This past year for me was the year of the marinade. During many of my cooks, I found myself marinading more and more of my meats prior to cooking on the grill or smoker. Marinades are a great way to add surface flavor to thicker cuts of meat, and with thinner cuts that flavor permeates much closer to the center.
If you want to jump directly to the recipe, you can click here. If you’re interested more in the ins and outs of marinades, keep reading…
Basics of Marinades
A basic marinade consists of the following components:
The liquid acts as the carrier for the acid, salt, and flavorings. In many commercial marinades, this carrier is oil. However, Amazing Ribs notes that oil-based marinades will not penetrate meat at all and rather suggests using water as the carrier to make a paste. The acid (usually in form of a fruit juice or vinegar) assists with surface tenderization of the protein. The salt acts as a flavor enhancer, and flavorings are the extra ingredients to make the marinade flavorful!
A 1-to-1 ratio of liquid to acid works well for heartier cuts of meat such as beef. For white meats and more delicate proteins, a 2-to-1 ratio (or 3-to-1) is more appropriate. The marinade time is important as well. For large hearty cuts, you’re safe to marinade all day. However, more delicate meats such as chicken do not need as much time (or the texture will be off). And seafood and vegetables need at a most 30 minutes.
Common Myths of Marinades
Marinades Penetrate Deeply
Since most meat is majority water, there’s simply no more room for further anything else to penetrate. The only exception here is salt, but even then it takes salt a full day to penetrate 1 inch deep into meat.
Simply due to the fact that there’s not much penetration of marinade into meat, there is very little tenderizing that will take place beyond the surface of the meat.
Longer Marinade Times are Better
This is not always the case, especially depending on the protein and acid content of the marinade. More delicate proteins that are marinaded for too long will turn the meat mushy and “faux cook” the protein.
My Marinade Process
I went with a 2-to-1 ratio of liquid to acid in this marinade, and I split that evenly between oil and water. Because I was working with red meat, I decided to forego a heavy use of sugary flavorings and went with a more savory flavor profile. My 3 secret ingredients in this marinade are beef stock concentrate, a smoked barrel aged balsamic vinegar, and ground coffee. The goal here was to go with a powerful flavor, and I would call it successful!
- ⅓ cup neutral flavored oil (vegetable or canola)
- ⅓ cup distilled white vinegar
- ⅓ cup water
- 1 tbsp beef stock concentrate
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar (I used a smoked barrel aged balsamic)
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 tbsp coarse ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- 1 tbsp coarse ground coffee (I used a medium roast)
- ½ tbsp chili powder
- Combine all ingredients and mix until well incorporated