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Marinating and brining can give more flavour and a tender consistency
While meat in particular goes excellently with a tasty marinade, the flavour of vegetables and tofu can also be transformed with a spicy, sweet or exotic taste.
The term marinade comes from the French word “mariner” which means “to place something in salt water”. This alludes to the original purpose of both marinating and brining which was the preservation of food. Marinating was a very important element of long journeys overseas. In recent times, it is more commonly used for making meat more flavourful and tender. It is also a very popular preparation method for barbecued food.
Marinating and brining are often confused with one another but generally speaking, marinating usually involves a wet mixture, while brining generally involves a dry rub with salt.
A marinade can consist of a wide variety of flavours which are then absorbed by the marinated food. Marinating food items at home is not difficult and there are many ways to experiment with different ingredients:
Brining is a very popular way of treating fish. Unlike a marinade, the main ingredient of a dry brine is salt. Try making your own gravlax with a bit of salt, sugar and dill. After cleaning the fish, simply rub the brine on both sides of the fish and then leave it to sit for at least 24 hours or as long as a few days.
As is the goal behind gravlax, the salt draws the water out of the salmon, thus giving it a firmer consistency and a longer shelf life. It is essentially cooked by the salt. The brine is then washed off after a few days – depending on the thickness of the fillet. The salmon does not need to be cooked afterwards, it can either be eaten immediately or kept for a couple of days.
Regardless of the type of marinade or which food you are marinating, it’s best to plan some extra time for the flavours to be absorbed properly. Meat should be left for at least a few hours – the longer you leave the food to marinate, the more intense the flavour becomes. In some cases the spices may lose their power so make sure to add enough seasoning. As a rule of thumb, some say that the marinade should be twice as spicy as the final product. When marinating meat, you should completely cover the meat in the marinade and store it in an air tight container in the refrigerator.
Before barbecuing marinated meat, you should drain the liquid off, or even pat the meat dry before cooking. If the marinade drops into the coals, this can lead to larger flames that may burn the food. To keep the meat tender and juicy, brush a small amount of the marinade onto the meat during cooking.
Note: If you have a temperature-controlled water bath, you can use the sous vide cooking method to marinate food even faster. Simply place the food in vacuum sealed bags, in the water bath and set it to the required temperature. When marinating meat in a vacuum, the lack of oxygen causes the fibres to open up and absorb the flavours even faster. Compared to the marinating method that requires a couple of hours, this method only takes a matter of minutes.
Vegetarian barbecues are not just limited to vegetables, but tofu can also be a great addition. Although the flavour of tofu can be quite neutral in its natural form, marinating tofu in various herbs and spices works extremely well. While doing this, there are a few things to remember:
After frying or barbecuing the tofu, you can brush some extra marinade over it, or perhaps try mixing the remaining marinade into a pesto with oil and herbs.
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