May 18, 2010

Marinades! (And rubs too)

I am a huge fan of the marinade. I just think it makes meat and veggies better! Yes, I realize that there are some cuts of meat or types of fish/seafood that are so good/tasty/tender, they don't need to be marinated...but for the purposes of this blog, we are leaving that limited group out, and talking about everything else!

First of all, I'll tell you why you should marinade food. The big reason: you marinade food to add flavor. You also use marinade to tenderize. And, adding certain ingredients to your marinade can lock in moisture (oils), or help to make a caramelized coating on your meat (sugar or honey). Lastly - even if you use salt in your marinade, I can pretty much guarantee that the sodium levels will still be A LOT lower than if you were to use store bought marinades.

Marinades usually have 3 common ingredients: an acid, an oil, and a seasoning. You can also use several different ingredients from each category. Or leave one category out, if you want...but keep in mind that each ingredient group serve a specific purpose:
  • Acids: tenderize by breaking down tissue in meat, allowing marinade to penetrate better. Examples of acids are: citrus juices, wine, yogurt, beer, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce
  • Oils: lock in flavor; moisturize. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is great in marinades, because it has ingredients that help the marinade penetrate deeper and faster. Sesame oil is also a good choice.
  • Seasonings: flavor. Examples of seasonings to use: salt, pepper, fresh herbs, sugar, spices, ginger, chili's. 
Rubs add flavor, but do not tenderize. So use rubs for delicate meats like certain fish/seafood.

Don't over-marinade! Marinating for too long can make meat mealy or mushy.

Pat your meat/veggies dry before putting them in the know what they say about oil and water!

Make sure to use a non-reactive pan or zip-top bag to marinade in.

Often times, I just use whatever I have on hand or what sounds good. In my mind, certain flavor combinations go together, such as: steak with red wine, pork with orange juice, tuna with lime, chicken with lime and cilantro, etc. I could go on and on forever. And that's just what sounds good right now! Depending on what I am in the mood for, those could change (it also greatly depends on what I have on hand). For whatever reason, I almost always use soy sauce (the lower sodium kind) in my marinades. I love the way it tastes! I also use seasoning blends if I am short on time (such as Italian seasoning blends, steak seasonings, etc)

Below are some marinades that I love, some basic and some a little more complicated. I guessed on a lot of the amounts because I don't measure anything, but these should be good for about 1 - 2 pounds of meat (or veggies! Let's not discriminate here!). Adjust according to your taste, of course. Also - at the end I included a recipe for a rub...this will make more than enough for 1 pound of meat - but you can just store it in a dry place and use it later!

Citrus Soy Marinade
Use for chicken, pork, tuna steaks, or whatever strikes your fancy
  • 1/2 cup of soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup of orange juice
  • 1/4 cup of lemon or lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Your choice of seasonings. A good option is: minced ginger, garlic, and crushed red pepper
Printable Recipe
    Red Wine Marinade
    Use this for steak, or whatever else you feel like!
    • 1/2 cup good, dry red wine
    • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
    • couple of dashes of soy sauce (or some kosher salt)
    • fresh cracked pepper
    Printable Recipe
      Sweet and Spicy Marinade
      I used this for a pork tenderloin last weekend, and it was divine*! But you can use if for whatever!
      • 1/4 cup of soy sauce
      • 1/4 cup of Worchestershire
      • 2 tablespoons of honey
      • 1/4 cup of Orange Juice
      • 2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
      • Kosher salt, fresh cracked pepper, garlic, Penzey's Northwoods Seasoning (which is salt, pepper, paprika, thyme, rosemary, garlic and chipotle)
      * after the pork marinated for about 4 hours, my dad seared it on the grill, then layered it with onions and wrapped it in foil to finish cooking. It was the best pork tenderloin I ever had. It was so tender and flavorful!

      Printable Recipe

      I don't use rubs nearly as often as I use marinades...but I do use them for certain things, such as BBQ chicken. BBQ sauce has sugars in it that burn when what you should do is put a BBQ rub on the chicken first, and then mop the BBQ sauce on only at the very end of cooking.

      The other dish I use a rub for is blackened fish or shrimp. I fell in love with blackened seasoning when I lived in North Carolina, and it is still one of my favorite ways to eat fish (any fish! Salmon, grouper, etc). Another fun know that seasoning that I love so much? Pizza and Pasta Magic? The dude that makes Pizza and Pasta Magic (chef Paul Prudhomme), is credited with inventing blackening. Does that make sense? What I am trying to say is that he is the first one to blacken. I believe he did it on redfish. Anyway, the basic technique for blackening is to dip the fish fillets in melted butter, coat them with blackened seasoning, and then pan fry them (usually best to do in a cast iron skillet on the grill outside...sometimes it can get stinky and smoky). However, I find that using the blackened seasoning as a rub is yummy too - then just cook your fish/seafood/chicken however you want! Here is a basic recipe for blackened can also buy chef Paul's blackening blends in the grocery store or on his website.

      Basic Blackened Seasoning
      Use for shrimp, fish, chicken, steak, pork, or whatever floats your boat!
      • 2 teaspoons salt
      • 1 teaspoon pepper
      • 1.5 teaspoon cayenne
      • 1 Tablespoon paprika
      • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
      • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
      Some recipes also call for onion powder, garlic powder, sugar, cumin or nutmeg. Use whatever sounds good and whatever you have on hand! The basic recipe is really good as is though.

      Printable Recipe

      I hope that this will be helpful to make your grill season more flavorful! Enjoy!

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