According to Merriam-Webster, marinating is “to put meat or fish in a sauce for a period of time to add flavor or to make the meat or fish more tender.” Marinating food, a technique at least as old as the Renaissance, is the perfect way to add deep flavor to foods, and it can be economical, too, as you can use less expensive cuts of meat without sacrificing tenderness and flavor.
- Generally, marinades are better at flavor than at tenderizing, so plan to cook the less expensive, marinated meats “low and slow” to continue tenderizing them.
- Mix your own marinades at a 1:1:2 ratio of acid, oil and aromatics other than salt. Use vinegar, wine, lemon juice or other common kitchen acids with good quality, lightly flavored oils. Add herbs, spices, jellies and mustards for more layers of flavor.
- Avoid cross-contamination of foods by never using your marinades after putting the meat in them. If you want to make a sauce from the marinade, either reserve some before adding the food or bring the used marinade to a full boil.
- Use glass or food-grade plastic containers to hold your marinade and foods; metals can create an unpleasant chemical reaction when combined with the acids. If you use sealable plastic storage bags for marinating, throw them out rather than washing and re-using them.
A Few Marinade Recipes
Mix 1 cup pineapple juice, 4 tablespoons of catsup, 4 tablespoons of low-sodium soy sauce, 1 tablespoon minced ginger and 4 minced garlic cloves. Marinate fish, chicken, pork, vegetables or fruit in the mix before grilling them.
Combine 4 tablespoons of good-quality olive oil, 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, 2/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro, 1 teaspoon of ground cumin and 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes.
Maple (for seafood)
Blend 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar, 6 tablespoons real maple syrup (not pancake syrup) and 4 teaspoons orange juice.
Mint (for fruit)
Marinate apples and pears in 1 1/3 cups fresh orange juice, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, 4 tablespoons of honey, 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon ground ginger and 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper.
Toss your favorite fresh vegetables in 1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar, 4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons honey, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon dried basil, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper and 2 cloves minced garlic. Substitute fresh herbs, if you choose, by doubling the amounts.