Savannah Valley District

Finding Flavor in Marinades

Christine Patrick, County Extension EFNEP Agent

What do you look forward to when you sit down to a meal? Are you most concerned with how the food looks or are you busier calculating the number of vitamins, fiber, and protein? For 99% of us, the answer is neither! The flavor is what you are looking forward to. You want your tongue to be singing out “Tastes great! Tastes great! Tastes great!” Flavor puts the joy in eating, and if you’ve been having trouble finding flavor, try a little marinade.

A marinade is simply any seasoned liquid that can be used on meat, poultry, fish, or vegetables before you cook them. The marinade can be either cooked or uncooked. It will contain some kind of acidic ingredients – such as wine, vinegar, citrus juice, or other fruit juice. Whatever it is, the purpose is to tenderize the surface of meats, fish, and poultry and to encourage the transfer of flavors. Because of the acid, use a ceramic, glass, or stainless-steel dish to marinate your food in, never aluminum. It’s all a matter of basic chemistry because aluminum containers tend to pit after prolonged contact with any type of acid. Many marinades include some olive oil, melted butter, or other fat to baste the food as it cooks.

Let’s take a closer look at marinating meats. Tender beef cuts can be marinated for 15 minutes to 2 hours for added flavor. Tougher cuts or whole roasts may be marinated overnight. For less tender beef cuts, the marinade must contain acids such as lemon or lime juice, tomato juice or salsa, wine, sherry, vinegar, or yogurt. Other possibilities include a natural tenderizing enzyme found in fresh papaya, as well as ginger, pineapple, and figs.

A small amount of cooking oil added to the mixture will help the ingredients adhere to the meat and aid in browning during the cooking process. A tenderizing marinade reaches about a quarter inch into the surface of the meat. Therefore, marinades have maximum impact with relatively thin cuts of meat such as steaks and kabobs. A general rule of thumb is to marinate for about six hours, but no longer than 24 hours. Always let the process work in the refrigerator, not at room temperature to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Allow from a quarter to a half cup of marinade for every one to two pounds of meat. Turn the meat occasionally so that all sides are exposed to the liquid.

Before discarding your marinade, decide whether you want to incorporate any of it into a sauce to accompany the meat. Since it has been in contact with raw meat, bring it to a full rolling boil before using any of it to baste or to make the sauce.

Marinades don’t have to be complicated. Try mixing oil and vinegar with packaged dried salad seasonings for quick marinades for meats or vegetables. For lamb or fish you could try combining half a teaspoon each of turmeric and powdered ginger, one small, pressed clove of garlic, two to three tablespoons of lemon juice, and half a teaspoon of grated lemon rind. Marinate the meat covered in the refrigerator for two hours before cooking.

For more information on food safety or nutrition, visit the Clemson University Home and Garden Information Center on the web at .

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