The deceptively simple process of marination does oodles of good for your meat! Here we take a look at what marination is and does, how to do it best for different meats, and we also give you some quick and dirty tips on how to go about marinating your favorite meats!
There is some amount of chemistry behind marination worth exploring. An understanding of what goes on behind the scenes can help you get the best results in the kitchen.
What is Marination?
The process of soaking food – mainly meat – in a seasoned, often acidic, liquid before cooking, marination gets its name from the use of brine – also called aqua marina – in the pickling process which later developed into the technique of adding flavour to foods through their immersion in liquid.
What It Does
Marinades serve a number of functions simultaneously. The most common ones are listed below.
Marination is among the easiest ways to infuse your food with desired flavours. Soaking your food in even the simplest of ingredients can enhance produce ranging from poultry and fish to vegetables .Moreover it’s a simple process to execute and also customize.
However, don’t count on marinades to penetrate all foods. Poultry for example, is structurally too dense to allow marinades to flavour beneath the surface of the meat. The flavour will be found concentrated on the external surface. Some vegetables such as eggplant and mushroom, though, absorb tremendous amounts of marinade and hence make a good choice for grills and kebabs.
Insider Tip: Maximizing surface area improves flavour
Acidic marinades such as those containing yogurt, lime juice or vinegar tenderize meats but these – like the flavouring ingredients – will not penetrate much beyond the surface. However, seafood is an exception and shouldn’t be marinated for long.
Insider Tip: For best results, use thinner cuts.
Marinades add moisture to foods. This is of particular significance during grilling as the process can cause the food to dry out. Marinades can prevent this drying out. If the marinade contains oil, it helps seal in the juices and prevents sticking – especially important when working with seafood. Salt in particular penetrates meat (it is an exception, due to its molecular structure) and increases liquid retention within meat cells, thus making meat juicier.
Types and Choice of Marinade
Enzymatic Marinades: Meat or Mush ?
Marinades made using ingredients such as pineapple and papaya which contain certain enzymes called proteases that tenderize meats. These will also add flavour. But beware! Leave them on for too long and it becomes a case of too much of a good thing and your meat would have turned to mush!
Acidic liquids such as vinegar, yogurt and lime are often used as marinades. The action of these substances causes water molecules to be trapped in the meat, thus turning it juicy. Such marinades may also be used to add flavour. But keep a tab on that clock, for if your meat sits too long in an acidic marinade, it may cause the meat to toughen.
Insider Tip: Use the right acid strength in your marinade. This depends on the produce involved. For instance, shrimp needs only a low-acid and oil (1:4) marinade, while beef can take a more acidic one.
Dry marinades which use very little oil or other liquids and are used to impart flavour and Cooked Marinades which often include wine and are used to provide a stronger flavour are the other types of marinades commonly seen.
Time of Marination
Fish and Seafood need be marinated only for a short while – 1-2 hrs at most, even just 20mins if the marinade is quite acidic. Vegetables and tofu require 30mins to 1hr, while for poultry you can be more flexible. For these, though the maximum benefit is derived from the first few hours of marination, overnight soaking works fine as well.
Insider Tip: Out of time? There’s good news! Even a few minutes of soaking can provide your meat with a delectable flavour and fantastic aroma!
Some Quick and Dirty Tips!
- Reduce the oil in the marinade for more intense flavour.
- Stop basting the meat with marinade 3-5minutes before end of cook time.
- Use a zip-lock food storage bag for marination. It provides better coverage.
- If using dried herbs for marination, crush them between your fingers first to release aromatic oils.
Last but not the least of our concerns is safety while using the process of marination.
As meats may contain harmful bacteria whose growth would be promoted at room temperature, marination under such conditions should be avoided.
Also, used marinade should not be used as a dipping sauce. If at all a sauce is required, use unused marinade that hasn’t come into contact with the meat.
Use glass or food grade plastic containers to marinate. Metals – especially aluminium – reacts with the acid in the marinade and should be avoided.
Shop from our exotic Marinades at FreshRocket .