Soak It Up

The best things in life take time. This includes proteins seasoned to perfection. Here are the do’s and don’ts of proper meat marinating.

Whether you plan to spice up your grandma’s bland chicken recipe or compete with your dad’s famed steak marinade, there are a few rules you should consider before stepping into the kitchen.

Less is more.

A novice mistake is using too much salt or acid when mixing marinade. You should take into consideration that salt pulls moisture from meat, leaving it dry and tough. Because acid contains enzymes that break down meat into mush, acid-based ingredients should also be used in moderation and for shorter soaking periods.

But not too much less. Learn to properly balance the ingredients you marinade with. There are no rules against ingredients such as garlic, herbs and spices. In these cases, we say the more the merrier! 

Fat is good.

For the salt you do use in your marinade, different kinds of oil will cancel out its drying effects, keeping the meat from becoming overly tough. Another benefit from using oils in marinade, such as mayonnaise, olive oil or sesame oil, is that it prevents the meat you are grilling or baking from sticking to the hot surface. 

Patience is a virtue.

Most marinades work best when the protein is soaked in the refrigerator overnight. If you forget this important step the day before, soak the meat at room temperature for an hour the day of. The longer you marinade your protein, the stronger the flavor of the meat will be.

Be wary of cross-contamination.

Do not use the same marinade that you used to soak raw meat in for a baste during cooking. After you prepare your marinade, split it into two batches—one for the pre-soak and the other for basting.

Ready to try your hand at the art of marinating? Here are some combinations to get you started.

Chicken Marinade 

  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar 
  • 1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce 
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes 
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil 
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano 
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder 
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Pork Marinade 

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce 
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon honey mustard 
  • salt and ground black pepperto taste

Steak Marinade 

  • 1/3 cup soy sauce 
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce 
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons garlic powder 
  • 3 tablespoons dried basil 
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes 
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
Sources: bonappetit.com, allrecipes.com
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