Marinating is one of the most useful cooking techniques for enhance the taste of food and change its texture, but it is used much less than we should.
Basically, a marinade or marinade is a mixture of salt oil, a liquid acid (vinegar or lemon, but also fermented alcohols) and herbs and spices which is used to cover the meat in order to soften its texture and improve its flavor.
Surely this technique had little gastronomic character: it was basically used to extend the life of food (or, rather, disguise its rotten taste) and soften pieces that were otherwise too tough to cook, such as game meats.
Today, however, its usefulness in gastronomy is infinite, and every good chef has different types of marinade in his repertoire. Both our traditional marinade —On which we made a complete guide recently—, as the Japanese teriyaki, the Korean bulgogi or the American barbecue sauce are ways of marinating foods, which greatly alter their flavor.
Many times we don’t even have to complicate our lives with one complex blend of herbs and spices (although it can be wonderful). Just put a chicken breast in a mash of oil, garlic, lemon, salt and parsley for its flavor and juiciness to multiply by 10.
The science of marinade
The presence of acid is what differentiates a marinade from a simple one brine –Composed of water, salt and, sometimes, sugar. Brines, like marinades, serve to preserve food, but the presence of acids in marinades also makes them substantially change its structure.
The salt of the marinade cure the meat effectively (draws out moisture), making it more difficult to overcook and stiff. For its part, the acid component coagulates proteins, partially cooking the meat in advance, which makes it soften, something essential to cook, as we will see, some cuts. As for oil, many of the chemicals that make up the flavors of herbs and spices are soluble in fat (not water), so oil allows marinade to absorb, and its flavor is distributed and floods the whole piece. Fat also partially reduces the taste of acid and salt, softening their otherwise excessive effect.
What meats should we marinate
Marinades especially benefit tougher or tasteless cuts. It does not make much sense to marinate an old beef ribeye, but there are countless cuts to which it feels great.
In general, marinades especially benefit poultry, rabbit, most pork, tougher cuts of veal, non-suckling lamb and, of course, any game, for which it is usually essential.
What is the best proportion of a marinade
The key to a good marinade lies in achieve the correct ratio of fat, acid and salt. If we use the vinegar or lemon, the meat will taste too pickled; If we add too much salt, logically, it will taste salty; And if the oil gets out of hand, the herbs and spices won’t have enough concentration to work their magic.
A standard marinade formula can be used as a proportion of three parts of oil to one of acid, which should completely cover the part. 2% of the weight of the dish (marinade plus meat) must be salt, which means adding around one tablespoon for every half kilo.
Although in Spain we are used to using the olive oil For everything (and there is nothing wrong with that), some marinades, especially those typical of oriental cuisine, benefit from the use of other types of oils, which less alter the flavor of the spices.
How long should we marinate the meat
To marinate any food it is necessary to leave the piece submerged in the marinade long enough, but this depends on the type of meat, its hardness and, of course, the size of the piece. As a general rule, the harder and bigger the cut, the longer you have to marinate it. But marinade times also differ around the type of meat.
A whole chicken should be marinated for at least 12 hours, even if it is can benefit from a marinade for up to three days. If, on the other hand, we are marinating some wings or breasts, it is enough to keep them in the marinade for about three or four hours – although they will get more flavor if they mature for a whole day.
You can try these recipes:
The flavor of pork lends itself especially to the salt cure, not in vain we consume it mainly in the form of sausage, but the acid can give it a mealy texture over time, so it should never be marinated for more than 24 hours.
Here are some of our best pork marinade recipes:
When salted too long, beef can take on a sticky texture and flavor reminiscent of canned meat, which we probably want to avoid. That is why, like the pig, it is better not to marinate the veal for more than one day.
Some fine cuts, like skirt steak, especially benefit from short marinades, between two and four hours.
Here are our best beef marinades:
In Spain, the lamb that is usually consumed suckling is not usually marinated (something unthinkable in the rest of the world), but older pieces, such as lamb or paschal lamb, especially benefit from a marinade, something very common in kitchens from the Middle East and the Maghreb.
These recipes will show you the way:
Rabbit meat is usually prepared in slow cooks, which make it possible to soften a meat that is impossible to cook, for example, grilled, because it is too hard. But a marinade allows you to prepare the rabbit in many other ways, for example grilled, with surprising results.
We recommend you try this rabbit marinated with almond sauce and brandy or the classic rabbit in Canarian salmorejo, one of the most celebrated recipes in the archipelago, which is neither more nor less than an exquisite rabbit in marinade.
A safety warning
There is a belief that the acids in marinade kill bacteria that might be present in meat, but this is not true. Bacteria can also grow in a marinade, especially if we leave it out of the fridge. That is why meats should always be kept while marinating in the refrigerator, to take them out only half an hour before cooking, if we do not want them to be too cold (something essential if we are going to cook the pieces on the grill or grill).
It is also not convenient reuse leftover marinadeAs marinades can contain the juices from raw foods and, with them, potential pathogens.
Images | iStock / Pixabay
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