There are several reasons to marinate. We do it to make meats tender, to increase the amount of moisture, to improve the texture and of course for the added flavour.
It is easy to just buy an already made marinade from the store but if you are feeling adventurous, you can make one from scratch. A home made marinade is not only fresher, it always you to play with flavours and create something unique. By the end of this article, you will be one step closer to making a marinade with ingredients you already have in your pantry.
The first thing to know is that marinades can taste different but they often have 3 key ingredients; acid, flavourings and oil.
The acid can be vinegar, lemon or orange juice, pawpaw, pineapple juice, wine, yogurt or a sour cream. In the category of acidic marinades, you have vinegar, and for enzymatic marinades you have the likes of pawpaw and pineapples.
The job of the acid is to break down meat tissue and make it tenderer. But having too much acid can ruin the meat and that is one of the marinating mistakes to avoid. Acidic marinades are also sometimes blamed for making the meat tougher if not handled properly and used in the right quantities.
In addition, the acid in a marinade works to bring a tangy flavour to your meat.
Aromatics and flavourings
For these, your kitchen is your oyster. You can add herbs and spices to bring a delicious flavour to your meats.
Think Thyme, parsley, garlic, ginger, cayenne pepper, rosemary, cumin or oregano. Be sure to select a few and use the right quantities so that they do not over power the entire meal. Famous pairings of herbs with meats include; Garlic and chicken, shrimp and saffron and Rosemary and beef.
A lot of aromatics will only remain on the surface of the meat so to make sure the flavourings penetrate into the flesh, some recipes call for shredding the meat, cutting into smaller pieces so the entire surface is coated or for making cuts into the meat and rubbing the marinade into it.
If you would like your marinade on the sweeter side, you can add honey, syrup or barbecue sauce. Just keep a close eye because marinades with sugar tend to burn faster.
Where acid tenderises and aromatics enhance flavour, oil helps to bond the flavours to the meat. Oil will also become infused with the flavourings so once you spread it over the meat, every area, even those that are not coated with the aromatics will get the flavour. While any oil could do, consider using oils with high smoke points like canola or peanut oil if you will be using very high heat.
Oil isn’t must. Those who are on a strictly oil free diet can make a marinade without it. A simple recipe for this is; balsamic vinegar, water, garlic powder, thyme and black pepper.