Marinades can be used to create interesting dishes full of flavour. Marinades are used to tenderize cuts of meat that are a little tough and help increase their juiciness. Most marinades include an acidic component such as lemon juice, wine or vinegar in addition to herbs, condiments, oils and spices. The acidic component is what tenderizes the meat while helping to balance out the sweet or spicy flavours of the marinade. In addition to being delicious, studies show that marinades are also nutritious!
The oil content in a marinade locks in the natural flavour of the food and prevents it from drying out. Some oils can also add flavour. Good oils for marinating include olive, sesame, peanut and infused oils (such as chilli).
These ingredients tenderize meat by unravelling its proteins – this softens the surface and allows flavours to be absorbed. Acids include vinegar, wine, sherry, citrus juice, yogurt and buttermilk.
These provide the unique flavours. Garlic, ginger and onion are great starting points but you can also use fresh herbs and chilli to spice things up, or honey and sugar to sweeten your food. Seasonings include citrus peel, soy sauce, mustard, salt and pepper, and herbs and spices.
As a general rule, the longer food is left to marinate, the more flavourful it will become. However, the ideal marinating time usually depends on what you’re marinating, the size of the ingredients and the type of marinade you are using.
Small or tender cuts, such as lamb and beef fillets, chicken breasts and seafood, require shorter marinating times (usually two to four hours). Larger or tougher cuts such as leg, rump or shoulder will need longer (usually four to six hours).
Be careful when using acidic marinades. Foods left too long in these blends can change colour and texture. Fish fillets, for example, can change in a matter of minutes.
Marinades used for raw meat or poultry can be used to baste ingredients as they cook, or for a sauce, but they need to be boiled first. Place the marinade in a saucepan over high heat and boil for 5 minutes. This will kill any harmful bacteria.