With warm weather it’s time to break out the grill. A great marinade will add flavor and help tenderize tougher cuts of meat. Many (but not all) of my marinade recipes suggest that longer is better when marinating.
Here’s my rule of thumb when marinating:
Beef & Pork … I almost never marinate beef. My favorite cuts to grill include a good steak or beef tenderloin. Since the cuts I use are already very tender, the acid in the marinade will toughen rather than tenderize the meat. For these tender cuts I simply season liberally with salt and pepper and drizzle with a little olive oil. If I want to spice it up a bit, I skip the salt and pepper and season the beef with my Spicy Rub.
When/if you marinate a cheaper cut of beef; give the meat a good soak for several hours (all day or overnight). Same goes for pork.
Lamb … Grilled butterflied lamb is one of my favorites. It’s great for a crowd. For years I marinated the meat for four, maybe six hours. Then a waterskiing accident helped me turn good to great. A couple of friends were invited for dinner one Saturday night. While I was busy in the kitchen, they were waterskiing on Lake Geneva. Or they were until one broke her arm. Dinner was postponed until the next night. The lamb swam in its marinade for about thirty hours. It was delicious, tender and flavorful. (And my friend with the broken arm? She mended quickly.)
Chicken … is great for a cookout. Boneless chicken breast or thighs are a good solution after a busy day. They cook up quickly and if you marinate them they will stay moist and delicious.
Four hours is okay but all day or overnight is better. However, don’t overdo it, marinate too long and the chicken will be tough. Throw tomorrow’s chicken into the marinade after dinner tonight. (You can mix up the marinade early in the day, whenever you have time, but add the chicken no more than twenty-four hours before grilling.)
Seafood … is delicate and should only be marinated for ten to thirty minutes, an hour tops. Otherwise the acid in the marinade will start to cook the fish.
Re-sealable plastic bags are great for marinating. Put the meat and marinade in the bag and seal, removing as much air as you can. You can use less marinade, it’s easy to turn and will cover the meat more completely.
And finally, anytime you marinate for more than ten or twenty minutes, put the meat, chicken or fish in the refrigerator. Especially in the summer!
Happy fun grilling and bon appétit!
More Tips, Tricks & Tools
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