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How To Properly Marinate Meat

September 23, 2015

Marinating meat can bring new flavor to your meals, and it may play a role in keeping your meat tender. There are a number of benefits to marinating meats, yet so many people do not know how to do this properly. The process does not take long, and you can get tons of great flavor from it. Here is a guide explaining the right way to marinate meat.

Choose The Type Of Marinade You Want To Use

There are many different types of marinades on the market, and each one has different setting and application requirements.

  • Acidic Marinades: These are the most common marinades used in grilling. They will involve oil, acid (vinegar, citrus, wine), and flavorings.
  • Dairy Marinades: Much milder than acidic marinades, but they can provide the most tender meats if left long enough. They usually consist of buttermilk or Greek yogurt, though they can have other dairy ingredients.
  • Enzymatic Marinades: Made with the help of enzymes from certain fruits, like kiwi, papaya, and ginger. These are subtle but incredibly flavorful under the right application.

Know what kind of marinade you’re working with before you get into the marinating process so you can set yourself up for success.

Acidic Marinades 

Acidic marinades are good for breaking down the bonds in meat that hold proteins together. This makes the meat tender, but only if you use it for the right amount of time. Anything longer than about two hours will result in tougher meat because the marinade will start to retighten the bonds it once broke.

You can minimize this effect by reducing the amount of acid in the marinade. Go light on the lime, lemon, or vinegar in the marinade, and add that to the surface of the meat before and during grilling. You’ll still get the flavor you’re after, but you won’t have to worry about your meat getting tough.

Dairy Marinades 

Dairy marinades are meant to sit for a long time. Most of them work best if they are left to sit for six hours or more. Note that you have to refrigerate dairy based marinades, whereas you don’t always have to with the other options. If you leave the dairy marinade out for too long, the dairy components will start to spoil. Most people use this type of marinade for Southern fried chicken, Indian tandoori, and other meals like that. It works well with chicken, but it may not be suited for other meats.

Enzymatic Marinades 

Enzymatic marinades are a lot like acidic marinades. They do not work well if used for too long. Two hours is a good cut off time for these as well. Anything after that could result in overly mushy meat. Enzymatic marinades work best when they are exposed to the connective tissues of the meat. Many people will use a meat tenderizer before using this type of marinade so it can soak in the best. If you make your meat particularly thin, you may only want to marinade for an hour.

How To Marinate Meat

Once you know what type of marinade you are using and what you need to do for that specifically, you can apply the same basic steps to all marinating processes.

  1. Prepare a zippered freezer bag with your marinade inside.
  2. Coat the meat on top and bottom with the same marinade, and place it in the bag. Push out all the air so that the meat is as close to the marinade as possible.
  3. Set the bag in the fridge for the required length of time.

If you want to apply a dry rub to the meat as well, you might do so before the marinade or right before you grill. Keep a little of the marinade out of the bag to use while grilling, coating each side as you turn the meat. Even though the marinade may have soaked through the meat, it can’t hurt to have an extra kick on the surface. Test this out with a few different recipes, and you’ll be a marinating machine in no time!

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