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A complete guide :
How to Marinate your
Meat to Perfection


Marinating meat is a basic skill in the arsenal of any home or professional cook. Just immerse the meat in your preferred flavored liquid, let it rest in the refrigerator overnight or longer ( time depends on the size of the cut) and Cook it when the flavors have entrenched themselves deep in the meat fibers .

It might seems like a simple task, but one as to exert caution when preparing it (duration, safety) so as the marinade actually enhanced your meat, you have to make sure that it is not doing more harm than good.


Choose you ingredients well

There are three main categories of ingredient that can be used in a marinade: acids, oils and aromatics. Acids — brings that hint of sourness and the peps your dish needs — include but not limited too citrus juice (lime, lemon, orange,...), vinegar (rice, wine, balsamic,...) and yogurt. Oils, will keep the meat moist and juicy, can be neutral in flavor (canola, vegetable, peanut); in-between (olive, nut); and assertive (sesame). There are endless possibilities when it comes to herb and spices, rosemary, oregano, star anise, peppercorns, garlic, onions, ginger, herbs, chili and the myriads of spices out there. One of the most important point when preparing your marinate is that enhance flavors and tanginess is saltiness. It you don't want your meat to be bland you need to season it well and bring salt in it but it doesn’t have to actually be salt, oster sauce, soy sauce, miso, dashi, pickling juice or fish sauce can be used.

 

Time vs Penetration into the meat

Most flavors will not get that far into the meat meat. However, as the surface is what you taste first it is fine as it is. Should you leave the meat longer into the marinade it will start to cure it and that is also fine if it is what your are looking for however long marination should be done properly. Marinades are generally better for lean proteins — chicken breasts, flank steak, shrimp: You’ll get a better ratio of flavored surface per serving than you would in a larger, thicker cut of meat. Dry rubs and long and slow cooking time are usually better for bigger pieces of meat. You could also use the "ham technique" injecting you flavoring into the meat using a syringe but you might end up with an overcured and watery meat.

Time is your friend, and shorter doesn't necessary mean less intense flavors

 When it comes to marinade one could end up with the same intensity in flavor no matter how long the meat has been marinated. The "rest overnight in the fridge" argument is usually for the sole purpose of convenience. So how long should you marinate it?

  • Very large pieces of meat usually exceeding 6 kg (brisket, prime rib, pork shoulder, leg of lamb, turkey): 24 hours.
  • Large pieces of meat less than 5 kg more than 2 kg (beef and pork tenderloins, pork loins, rack and butterflied leg of lamb, whole chickens, large whole fish): 6 to 12 hours
  • Medium pieces of meat 1-2kg (porterhouse steaks, double-cut pork chops, chicken halves or quarters, small whole fish): 4 to 8 hours
  • Medium-to-small pieces of meat (steaks, pork and lamb chops, bone-in chicken breasts or legs, fish steaks; also tofu, mushrooms and vegetables): 1 to 3 hours
  • Small pieces of meat (boneless chicken breast, fish fillets, shrimp): 15 minutes to 2 hours

Remember the duration written above are just reference times and they can be influenced by factors such as the strength of your marinade, an herb marinade won’t impart its flavors as quickly as one with strong spices or chili. (Tip: For spices roast them on a dry pan so they can release their full flavors before using them in your cooking)

Also keep in mind that extended marinating does not further tenderize meat. The “tenderizing” effect the acids in marinades have is, in fact, the breakdown of proteins on the surface of meat (carpaccio) or seafood. (Ceviche, raw seafood treated with a very acidic marinade, is a good example of how powerful ingredients such as lemon or lime juice can be in changing texture.) Use too much acid or leave something in it too long, and what you get is mushiness.

Should you want to take advantage of that "tenderizing" effect you without using acidic ingredient that would affect the taste of the end product could take some less "noble" and "harder" pieces of meat and marinate them for a few hour in your marinate + few Papaya leaves and/or some raw papaya slices it will have the same effect without the acidic taste.  

Safety first  

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