While sauces and rubs can be a great way to add flavor to meat, marinades present an entirely new and complex area of taste. Combining marinade ingredients and applying it correctly can be tricky, so we’ve put together a few helpful hints on the process.

The basic formula of a good marinade is fat, acid, and flavor. Use the right combination of these elements, and you’ll have an award-winning marinade.

Fat

Fats are essential since they influence flavor. But choosing the right fat can be tricky. As a general rule, saturated fats such as most butters, are great to cook with since they are heat-stable. Vegetable oil will retain moisture without adding too much flavor. Want a wild card cooking oil? Try coconut oil for a tropical and versatile flavor.

Acid

Acids help tenderize meat – giving it a melt-in-your-mouth texture vs a chewy mess. Vinegar and soy sauce are common acids that add flavor as they soak in. Beer, fruit juice, and even buttermilk can also help tenderize meat.

Flavor

Adding spices and other flavors to a marinade can seem daunting. We usually suggest to follow the rule of three – add no more than three spices in addition to salt and pepper. A small number of spices can pack a huge punch of taste. Some of our favorite combinations? Dill, garlic, and onion or allspice, sage, and cayenne.

Time

Okay, we lied. There are really four elements to consider when choosing a marinade. The fourth element (and dimension) is time. Some marinades need just an hour or two to affect flavor, while others might need several hours. This usually depends on the acids ability to penetrate the meat as well as the meat’s texture. Concentrated lemon juice will need less time than diluted vinegar. A tough cut of meat will need more soaking time. Injecting marinade is a great way to cut down on marinade time and increase overall flavor efficacy.

Helpful Hints

  • Be sure to marinate food in a plastic back or non-reactive metal pan. Some metals react with acids and impact flavor (and the safety of the meat itself).
  • While sugar can give the meat a great flavor, it tends to burn easily. If you’re going to sweeten your meat, you’ll have to use the low and slow method of cooking.
  • Move your meat! To ensure a consistent flavor, flip or shake the meat a few times during the marinade process.
  • Avoid char by wiping down the meat before cooking. This can also help achieve a bit of crispiness without that burnt flavor.

While making your own marinade can be a fun challenge, but can also be time-consuming and tricky to get just right. If you’re in the market for a tried-and-tested marinade, check out our online stock.