A grilling marinade is a very simple way to add flavor and moisture to grilled items. If you follow these basic rules, you’ll be able to create a long list of unique combinations of ingredients and invent your own grilling marinade.
Any grilling marinade will be made of three basic ingredients; Oils, Acids, and Seasonings. These three categories are the beginning of a grilling recipe that you create. Oils will not penetrate meat, they’ll simply coat the surface. This is why I usually don’t include oil in my grilling marinades unless I choose a highly flavored oil like walnut or sesame oil. However, many of the most flavorful oils have lower temperature “smoke points”, not the best choice for the grill, so I omit oil altogether.
Acids and seasonings will dictate the flavor of your grilling marinade. Acids are used because of their ability to tenderize items. This is largely overstated, though. Acids have a SLIGHT tenderizing effect, but not enough to make a big difference in your grilling marinade. The acids most effective at tenderizing tough cuts of meat are from tropical fruits like mango and papaya, but most often tomato products, vinegar, wine, or soy sauce are used.
Choosing the right cut of meat to marinate is the most important step. A cup of ketchup in a marinade will not make a tough cut of meat magically tender. Don’t expect your grilling marinade to turn tough beef into filet mignon, it won’t happen. Acids will break down connective tissues, but it’s the intense direct heat of the barbeque grill that will toughen and dry meats quickly. That’s why it’s important to choose a tender cut of meat to grill, because the cooking method of grilling won’t tenderize your item, regardless of which grilling marinade you choose.
The general rules of marinating are easy:
1) Longer = Stronger. The longer you marinate something, the stronger the flavor
2) Thicker = Longer. The thicker the product, the longer you’ll need to marinate it.
3) Tender = Shorter. A tender product will not need to be marinated as long.
4) Cooler = Cooler. ALWAYS marinate under refrigeration to keep bacteria growth down.
5) Acid resistant container = No Brainer. ALWAYS marinate in plastic or glass, never in copper or reactive metals.
A grilling marinade is perfectly matched for a dry cooking process like grilling. The marinade will add flavor and moisture for the quick, intense heat of the barbeque grill. You can create your own complex flavors of oils, acids and seasonings and invent the latest grilling marinade. A Grilling Rub is also considered a marinade, but made of dry instead of wet ingredients. How do you feel about adding oil to a marinade? For it or against it? Leave your comment below.