Marinating – Injecting Flavour

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.

FOOBY Tip FOOBY Tip

Although the French origin of the term marinating suggests otherwise, salt in fact does not belong in a marinade. The longer the meat sits in a salty marinade, the faster the moisture is extracted from the meat. This results in a tough, dry consistency. Instead, salt the meat shortly before frying or grilling, or upon serving.

The Basis of a Good Marinade

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:

  • Oil is always a good base for a marinade and can be refined with the addition of herbs or spices.
  • Create a fruity, sweet marinade with honey or fruit juice. Spicy ingredients such as chilli can create a perfect contrast to this. Also try some balsamic vinegar or soya sauce.
  • Marinades usually consist largely of vinegar, wine or lemon juice. The acids break down tough meat fibres, making it tender. A     little acid is good for every marinade.
  • For a creamy option, try using yoghurt or mustard as a base. The latter goes very well with honey, while a yoghurt and mint           marinade is delicious and fresh in summer.

The Brining Method

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.

Marinating – Method

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 Options

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:

  • Before marinating, flatten the tofu by placing it in between two sheets of kitchen paper and resting something heavy on it (tins, books or a skillet). Then leave it sit for ten minutes. This ensures that the marinade is better absorbed and the tofu will become crispy.
  • Avoid adding oil to your marinade – this will form a protective film and prevent the absorption of the spices.
  • Lime juice, soya sauce, vinegar or coconut milk are good bases for a tofu marinade.
  • Tofu also needs to marinate for a few hours – again, the longer it marinates, the more intense the taste.

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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