Marinades are one of the easiest ways to add flavor to meat and keep it moist and juicy. In addition to maximizing the flavor of meats, poultry, seafood and even vegetables, marinades can also transform the flavor profile of your meals with simple ingredients. Sticking to a basic premise of ingredients can result in a successful marinade every time, while utilizing simple ingredients you may already have on hand.
Most often, marinades consist of similar basic ingredients: an acid (like vinegar or citrus), herbs, fat and sometimes a sweetener (like honey or brown sugar) to help caramelize the meat as it cooks. Sticking to this simple premise can result in juicy, tender and flavorful meats and vegetables with little more than time.
Types of Meat and Length of Marinade
The time is takes for meat to absorb the flavors in a marinade depend on the type of meat, size and cut. Additionally, the diverse flavors and textures of meat accept different flavors of herbs, spices, oils and vinegars differently. Experimenting with different oils, vinegars and aromatics can result in timeless marinades your family will use over and over again.
Marinades are also appetizing additions to a variety of cooking methods. Grilling marinated meats is a popular choice among cooks and food preparation because of the ease of marinating over night and throwing on the grill the next day. Both charcoal and gas grills can add a smoky flavor to infusion of marinade, caramelizing any sugars in the mixture that have been absorbed by the protein.
Because of the tenderizing affects that marinades have, pork is a meat that lends itself extremely well, preventing dryness and chewiness that can turn people off when consuming pork. A variety of flavor profiles are delicious with the white meat, from Asian to home-style to barbecue. Another delicious flavor that compliments the taste of pork is Dijon mustard, which is a simple addition to a simple olive oil, vinegar and herb marinade. Herbs like rosemary, thyme and oregano are additions to pork marinades that can bring out the sweet, rustic flavors of the meat with woodsy notes and a delicious punch. Chili garlic sauce marinades can be an exquisite addition to the flavors of pork, adding Asian flair and spice.
Since beef encompasses an array of diverse cuts of meat, steak marinades and barbecue marinades are popular additions to give the flavor great oomph while tenderizing even the most economical cuts of steak. The larger the cut of steak or roast, the longer it must marinade, often ranging from 2 hours marinating within a refrigerator to an overnight soak. Mesquite marinades are particularly complimentary to beef and steak, especially adding quality when grilled or barbecued.
The flexible nature of poultry makes chicken a wonderful palette for the addition of a flavorful marinade. Adding fresh or even dry herbs can give formerly bland everyday poultry a kick. Hot sauces, pepper flakes, Asian oils (like sesame) and a touch of sweetness from honey can help transform any cut of chicken, from breasts to thighs to drumsticks into a delicious feast.
Although shrimp is a delicious protein that adopts the flavors of marinades well, marinating shrimp is much different than other previously mentioned proteins. Adding flavor with marinade to shrimp before grilling or sautéing does not require the time it takes for meat to absorb flavor. Instead, shrimp should only be marinating for a short time, approximately an hour, in order to infuse flavor without "cooking" the shrimp with acids present in the marinade mixture. Lemon juice and garlic flavors lend themselves especially well to the flavors of shrimp and seafood marinades.
Hot and spicy marinades are particularly exciting for some cooks, balancing flavors and adding to the overall taste of the meat or protein.