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What you need to know about using BBQ marinades

Take your grilling skills to a new level by learning how to make marinades for the food on your grill. By using your own gyros marinades, you can not only create many exciting and different flavors, but also make your grilled food more enjoyable and healthier to eat.

What is a marinade?

Marinating is a process used before grilling or barbecuing to add flavor and tenderize grilled foods, especially meat dishes. Marinating involves soaking the fish or meat in a mixture of ingredients (the marinade) before grilling, sometimes for just a few minutes, sometimes for several hours or even overnight. You can use marinades for any food you prepare, but they really come into their own when you use them on foods you cook on the grill.

This article introduces the different types of marinades you can use and explains the steps you should follow for successful marinating. It also points out some of the mistakes that are commonly made when making and using barbecue marinades.

Use a marinade for seasoning

There are thousands of different marinade recipes that can be used to season grilled foods – meat, fish and vegetables. The intensity of the flavor depends on the ingredients in the marinade and how long you marinate it.

For example, if you want to prepare shrimp on the grill, you can choose a lime marinade. The lime flavor enhances the flavor of the shrimp when it is cooked. However, as we will see later, shrimp should only be marinated for about half an hour. If you marinate them longer, the strong flavor of the lime will dominate that of the shrimp and spoil your dish.

However, this is not true for all fish dishes. Tuna has a strong flavor, so you may want to choose a recipe that recommends marinating for several hours. Generally, more strongly flavored and less delicate fish can be marinated longer, but the length of time will depend on the ingredients in the marinade.

If you’re making up a recipe for a jerk beef marinade with all sorts of spices and sauces, you want your grilled meat to be tender and have an intense flavor. In this case, you should marinate the meat for at least eight hours. The longer marinating time will affect both the flavor and tenderness of the meat when cooked.

Use your marinade to tenderize

Marinating is an excellent way to tenderize meat. The degree of tenderization depends on the ingredients you use. For tenderizing, barbecue marinades can be either acidic or enzymatic:

– Acidic marinade

Sour marinades contain vinegar, apple juice, lemon juice or wine as ingredients. These ingredients act on the coiled proteins in the meat (or fish), breaking them up by causing them to untwist. This process softens them.

It may seem a little strange to use acidic marinades for fish, but they can bring out the most wonderful flavors. The key is to use the right acidity for the type of fish you are marinating. The shrimp marinade described above should be a low-acid marinade (about one part mild acid to four parts oil) so that the shrimp don’t get tough.

A relatively firm cut of meat like a flank steak can tolerate a more acidic marinade, as the marinade will only penetrate a fraction of an inch into the meat and therefore not make it tough.

– Enzymatic marinade

Enzymatic marinades contain ingredients that break down the connective tissue of fish and meat. Raw pineapple, figs, papaya, honeydew melon, ginger and kiwi all contain these enzymes (also known as proteases or protein enzymes).

Enzymatic marinades must be used with caution, as they can work almost too well. For example, they turn tough muscle meat into mush if it is left in the marinade too long. In some cases, the meat doesn’t even go through an intermediate stage of tenderness.

Be sure to use a proven recipe when preparing marinades for your grill. As a general guideline, fish should be marinated for a short time (between 30 minutes and 2/3 hours, depending on the texture of the meat) and meat should be marinated for much longer (8 to 24 hours).

Marinades for grilling – three steps to follow.

Step 1

Find a good marinade recipe and prepare your marinade. Carefully note the recommended marinating times.

Step 2

Use a large porcelain container (with a lid) to marinate your fish or meat.


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