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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

How To Make the Perfect Marinade in 5 Easy Steps

Greetings, dear readers!

Day 9 of the 21 day blogging challenge was a bit of a challenging topic, since I previously considered these sorts of listicles to be insipid at best, overplayed at most. But, since this particular prompt of "easy steps" arrived in my inbox, I'd give it a spin and see what came of it.

One skill I've come to appreciate from my impoverished lifestyle is making cheap but delicious meals. Food is essential to life and should always be enjoyed regardless of socioeconomic status. While my husband does most of the cooking, he leaves any marinating work to me and making a good marinade is something I take great pride in. Having learned this skill from my husband's guidance, here's how you too can make a great marinade in five easy steps.

Carne asada

1. Know what kind of dish you are making

This is the first step towards any kind of kitchen endeavor, whether it's a marinade or a meal. Decide on what you want and buy accordingly.

2. Know your ingredients

This is by far the most challenging part of any culinary endeavor, especially for novices like me. But, it doesn't have to be hopeless. A general rule of thumb is to use complementary flavors with your meats or vegetables when making a marinade to enhance the flavor of the end product. For example, in a pork or chicken marinade, use sour and sweet ingredients like citrus or vinegar, brown sugar, and some spices. Beef requires some acidity but you want to aim for a savory marinade using some citrus but more oils and spices. Vegetables can be marinated in something sour, like an oil and vinegar salad dressing. If you lack some ingredients, try and find the next similar ingredients to substitute for. When using fruits for marinades, like citrus, use all of the fruit, including the peel. This way, nothing is wasted.

My specialty, ginger-lime marinated pork chops

3. Don't skimp on the acids

This is especially true when making a marinade for a tough cut of meat like flap steaks or pork chops. The purpose of marinade is to tenderize the meat while imparting some flavor to it. Whenever I make my famous ginger-lime marinade, I use lots of limes and the peels to make sure the meat gets extra tender before cooking. The more acidic the marinate, the less you need to cook the meat. Do be mindful, though, that this works better on some meats as opposed to others. Most of the time, you don't need a battery acid-level marinade for something like beef.

4. Use fresh ingredients whenever possible

In my marinades, I try to use fresh herbs from the garden and whatever ingredients I have on hand that are not pickled, freeze-dried, or canned first. It really makes a difference in taste when fresh ingredients are utilized, and it really isn't that much more time to prepare.

5. Always let the marinade sit overnight before cooking

While some recipes I've encountered call for letting the meat marinade for anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours, I would always advise letting the marinade do its work overnight. It's not overkill because you want the marinade to really penetrate whatever meat or vegetable you're working on. The results are worth the wait, and it's less cooking time for you.

What are some of your tips for a perfect marinade? Please share in the comments below.

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