A marinade is something that you can buy pre-made or concoct yourself. It can be any flavour you wish and should go with the meat that you are using it with, but really there are not many hard and fast rules about what can be included in one. Some people keep it simple and use Italian salad dressing while others come up with wild and crazy ingredient lists and make it all their own.
Whatever you are grilling, if you want it to be tastier, be more healthy and be juicier then you want to use a marinade on it.
We’ll start with flavour and juiciness. Since a marinade contains herbs, spices and other goodies and is based with something acidic like vinegar or lemon juice, the flavours will actually travel into your meat. Most also have some sort of oil component which keeps the meat juicier since it holds the natural moisture in while reducing the moisture that is naturally lost in the cooking process. The bonus to oils is that they prevent your meat from sticking to the grill itself so you get those lovely grill lines instead of broken off bits of the meat.
When you are grilling over a flame, harmful heterocyclic amines or HCA’s can form on your food. These are carcinogens and definitely not what you want on your plate, but a marinade can reduce these by up to 99% when you use an acidic base like the aforementioned lemon juice or vinegar and even those that are based with wine or beer.
Then there is the tender factor. No one wants a piece of meat that is hard to bite and chew, and by adding a marinade you are helping to break down the protein chains in the meat which in turn makes it easier to eat.
Like with anything touching raw meat, you don’t want to over-marinate. Seafood should be left no longer than 30 minutes, poultry no longer than 3 hours and for other cuts of meat, you’ll want to gauge the time by how strong your concoction is and how thick the meat is. Also, never, ever leave meat out, always put it in the fridge to prepare it for grilling. The last bit of advice is to never, ever re-use a marinade. Once the meat is on the grill, the rest of the pan’s contents are now garbage. Happy grilling!
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