Marinades are used for two purposes: flavoring tender cuts of
meat and tenderizing tough cuts of meat.
The main ingredient in a tenderizing marinade is an acid that breaks down the tough fibers in meat. Common acids are citrus juices, vinegars, wines, and yogurt. Fresh pineapple and papaya contain natural enzymes that function as tenderizers.
- Mix marinade several hours before using so the flavors meld.
- Marinade should cover the meat completely to be effective. To save on marinade, one trick is to half cover the meat then flip it halfway through the marinade process.
- Marinate fish 30 minutes maximum. Longer and the fish will 'cook' in the marinade's acid, much like ceviche.
- Tough cuts of beef should soak for several hours since the goal is to break down fibers.
- Marinate pork and chicken about 2 hours. Chicken gets mushy if it is marinated too long.
- Meats should be covered and refrigerated while marinating to prevent bacterial growth.
- Since marinades contain acid, use the proper container. Glass is the best followed by ceramic dishes, stainless steel bowls, plastic bowls or plastic bags.
- Using a plastic bag saves cleanup because it can be discarded after use.
- Marinade only permeates the meat about 1/4 of an inch, regardless of how long it is soaked. To marinate larger cuts of meat marinade must be injected.
- Do not reuse marinade. It contains bacteria since it came in contact with raw meat. If you must, boil it thoroughly.
- Do not marinate frozen or partially frozen meats. When they unthaw the marinade will become diluted.
- Pat the meat dry before marinating.