While it might be too hot to cook in the kitchen, summer grilling is never a problem. Now days, with the super grills they sell, you can cook or bake just about anything outdoors. But even if all you have at your disposal is a tabletop charcoal grill, you can still be the top chef in the neighborhood.
People grill pizza and veggies, but the number one food to grill is meat. If that is what you plan to do, you should marinate your meat.
Marinades add flavor and moisture to meat, plus help break down the tissue, making the meat tender. There are countless marinades, but if you examine them, they all contain three basic elements: fat, acid and seasoning. How you want the meat to taste will determine the ingredients you’ll use.
These do three things in a marinade: Help transfer flavors in the meat, helps the meat retain moisture, and helps balance the acidic component. Most common fats used: Cooking oils (canola, vegetable and EVOO), coconut oil and even full fat yogurts.
Like fats, acids do several things to the meat: helps flavor penetrate the meat, breaks down the connective tissues to tenderize it, balances the flavor profile, and can add zing and freshness to the flavor. Examples of acids in marinades are: citrus juices (lemons, limes, and oranges), wine, vinegar, yogurt and buttermilk.
The most important component in your marinade is the seasoning. With endless possibilities, here are some basics to consider. Use salt and pepper. Salt magnifies other flavors. Try using sea salt or soy sauce. If you want a little heat, think about chili peppers or hot sauce.
Aromatics are also important. Garlic, onions and shallots add the base. Herbs and spices add an extra layer of flavor. Remember to mince or finely chop onions shallots and garlic for better flavor.
If you want more of a citrus flavor without adding more acid, use the zest. And don’t waste the fruit! Slice them and toss into the marinade.
Add a little sweetness. The most common sugar additives are: honey, brown sugar, and molasses. If adding a lot of sugar, remember to grill in a lower heat so the sugar sears the meat, but doesn’t burn causing a bitter flavor.
How much to use? That’s a matter of personal taste, but the ratio of oil to acid is generally 3:1. The seasonings are a matter of taste, too.
Finally, unless you have a tough cut of meat, several hours is sufficient to marinate meat. Some cuts of meat break down faster. You don’t want grilled mush!
MOST COMMON MARINADE COMBINATIONS:
GREEK: oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic and oregano.
ASIAN: soy sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar, garlic; minced ginger, honey, and if you want heat, red pepper flakes.
TANDOORI: yogurt, oil, lemon juice, garlic, chopped chilies, fresh cilantro, cumin, curry paste, tomato puree.
STEAK: strong brewed black coffee, Dijon mustard, garlic, shallots, balsamic vinegar, oil, brown sugar, salt, black pepper
FRENCH: oil, lemon juice, vinegar, salt, pepper, tarragon, oregano.
ITALIAN: olive oil, vinegar, garlic, onions, salt and pepper, basil, oregano, dash cloves, sugar, tomato puree, red pepper flakes.
CHICKEN: oil, buttermilk, salt, pepper, parsley, chopped sage.
BBQ: Dr. Pepper/Cola/Root Beer, minced garlic, hot sauce, olive oil, soy sauce, onion, ground black pepper, lemon juice.