Since we've already been on the topic of outdoor grilling and food preparation for the past couple weeks, we've decided to continue in that vein and touch on another interesting topic: the preparation and use of barbecue marinades.
Most people enjoy a good barbecue, but not many of us are skilled at preparing BBQ foods ourselves. There's a degree of knowledge and certain level of familiarity required for the best results. One could even say it's a minor science: One needs to know which spices complement particular types of meat to maximize their flavor (different blends of seasonings and liquids are used for fish, steak, pork and chicken, for example), and a discerning cook also must have a working knowledge of when and how much to marinade a cut of meat -- or if that meat should be marinated at all.
Here are some tips for preparing a delicious barbecued meal using marinade:
For Beef & Pork
(info gathered from WikiHow)
First, select a cut of meat. Tougher and/or low-fat cuts like flank steak, sirloin, skirt, round, and hanger steaks are best for marinating. Don't ruin expensive steaks by marinating them: quality cuts like rib-eye, porterhouse, T-bone, filet mignon, and NY strip are great as they are and should not be marinated.
When it comes to pork, you can marinate anything from pork chops and cutlets to ribs or roasts. However, be sure to reduce the salt content of marinades used with pork to prevent a curing effect, which can leave some cuts with a ham-like texture. When marinating pork, remember that the thickness of the meat (not the bone) determines how long to marinate.
Cut the meat into thin slices, if possible. Marinade works because acids break down muscle tissue, which is a slow process; if the meat is thick, the outside can get sour by the time the marinade actually penetrates the core. Cutting the meat into thin slices will marinate them more evenly. However, slicing steak, for example, prior to cooking greatly increases the chance that it’ll become tough and dry. If you decide to slice it, greatly reduce cooking time and watch carefully.
Alternatively, you can cut nicks into the meat that penetrate about halfway through the thickness of the so the marinade can permeate more quickly. In general, the more surface area that's exposed to the marinade, the better the marinade will do its job.
Place the meat into a container and add a marinade. A basic marinade consists of an acidic liquid (which will break down muscle fibers), oil, and other flavorings, such as sweeteners, herbs, and/or spices. (For a good basic marinade for steak or pork, try this recipe.)
Marinating a flat cut of meat in a large ziploc bag can be very useful since you will need less marinade to completely cover it here than you would inside a bowl. Work in the marinade by massaging the meat
Put the sealed container in the fridge for 2 to 24 hours, depending on the strength of the marinade.
(info courtesy of howtomainatechicken.com)
A good poultry marinade will not only help prevent meats from drying out, but also protects the more delicate pieces while adding extra flavor. When marinating poultry, make sure to the separate pieces, allowing the marinade to reach as much of the meat as possible. Skinless, boneless chicken breasts can be marinated in as little as 30 minutes. Here is a good, basic recipe for poultry marinade.
Place your newly made marinade in a gallon sized zip lock bag (the number and size of your zip lock will vary depending on how much chicken you are making). This step is pretty self explanatory, but the one thing to remember is to make sure that your chicken is fully immersed in the marinade. That way your chicken will be evenly marinated.
- Allow your marinade and chicken mixture to sit for the time called for in the recipe. This will vary, but be careful not to marinate too long, this can lead to mushy chicken due to the acidic nature of marinades. If you are marinating your chicken for close to or more than an hour, make sure to refrigerate the mixture.
For Fish & Other Seafood
Tender foods like fish and seafood can benefit from a good marinade. Marinades keep fish and seafood from drying out and the oil in the marinade helps keep them from sticking. There is one very important rule about marinating fish and seafood, however: A highly acidic marinade, one containing lots of vinegar or citrus juices, can adversely affect the texture of the fish by essentially pre-cooking it, so you need to use mild marinades for short periods of time.
When it comes to fish, there are two types: firm and flaky. A firm fish (think big fish) can take a stronger marinade for longer. Examples of firm fish are Halibut, Tuna, Marlin, or Sturgeon. Flaky fish, the kind that tries to fall apart on the grill, can't take a strong marinade and shouldn't be marinated for an extended period. Examples of flaky fish are salmon, trout, and cod.
To prepare your fish:
Chill the fish in the marinade in the refrigerator for half an hour. It will not need longer than that to absorb the flavor, and as previously mentioned, leaving fish or seafood in an acidic marinade means it will start to "cook" after half an hour, making it mushy.
Bake the fish for fifteen to twenty minutes, depending on the size and thickness, or grill or broil it. When it flakes easily with a fork, it is done. Spread the second half of the marinade over the cooked fish using a basting brush. It will soak right into the fish and add extra flavor. Do not use leftover marinade on the cooked fish because it could contain bacteria from the raw fish and cause food poisoning