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The Art of Marinades

The Art of Marinades

There is an art to making a good marinade, you might think it’s just about mixing some oil and vinegar with herbs, but there is more to it than that. You need to think about how the ingredients of the marinade will change the flavor and quality of the meat or fish you will be cooking on your O-Grill.

All marinades have elements that add flavor, and this is where the choice of herbs and spices is very important. Remember that oils, vinegar, wine and yoghurt, which are the basic components of most marinades, have their own flavor – sometimes no additional herbs or spices are necessary. A simple balsamic vinegar and olive oil mixture can make a good marinade on its own, but most of the time you will be adding other herbs and spices to add complex flavors to your O-Grill recipes!

Flavors For Your Marinade

There is a very wide range of flavors that you can use in your marinade. To get you started here are some simple examples of commonly used ingredients for marinades. Oils, wines, vinegars, dairy, and citrus fruit juices are usually mixed to make the liquid base for the marinade. The flavor is adjusted by adding zest, peppers, herbs and spices, pre-prepared sauces and condiments.

  • Oils

    Sunflower, Sesame, Peanut, Olive, Coconut

  • Wine & Vinegar

    Red or White Wine, Rice Wine (Sake), Wine or Rice Wine Vinegar, Balsamic Vinegar

  • Dairy

    Milk, Buttermilk, Yoghurt

  • Citrus Fruit

    Lime, Lemon, Orange, Grapefruit

  • Non-Citrus Fruit

    Papaya, Kiwi, Pineapple

  • Zest

    Grated Citrus Fruit Peel

  • Peppers (fresh, dried or flaked)

    Thai Red or Green, Jalapeno, Habanero, Scotch Bonnet (very hot!), Poblano, Chipotle

  • Herbs & Spices

    Japanese Style: Soy Sauce, Sake, Ginger, Teriyaki, Sugar
    Indian Style: Ginger, Curry Powder / Leaf, Cardamom, Cuminr
    Mexican Style: Citrus Fruit, Chili Pepper, Cilantro (Coriander), Cuminr
    Asian Style: Ginger, Galangal, Tamarind, Lemongrass, Chili

  • Sauces & Condiments

    Plum Sauce, Hoi Sin Sauce, Soy Sauce, Ketchup, Mustard, Oyster Sauce, Fish Sauce, Hot Sauce, Worcestershire Sauce (especially for burger marinades!)

When thinking about your marinade flavors, just look at the ingredients in dishes you like and see the herbs and spices that are in the list. You can almost always use the same herbs and spices that are used to make regional dishes to make a marinade in the same style.

Types of Marinade

There are three main types of marinade: acidic marinades, marinades that contain natural enzymes that soften the meat, and oil-based marinades. Let’s look at how they work.

Acidic Marinades

A common misunderstanding is that all marinades soften up tough meat and make it easier to eat. Marinades based on acids - the ones that use vinegar, wine or citrus juices - actually ‘cook’ the surface of the meat and make it a bit tougher. Acidic marinades give a wonderful sharpness to the flavor, but you’ll find that they are usually used on meat and fish that have already been cut into small pieces to make them easy to chew (like the Latin American fish dish Ceviche, or satay) or have been pre-cooked or tenderized before being put in the marinade (like Italian and German braised beef dishes).

Enzyme Marinades

The only marinades that can make meat softer are ones that contain yoghurt, milk or some fruit juices. Papaya, pineapple juice, kiwi, figs and even honeydew melon all contain compounds that help to tenderize meat. The main ingredient in most commercial meat tenderizers you can find in shops is the same compound that is found in Papaya fruit. You have to be a bit careful with papaya in particular as the effect can be very strong - you want your meat to be succulent but not too soft. Use lless rather than more, and check the texture of the meat with a fork while marinating to make sure you get it out and cook it on your O-Grill before you go too far!

Oil Based Marinades

Oil based marinades are perhaps the simplest. Just oil, herbs and spices. The flavor can be strongly affected by the choice of oil, and using sesame or peanut oil makes a big difference compared to using a more neutral oil like sunflower. Oil based marinades work well with most vegetables as well as meat, fish and poultry, and if you use hot sesame oil they can be very spicy! The oil also helps the marinade stick well during cooking.

Marinade Mixture Ratios

As a general rule, use two parts of wine, vinegar, juice or dairy (or a combination of these) to one part of oil in your basic mixture - for an oil marinade, you just use the oil! Then add other ingredients to adjust the flavor. For example, a very simple marinade for a Japanese flavor would be one part sesame oil to two parts rice wi

How Much Do You Need?

As a simple rule, you need to mix about 4oz of marinade per lb of meat being marinated. This should be enough to cover the meat when you put it in a dish with the marinade.

How Long Will It Take?

A very important question! Remember that with some enzymes if you leave it too long it might cause problems with the meat getting too soft. This is not a problem with oil or acidic marinades, but these don’t need to be left as long as you might think as the marinade normally only gets about ¼” into the meat no matter how long you leave it in there.

For steaks, 2 hours is adequate, but if you are cooking a whole shoulder or brisket then you will need to leave it overnight as a minimum. Poultry takes between 2 and 6 hours depending on whether you are marinating pieces or a whole bird. Scallops, shrimp, and fish filets may only need 15-30 minutes before they are ready - a useful thing to know if you find yourself putting together a menu for your O-Grill at the last minute!

Be Inventive!

Most of us would rather put our heads in a bucket of water than try to come up with a new recipe, but marinades are so easy to work with you’ll soon get the hang of it. If you refer to the flavor table you can see it’s quite easy to design a marinade that will include the flavors you want to make a mouthwatering dish on your O-Grill! Experiment and see what you can come up with, and let your favorite dishes inspire the flavors for your marinades!