acidic marinades are used primarily to break down the connective tissue in the meat. If you don’t breakdown the connective tissue, then you may have some “gristle” in your meat that can’t be broken down easily. The more connective tissue you can remove increases your chances of having tender, succulent meat to put on your plate.
Some of the acids that you will find in a marinade are buttermilk, yogurt, citrus juices, vinegar, wine, and pineapple juice. Each has its own property and will help create distinct flavors. Once, you learn how the different acids in buttermilk and yogurt work in comparison to citrus juices you will find that your use of them will change significantly. Pairing with the rights herbs and spices with your choice of acids like vinegar, wine or pineapple juice can give you can achieve legendary status with your marinades.
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, this allows the meat to tenderize properly. Pay attention to how long you use this marinade; leaving your meat in a marinade too long can cause your meat to breakdown to far.
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 you put your meat on the grill it may take a little longer to slow the process of the tenderizing.
Using fruit enzymes to help tenderize your meat may help your digestion; since, the enzymes have already begun the process of breaking down your protein 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. These countries were the leaders in enhancing their food with marinades.
Yogurt and buttermilk both are lower in fat than regular milk but also have lactic acid which serves as the catalyst to start the tenderizing process. Buttermilk is so often used in Southern Fried Chicken for that very reason. The lower fat content is especially important for those people who have to watch their fat intake especially, if they may have issues with their heart.
When using buttermilk as a marinade; find the freshest herbs for your recipe that you can. Buttermilk heightens the flavor in a way no other marinade can. The fresher your herbs in your recipe the more pronounced the flavor will be while working with the buttermilk for breaking the meat down for a truly succulent flavor.
It may seem as if chicken is the protein that benefits most from marinating in buttermilk or yogurt, however; lamb or pork can be marinated with yogurt or buttermilk that when mixed with the right 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 depends upon the flavor you are hoping to achieve. Marinades may be used for most any meats; the marinade may be savory, sweet or tangy.
Many people prefer acidic marinades, while others, prefer enzymatic marinades. Dairy marinades have been around for centuries with great success. The type of meat you decide upon will determine help you decide upon the proper marinade to use.
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 some of 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 for each cut of meat. As you consider your options, remember you are grilling for taste.
The more often you grill and use your particular marinade; the more people will appreciate how well you grill and will forever be spreading the word of your mastery of the grill.
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