As a new feature on my blog, I am starting “Tuesday Tips” to talk about some techniques that I have found useful over the last 25 or 30 years. This week I want to talk about a topic that I am sure you will find useful for the next several months as we stoke up the grills to entertain friends and family this summer. I am not going to promise that you can take a tough cut of meat, soak it in a magic solution for a few hours and have it eat like Prime rib eye; that ain’t gonna happen. However, with some planning and a few little tricks you will have your guests wondering what you did that made the meal so special.
Marinating is a great way to get a lot of flavor into meat, poultry, seafood and even vegetables especially when you are going to use a quick cooking method like grilling or pan roasting. Some would have you believe that there are hard and fast rules about marinating, but I have found that there are really just a few guidelines. I want to teach you to get away from that old American stand by of dowsing chicken with bottled Italian dressing and really bring some fresh flavors to your cooking.
Marinades usually consist of some water based liquids which could be wine, vinegar, juices, soy sauce, worcestershire sauce ( I just love to spell that) or tomato products or dairy products; aromatics like garlic, onions, herbs, spices; an oil or two; and don’t forget the salt, pepper and maybe even some sugar. Once the marinade is assembled the meat is submerged in it for a period of time that could range from about ½ an hour to a number of days depending on the size and cut of meat, the type of marinade and the desired effect. So that means you need to know the ingredients and their effect on meat and you should also consider the cooking method. For example citrus juice tends to denature the protein quickly so it would be best to use a short marination when using lemon juice and oil tends to flare up on the grill so lots of oil when you intend to grill over natural wood might not be a good idea. So choose some things that go well together and have some fun…what?…of course that’s not it…I have a few more things to say on the subject.
Most of the old recipes for marinating procedures suggest that you should marinate in a non-metallic, non-reactive vessel. Then came the resealable bag…you put the meat and the marinade in, seal it, shake to coat, then open the corner just enough to squeeze out all of the air and seal it again. This ensures that every surface of the meat stays in contact with the marinade for the duration of the process. An even fancier thing to do is to put the meat and marinade under vacuum. This allows the marinade to penetrate a little deeper and a little faster. It works even better if you can agitate while it is under vacuum, but now I am getting carried away. I only do that at work, not at home. Check out the video above; I used ato put a flank steak under vacuum while making a mess-free container for it to soak in. There are also canisters available to marinate in under vacuum.
Lastly, the big controversy: does it or does it not tenderize the meat? My answer is it depends on what you put in and how long you do it. I have eaten some delectable marinated meat that was so tender I could not attribute the texture to anything else.
Here is a recipe that I have been using for nearly 20 years to get you started. It is delicious as it is and you can add a lot of things to it to make it your own. Enjoy!
Marinated Flank Steak:
adapted from Edie’s Flank Steak, can’t remember where I first saw this recipe
- 2- 2½ lb flank steak
- ¼ cup light brown sugar
- ¼ cup tomato sauce (or any other tomato product, ketchup might be too sweet)
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- ¼ cup canola oil
- ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- ½ tsp crushed red pepper
- 1 Tbsp chopped garlic
Note: make it your own by adding other seasonings. Use your imagination: rosemary, Szechuan peppercorn, all spice, star anise, cinnamon, hot peppers…
Cut some slits in the top of the steak as shown above. This is called scoring. Helps the marinade penetrate into the meat fibers. Place all marinade ingredients into a blender or the carafe for an. Blend until everything is combined. Place the steak into a resealable plastic bag or a bag, add your marinade and seal the bag.
If using a resealable bag. Shake to cover the steak with marinade, then open a corner to push all of the air out of the bag. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours. Then Grill.