How to Make a BBQ Marinade

By Les Fenton

A BBQ marinade can make your BBQ meals more tasty and exciting. But it can also make them healthier by counteracting the potentially harmful by-products of BBQ cooking.

In this article I’ll explain how to make a bbq marinade and point out some of the mistakes commonly made by people when they make and use bbq marinades.

What is a BBQ Marinade?

The process of using a marinade is called marinating. It’s used before barbecuing or grilling and it does two things. It introduces new and exciting flavors into your cooking and tenderizes (more important with some foods than others).

The marinating process is carried out by soaking your food in the marinade before cooking, sometimes for just a few minutes and sometimes for many hours (or even overnight). Marinades can be used with any food you cook, but they really come into their own when used on the food cooked on your barbecue grill.

Use a Marinade for Flavoring

There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of different marinade recipes which can be used to flavor meat, fish and veg cooked on a bbq grill. The type and intensity of the flavor produced depends upon the ingredients of the marinade and how long the food is immersed in it.

For example, if you are going to cook shrimp on your bbq grill a popular choice is a lime marinade because lime enhances the flavor of shrimp when it’s cooked. But you need to take care. Shrimps should only be marinated for about thirty minutes because if you do it for longer the strong lime flavor will dominate the flavor of the shrimp and spoil it.

However, the same doesn’t apply to all fish dishes. Tuna, for example, has a strong flavor so its quite OK to choose a recipe which recommends marinating for several hours.

The general rule is that stronger flavored and less delicate fish can be marinated for longer. However, the length of time used will also depend upon the ingredients in your marinade.

If you are using a jerk beef marinade recipe which includes lots of different spices and sauces you’ll want your beef to be tender and intensely flavored. So to achieve this you would marinade for at least eight hours. The longer period of marinating alters the flavor and the tenderness of the meat once it is cooked.

Using Your Marinade for Tenderizing

As we have discussed above, marinating is also an excellent way of tenderizing meat. The amount of tenderization depends upon the ingredients you use.

There are two ways of tenderizing with a marinade, either ACIDIC or ENZYMATIC. Here are some examples of each of these ways:

Acidic Marinade

Acidic marinades contain vinegar, lemon juice, cider or wine as ingredients. These ingredients act on the coiled protein substances (you can only see these under a powerful microscope) within the meat or fish, breaking them up by causing them to unwind. As they unwind the meat or fish softens.

It may seem rather strange to use acidic marinades for fish, but they can produce the most wonderful flavors. It’s important to use the correct strength of acid for the type of fish you’re marinating. The shrimp marinade described above uses lime juice which is a low-acid marinade, but even so it should still be mixed with oil (generall four to six parts of oil to one of lime). This mixture will prevent the shrimp becoming tough.

A tight-textured cut of meat like flank steak will survive a more acidic marinade because the marinade only penetrates the meat by a fraction of an inch which will tenderize without toughening. It doesn’t follow that the longer you marinate the tenderer the meat. Left for long periods of time marinating can cause toughness rather than eliminating it.

Enzymatic Marinade

Enzymatic marinades contain ingredients which break down rather than uncoil the connective tissue in fish and meat. Raw pineapple, figs, papaya, honeydew melon, ginger, and kiwi all contain these enzymes (known collectively as proteases or protein enzymes).

The enzymatic marinades need to be used carefully because they can work almost too well. They will, for example, turn tough meat muscle into mush if it’s left in the marinade too long. In some cases the meat won’t even pass through an intermediate stage of tenderness.

Always use a proven recipe when preparing marinades for your bbq. You can start to experiment when you have really got the hang of it. As a general guide marinate fish for short periods of time (anything from 30 minutes to 2/3 hours depending upon the texture of the flesh) and meat for much longer periods (8 to 24 hours).

Three Basic Rules for Marinating

Here are 4 basic rules for you to follow when you start marinating:

1. Find a good marinade recipe and prepare your marinade. Make a careful note of the recommended times for marinating.

2. Use a large porcelain vessel (with a lid) to marinade your fish or meat. You’ll need just enough marinade to cover your food. If you have an excess of marinade, you can save it in a sealed container in the fridge for use on another occasion.

3. When you have covered your food in the marinade put the vessel in the fridge. The lower temperature will inhibit the growth of bacteria in your raw fish or meat and prevent oxidation of the marinade ingredients.

4. Get you BBQ grill up to the right temperature before you put your food on it. During cooking don’t scoop your raw marinade onto your meat, and don’t use the marinade left over in your basting vessel to prepare any sauces unless you intend to boil them first to destroy the bacteria.

Marinade Recipes

The flavoring ingredients in a marinade can include lots of different juices, oils, herbs, and spices, many of which you might never have heard of before because the art of using marinades is truly international. Over time marinade recipes have passed from hand to hand and country to country and used over and over again. Many have become really famous!

I have mentioned the jerk beef marinade above. Another example is the marinades used for Indian cuisine; they contain lots of spices such as, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and paprika.

Try using Google to search for marinade recipes. When you find one print it out and store it in a folder ready for future BBQ grills.

Barbecues for Sale provides up-to-date information and reviews on the web’s best-selling BBQ grills and tips and advice on bbq accessories, techniques and skills, and more info on marination.

Also visit Barbecues for Sale home page to read the latest BBQ grill reviews and sign up for our regular “Secrets and Tips” emails.

Tags: , , ,

Comments are closed.