Marinating 101: Some Tips for the Beginner

A marinade is a slightly to moderately acidic sauce that you “soak” your meat and vegetables in before you grill it. It is used to give the meat and vegetables flavor and tenderize them. A marinade is not to be confused with a rub, which is usually a dry seasoning you rub into the meat before grilling…but that is another post for another day.

There are several way to marinade meat. Here are a few:

  1. Open Bowl. An open bowl is the best alternative for marinating meat that you intend to turn (stir is not the right word to use) often. I use the open bowl when I am marinating with a very thin/watery marinade. The meat needs to be constantly saturated with your marinade for it to be effective.
  2. Closed Bowl or Container. A good alternative to the Open Bowl because of the ability to shake the bowl to agitate the meat in the marinade. It is generally not a good idea to use this method with vegetables, as it can bruise them easily.
  3. Ziplog® or Baggie. The fastest — and my personal favorite — way to marinate. Put the meat into a baggie and shake to spread evenly. Squeeze out the air and you are ready to go. By squeezing out the air you are creating a quasi-vaccuum forcing the marinade into the meat. It also allows you to massage the marinade into the meat. This is also the least messy, as you can just throw the baggie away when you are done.

Some general rules for marinating:

  1. Always marinate in the refrigerator. Never leave the meat on the counter. Believe me, it makes a difference.
  2. Never marinate different meats together. Different meats have different cooking times. Chicken must be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees. Steak can be taken off the grill at 145. If you have bacteria from your chicken on your steak and remove the steak at 145, you could easily ingest live bacteria from the chicken. Salmonella, anyone?
  3. Never marinate in aluminum foil. A chemical reaction takes place and you meat will taste horrible. In fact, though some will argue this with me, never marinate in any metal container. A glass, porcelain, or plastic container works best.
  4. Poultry and cubed/stew meat can be marinated up to 2 days.
  5. Beef, veal, pork, and lamb roasts, chops, and steaks may be marinated up to 5 days.
  6. If you plan on using some of the marinade for basting while on the grill, make sure you thoroughly heat the marinade before the meat leaves the grill. Good rule of thumb is stop using the marinade you soaked the meat in when you have at least five minutes of cook time remaining per side.
  7. Marinades make the best dipping sauce to serve with your meat…you don’t have to worry about clashing flavors! If you are planning on doing this, be careful though. The best practice is to reserve some of the marinade before you put meat int it. If you absolutely have to use the same marinade that you had your meat in, you must boil it first to kill any bacteria.
  8. Freeze your meat/marinade mix. It never fails. You are sitting on your couch and the phone rings. SURPRISE! That estranged friend or relative is “in the neighborhood” and wants to stop by. Good thing you thought ahead. You go to the freezer and grab a package of your meat/marinade combo and set it out to thaw. As it thaws, the marinade will go to work. Just don’t leave it in there for months and expect it to taste right.

There you go. Just a few tips on marinating. Keep checking back for more tips from the Grill Masters. Follow us on twitter at: @thekruser and @fromaniac.

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