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Article Published June 19, 2019
Let’s Marinate on That
Laura Robida, Zip06 Digital Media Manager

Welcome to summer! Take a deep breath. Smell that? That's right. It's grilling season. Let's make the most of it with the help of some marinades.

Why marinate? It's one of the easiest and most effective ways to add flavor to meat before laying it down on a hot grill.  A great marinade can help improve a not-so-great cut of meat. At the same time, marinade a great cut of meat and you've got magic. And while a common myth leads us to believe simply marinating an old, tough cut of meat will help tenderize it, it will only work on the surface of the meat. If you've got a particularly tough cut of meat, you may want to consider brining instead.

Marinades are perfect for thin cuts of meat like steaks, single cut chops, and chicken breasts. They're also well-suited for chunks of meat used for kabobs and stir-fries. Add your cut into a marinade and let it soak in the refrigerator. Don't leave your meat, too long, though. Acid-based marinades can leave the outer layer of your meat mushy instead of tender. Just a quick soak will do for those marinades.

So, what goes into making a marinade great? It's surprisingly simple. Most marinades are a blend of three basic elements: acid, fat, and seasonings. Acids, like vinegar, buttermilk, wine, and even fruits like pineapple work to soften the meat's surface by weakening proteins. Fats, like those found in olive oil and coconut milk, act as moistening agents and flavor enhancers. And seasonings? They help enhance flavor and often help with caramelization.  Common seasonings include soy sauce, sugar, garlic, onions, and herbs and spices.

Now that we know what goes into a marinade, what do we do? Get creative! Marinating gives you the chance to experiment with exotic flavors and global cuisine while using familiar cooking techniques. Go ahead and play with ingredients!

Looking to bring a taste of Mexico to your grill? Try using lime, garlic, cilantro and cumin in your marinade.  Have a taste for something Thai? Coconut milk, lemongrass, and chiles may do the trick. Want to bring a taste of Japan to your grill? Go ahead and try sake, ginger, and dried shiitake mushrooms. For Indian, experiment with yogurt, lime juice, coriander, and curry.

Try these simple marinades the next time you fire up your grill.

Honey Bourbon: For beef

Ingredients

1/3 cup honey

¼ cup light brown sugar, packed

1/3 cup bourbon

¼ cup soy sauce

¼ cup Worcestire sauce

½ tsp. red pepper flakes

2 cloves garlic, minced

Combine ingredients and pour into a large glass container. Add beef. Turn to coat. Refrigerate two to four hours.

Tangy Tropical: For chicken

Ingredients

½ cup soy sauce

1/3 cup canola oil

¼ cup water

2 tbsp. dried minced onion

2 tbsp. sesame seeds

1 tbsp sugar

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 tsp. ground ginger

¾ tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

Combine ingredients and pour into a large glass container. Add chicken. Turn to coat. Refrigerate eight hours or overnight.

Homestyle BBQ: For pork ribs

2 cups soy sauce

½ cup light brown sugar, packed

1 tbsp. dark molasses

1 tsp. salt

Combine ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Allow the marinade to cool to room temperature before pouring into a large glass container. Add ribs. Turn to coat. Refrigerate for four hours.