Ready to add a great layer of flavor to your meal by simply resting food in the fridge? Marinating is a versatile and fun cooking method that is easier to make than you think – you just need a basic knowledge base.
Understand what marinating does
Marinating uses acid to break down protein in meat, tenderize it naturally, and help it absorb spices and other flavors better. The oil seals in moisture and adds a level of heat protection. A reminder of the acid factor: Matt Rotroff, director of business development at Meat products from Linzwarns that if meat is left in citrus for more than 24 hours, it will begin to “cook” as it does with ceviche or marinated fish.
Seasoning from herbs and spices rubbed into pork
Have fun experimenting with your ingredients
The sky is the limit with marinades, and the process really lends itself to scratch cooking because once you know the frame, you can let your creativity fill in the blanks. It all starts with the number three: the basic ratio is three parts oil to one part acid. The acid can be vinegar, wine, citrus, or yogurt, while the oil can be sesame, canola, olive, or even fish sauce. Beef, chicken, vegetables, and tofu can generally use the same marinades, with variety coming more from the flavor profile. In addition to oil and acid, you also have to take into account a third component: the taste! These are the herbs, spices, aromatics and salt.
Chicken can use apple cider vinegar and Worcestershire marinade in an American approach, while Middle Eastern recipes can use yogurt and mint and Asian flavors of rice wine and ginger. Salmon can be given a fresh twist, with tarragon and white wine, or a Japanese profile, with miso and mirin, a sweet cooking wine. If you’re looking for nice char, adding a small amount of honey or maple syrup can help caramelize the food as it cooks.
Match your meat with your method
The two reasons for marinating meat are to make it tender and to give it extra flavour. Because Meats By Linz specializes in premium meats, Rotroff says higher-end meats like porterhouse and ribeye can actually be ruined by marinades, but more affordable meats like flank or sirloin will really benefit, especially from tenderness.
know your timing
Marinating may not be ideal if you’re pressed for time, but it won’t take as long as you might think. For beef and chicken, Rotroff says two hours can do the job. You don’t want to go longer than 24 hours or so, as the marinade can toughen the meat. For fish, the general rule is 30 minutes, otherwise the fish may begin to boil. Vegetables only need about 30 minutes as they don’t need to be tenderized.
Delicious salmon fillets on a grill topped with lemon slices
Pay attention to the preparation
Think of ways you can let the marinade soak into the food. That means chopping and removing the skin if possible. As an added benefit, smaller pieces allow for faster cooking. As you prepare your marinade, calculate the portions carefully so that you have enough: Think 1/2 cup per pound of meat. Don’t forget to reserve some sauce before dipping the meat. Once you’re ready to go, one of the easiest ways to distribute the marinade and help with cleanup is to use a plastic zip-top bag, although non-metallic bowls will work too. Just don’t use foil, as a chemical reaction can mess up your entire recipe. Remember never to marinate at room temperature. Slide your food into the fridge, set a timer and enjoy the anticipation!