Marinating Techniques for the Grill
Marinating foods can make grilling more creative, whether it’s for a delicious steak, chicken, seafood, or vegetables. Steeping meat, poultry, seafood or vegetables for anywhere from a few minutes to several hours in a mixture consisting of some sort of acidic liquid (citrus fruit juice, tomato juice, wine or vinegar), oil, herbs and spices imparts flavors that can compliment the natural taste of the foods. What’s more, a marinade adds moisture to the foods, particularly if it is used for basting. Dry marinades – blends or herbs or spices without added liquid – are sometimes used to season fish and other delicately flavored foods.
Always marinate foods in a glass, ceramic or plastic container. Most marinades contain acidic ingredients which can react with metal and cause off-flavors in the food, as well as damage to the metal container.
Marinades were traditionally discarded, as they could harbor bacteria from the raw meat or poultry; however, if they are brought to the boil for 5 minutes they are safe and can provide a wonderful sauce (a warm vinaigrette). Because of the danger of bacterial contamination, do not baste food during the last 15 minutes of cooking with a marinade that has not been boiled. Otherwise, the cooking time may be too short to kill any bacteria that may have been transferred from the raw meat to the marinade.
One claim made about marinating – that it tenderizes food – is highly overrated. While acid does break down protein fibers to some small degree, only long, slow cooking can truly make a tough piece of meat tender.