I know. It is hard enough to remember to defrost something, let alone whip up a marinade. I’m with you. But I have to admit, that when we invited some friends over for a barbeque, and my husband downloaded a shish kabob recipe that required marinating, I thought, what the heck. If you are like us, we clean like crazy before friends come over. If you’re going to do all that work, you might as well go all out on the cooking, too.
Perhaps the most basic thing to know about marinating is that it is a verb. You physically place the meat, vegetable or fruit in a flavored liquid and soak it for a few hours or overnight. A marinade with a d is a noun, or the liquid in which the food is soaked. Marinades consist of an acid base, such as lemon juice, vinegar, yogurt, beer or wine. Finally, here is a way to use up that leftover, aged wine in the back of the frig.
When preparing to soak your food in a marinade, do not use an aluminum pan, unless you like a metallic taste to your food. The acid in the base mentioned above will react to the metal in the pan. A glass bowl is the best, but a plastic bowl works fine, too.
To your acid base, add any oil and some flavorings. That is why in a pinch an oil and vinegar dressing really comes in handy. Select your favorite spice combinations, add a rub that you like (someone else has done the selecting for you) or make sure you have plenty of Italian dressing on hand. More common flavorings include soy sauce, honey, onions (scallions) or garlic. As a rule a half a cup of marinade is good for about a pound of meat or other food.
Red, yellow and orange peppers not only add flavor, they add a lot of color to shish kabobs. Likewise, mushrooms are great to use and can be marinated whole with the meat.
Cut the meat into small serving sizes or chunks, if making shish kabobs. Even though piercing the meat allows the marinade to soak in more, it also means the meat will release a lot of its natural juices when cooked on the grill. So my advice is not to pierce the meat. Likewise, I like to minimize the soy sauce by using less than what a recipe calls for and diluting it with water instead. Check for any salty ingredient when marinating, including those blended rubs you like. Salt has the same effect as piercing the meat. It releases a lot of the juices and dries it out. You can always add salt after you grill.
The key to timing, when marinating, is whether the meat is at room temperature or not. Chicken can take up to four hours to marinate, if it is kept in the refrigerator the whole time. If you marinate at room temperature, soaking will take about an hour. Some people do not like the idea of keeping meat out of the refrigerator for any length of time, so plan accordingly. If you are using large pieces of tougher meats, tenderizing with a marinade can take up to two days in the frig.
A final word of warning, do not use the marinade to baste your meat. Why? For the same reason you do not eat raw meat. The juices from the raw meat get into the marinade. However, you can heat the marinade on the stove in a pan and not let it go to waste. Bring it to a boil and then simmer it on medium-low for about ten minutes. Then you can use it for basting or even as a sauce.
Because you have to clean up when guests come around, prep your meal ahead of time by marinating your meat overnight. Your tummy will be happy you did. Just be prepared. Because there is no doubt, you will have to make more than one kabob for everyone!