Marinated grilled meat is a feast in itself. With the right ingredients and a few tricks, you can intensify meat’s taste and make it particularly spicy and aromatic – whether it’s beef, chicken, lamb, or pork. You don’t need many ingredients to create a tasty marinade, but there a few basic rules to follow. Let Otto show you how to marinate meat the right way.
1. The basic ingredients of any marinade
Salt is the foundation of any marinade, so use it abundantly. It makes sure that moisture from the marinade gets thoroughly absorbed into all parts of the meat. This process is called osmosis: the salt pulls out the meat juices, which then get absorbed back into the meat with the marinade’s flavors in tow. In combination with herbs and spices, salt also enhances flavor.
Salt works by breaking down the meat’s protein structures, creating little gaps that can be filled by the marinade’s moisture making the meat more juicy. Here, Otto goes into more detail about how to salt your steak for the best flavor.
Oil is a must-have for your marinade. Most herbs and spices only reveal their aromatic flavors when combined with oil.
Soy sauce is a great replacement for or addition to salt when you're looking for an exceptional marinade. Soy sauce contains glutamic acid which reinforces the meat’s flavor.
2. Plenty of herbs and spices The higher the concentration of salt in the marinade, the more herbs and spices you need for the meat to absorb their taste. One of Otto’s favorite herb mix marinades is an abundance of garlic, herbs, and spices: at least 3-4 cloves of garlic and at least one big tablespoon of chopped herbs.
3. Fork the meat before marinating Take a fork and prick some holes into the meat before marinating it so that the meat will absorb the sauce more easily. Using a knife works too, especially when you want to marinate bigger steak cuts.
4. Cover the meat in the marinade The meat should be covered evenly with the marinade from all sides. A great way to do this is to put your marinating meat into a zip-lock bag and flipping it halfway though. Another method is to use a big bowl covered with plastic wrap, stirring the meat halfway through the marinating time.
5. Refrigerate Bacteria thrive at temperatures between 5-40 ºC/ 40-100 ºF. This is why Otto recommends placing your marinating meat into the fridge. Place a plate or tray underneath it in case of any leaks – less mess to clean up afterwards.
6. Marinate for several hours The whole purpose of marinating is to create great flavors. The longer you leave the meat in the marinade, the more flavor you'll get from your cooked steak. If you're in a rush and have the necessary equipment, Otto recommends vacuum sealing your meat and marinade to shorten the time needed. Some chefs swear this enhances taste even more than the long marinade method.
7. Never use the same marinade twice The marinade mixes with raw meat juice, so you shouldn’t use the same marinade more than once. If you were hoping to use some of the marinade on your grilled meat as a sauce, simply prepare extra marinade and put some aside for topping later.
8. Cook it right Remember, no matter how delicious the marinade, a great steak means proper grilling – find out how to reach a proper core temperature with this guide to achieving your desired degree of doneness.