Learning how to marinate is a major step to great seasonal outdoor cooking (aka GRILLING!). It can also be a source of embarrassment, shame or disappointment (at the very least) if: 1) you don't really know how to do it, 2) you wonder why you'd even want to do it or 3) you have no idea how to go about the whole process in the first place. The good news is that when done correctly, marinating is a simple process that, can bring you countless grilling success stories with delicious and masterful results. So, which will it be then? Shame and stress or success and mastery? If you chose the latter, read on, and follow my very simple steps to marinating mastery. Marinate with a Mission. Marinating is done to add flavor, add moisture and to tenderize meat. Learning how to marinate will improve your cooking because it opens up a whole new level of creativity in cooking. There are limitless ingredients and one simple procedure. It makes for a very simple everyday cooking solution that incorporates a seasonal favorite - grilling outdoors! The trick is to take your favorite meat and make up a marinade for it on the spot - based on what ingredients you have on hand and your desired flavor profile. The formula may always be simple and always be the same, but the variety of ingredients will ensure that you are never bored! Proceed with Caution (but not too much!). In learning how to marinate, one of the things to determine is what meat you plan to use. A common mistake is to overestimate the meat tenderizing results that can be achieved with marinating. Yes, marinating will provide SOME tenderizing - but only some. You still cannot take shoe leather, marinate it and cut it with a butter knife. It's not going to happen - and expecting that will only produce those disappointing results I mentioned before. Like anything else you cook, it is always best to start with good ingredients and to consider the end result you desire. In addition, muscle tissue will absorb marinade better than fat tissue so using an overly fatty piece of meat will result in very little marinating actually getting into your product. There is a Method to the Madness (and to the Marinade). Making your own marinade is easy and ingredient options are virtually limitless. In most marinades, the essential ingredient is an acid, which acts as a slight tenderizer, but the type of acid you choose is completely open to your creativity and the type of dish you are making. Wine, lemon juice, tomato juice, balsamic vinegar, orange juice pineapple juice and margarita mix are all fairly common acids that work great in marinades. Adding oil is also an option, but keep in mind that the oil itself will not be drawn into the muscle tissue. Oil in this case is used solely for flavoring so if you use oil, choose a flavored oil. Fresh herbs and spices can also add flavor to marinades and you've got lots of choices here, too. When using herbs, remember that whole herbs release their flavor slowly so they work best for long marinades. If you are going with a quicker marinade, grind up the herbs before use to impart their flavor more quickly. Then you just make it up! Yes, you read that correctly. There is no recipe here because there are hundreds of recipes for marinades and I don't know what you like or what you're making. The key to cooking success is to learn the basic cooking methods, the techniques of achieving the end result you desire, and then let your taste, imagination and your unique situation be the guide for making up your very own marinade recipe, which might be different each and every time you marinate. The only Reaction should be a Good One. Always place the product you are marinating (with the marinade) in an air-tight container to keep the moisture in. Remember - one of the reasons we are going through this process is to add moisture so you don't want to lose it at the same time! How long you let the juices soak in to the meat depends on how much time you have and the cut of meat you are using. The thicker the meat, the longer you will have to marinate to impart the flavor into the protein. Remember to use an acid-resistant container such as stainless steel. Don't use copper or pewter as this can react with the acid, making those who eat the food sick. Finally, always store the container in the refrigerator for the entire duration - until you cook the meat. Remember to always discard the marinade after you have finished marinating and never re-use the marinade during the cooking process because it has had raw meat soaking in it for a length of time. In these ways, you are ensuring food safety.
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