What's the real purpose of BBQ marinades? Does marinating meat make it more tender? And what should you never do with a marinade? Read on and learn about marinades.
A marinade is a mixture of various liquids, herbs, spices and other flavorings that's used to improve the flavor and texture of meats, poultry and seafood. Common ingredients include:
Just about anything with flavor is fair game as a marinade ingredient.
How does a marinade work? The acidic portion helps to soften the proteins to some extent. A common misconception is that marinades tenderize meat. They don't, but they will break down some of the proteins at the surface. When this happens, flavorings and oil are more easily absorbed, adding taste and increasing moistness.
For a marinade to do its job, the oil has to be well incorporated with the other liquids, and that's where a wire whisk or your handy dandy blender come into play. Always add the oil last, pouring it in slowly while whisking or blending. The ingredients will emulsify. Otherwise, the oil will float on top, and the marinade won't work as it should.
In a nutshell, fish requires less marinating time than other meats. Beef can handle more marinating than pork and chicken.
Less marinating time means less flavor. But marinate for too long, and the proteins at the meat's surface will break down, negatively affecting the taste and texture.
Most marinades can be used as basting liquids, brushed on as the food's cooking. Some would even make good sauces to use with the food when served. But if you plan to use marinade as a baste or sauce, don't use used marinade. To prevent the spread of bacteria, reserve part of the marinade for basting or sauce before the meat goes in.