My wife orchestrates what we eat around here. Periodically, she goes food shopping, brings home what she bought, and drops it in front of me and asks, “Will you marinate this for me?”
When I’m marinating meat, I don’t follow a recipe. I make it up with what leftover ingredients we have that need to be used up. But all good marinades contain 3 basic ingredients:
1. Oil/Fats: The oils will help to make the meat more flavorful and moist. Examples are coconut oil, salad dressings, sour cream, mayonnaise.
2. Acids: The acids in these ingredients help break down the tougher fibers in the meat, and make it more tender. Examples are citrus juices, like lemon or lime, tomato juice, wines or vinegars.
3. Flavor: Depending upon what you use for your oils and acids, and what type of meat you’re marinating you may want to add some other flavors. Some of my favorites include garlic, barbecue sauce, Asian sauces, hot pepper sauce, maple syrup, and Worcestershire sauce. The trick is to add seasoning and spices until it tastes good!
Ultimately, I’m looking for the properties and flavors these ingredients provide. I don’t actually buy specific ingredients for it. I’ve found that making a marinade is a great way to clean out those odd dressings and sauces that seem to accumulate in the fridge. Despite the recipe never being the same ingredients, the results (such as this beef stew) always turn out great.
Here’s how I do it:
Add the oils. You want to end up with a third to a half of your finished marinade being oils. This time I found some Greek Vinaigrette and Ranch dressings, and some mayonnaise.
Some of the thicker ingredients, like Ranch dressing, leave behind a lot in the container. To get at these, I take the more liquid ingredients (such as the wine) and shake it in the container to get the extra dressing out. If there is a portion control cover on the container, that can be easily popped off with a fork:
Next, add the acids. You want another third to half of the finished marinade to be acids. If you know you’re going to add a lot of flavor sauces be sure to leave ‘enough room’ proportionally.
For this marinade I used apple cider vinegar and red wine. I use a cheap red wine for beef, venison or pork. White wine could be used if you’re cooking chicken.
It’s important to mix all the ingredients in a separate bowl, before adding them to the meat. That way you can taste your creation as you go and add other ingredients until it tastes just right.
Once you have a great tasting marinade, place your meat (in this case I’m marinating beef) in large plastic ziploc bags.
ALWAYS wash your hands after handling raw meat.
Since I’m cooking for a family of 10, 2 bags were needed. I try to add half to each bag.
I try to get all air out of the bag so the marinade is always touching the meat.
You can leave the marinade in the fridge for a couple days with it sealed in the bag- this really helps the flavors blend.
I usually shoot for about a quart of marinade per pound of meat, but that is a loose guideline. When you first get started, it’s easy to go overboard and make up a few gallons by the time you get the flavor right. If that’s the case, just save it up in the fridge for next time (another benefit to mixing it in a container and not in with the meat).
When it’s time to cook the meat, we separate the meat and marinade. We place the marinade in a pot and boil it while we cook the meat. That way we can use the marinade as a tasty gravy as well.
My wife loves it when I marinate because I do part of the work, clean out the fridge, and provide tastier meat!