By Deviyani Srivastava
Have you ever wondered how some people find it a breeze to make dinners? How efficiently they can make that lemon butter fish or a juicy steak despite long hours away from home? The answer is simple – with a bit of planning and some creative ideas, it’s a breeze turning out delicious bits of meat.
The secret though, lies in the marinades. The moment you figure out the flavours you like, the sooner you can make a tailor-made marinade that will just knock your socks off.
We reveal this secret right here at BetterButter.
A good marinade uses five basic building blocks – sour, sweet, aromatic, salt and finally oil. With these tips you can create just about any delicious marinade of your choice.
Acid: Acids help meat by unravelling its proteins – this softens the surface and allows flavours to be absorbed. Acids include vinegar, wine, sherry, citrus juice, yoghurt, buttermilk and even beer.
Yoghurt and buttermilk tend to keep foods moist too, while a citrus-based marinade tend to make fish taste delicate and less fishy. It also helps to inhibit carcinogenic effects from grilling and roasting – think of acids like ‘free-radicals’ for meat. Use it sparingly for best results.
Fat or Oil:
The oil content in a marinade locks in the natural flavour of the food and prevents it from drying out. This also includes coconut milk. It adds moisture and helps keep marinated food from sticking to the grill. Some oils add flavour like olive, sesame, peanut and infused oils (such as chilli).
Aromatics or Seasonings:
These provide the unique flavours. Garlic, ginger and onion are great starting points but you can also use fresh herbs and minced chillies to spice things up. Seasonings include citrus peel/zest, soy sauce, mustard, lemongrass, salt and pepper, herbs and spices all penetrate the surface of the meat, giving it flavour.
Acids, fats and seasonings not only work well together but they also enhance each other’s functions when used in the right ratios.
Salt and Sugar – Sea salt, kosher salt, soy sauce, tamari sauce while you can use honey and sugar to sweeten your food other options to be used are brown sugar, maple syrup and jaggery.
So how long to marinate?
As a general rule, the longer food is left to marinate, the more flavoursome it will become. However, the ideal marinating time usually depends on what you’re marinating, the size of the ingredients and the type of marinade you are using. You can start with 2 hours if you’re in a hurry but overnight marinations work best (see chart below).