If you want to grill a tasty and healthy meal you need to plan ahead. Sure, one of the great things about grilling is that you can come home and throw a couple of chops on the grill and have a meal in minutes, but there are very good reasons why you should take the time and marinate meats before they hit the grill. A marinade can work in as little as 30 minutes to provide many of these benefits, but tougher, thicker cuts of meat may need several hours or most of a day. More than just enhancing the taste and flavours of the meat, the benefits of marinating meat are extremely profound.
- Marinating meat, fish, and poultry significantly decreases the amount of carcinogenic heterocyclic amines(HCAs) produced when the meat is cooked at high temperatures, like in grilling. Marinades can reduce HCAs by as much as 99 percent. Adding rosemary to the marinades may even up the anticancer potential of your marinade even more. While research is unclear why marinades protect meat so much, the belief is that they act as a barrier against the high heat, or may reduce chemical precursors of carcinogens from the meat.
- The acid in marinades may slow the growth of harmful bacteria, like listeria.
- Marinating meat with naturally acidic ingredients, like vinegar or citrus juices, tenderizes the meat, making your protein easier to digest. Plus marinades will help lock in moisture so your meat won’t dry out and toughen up.
- To keep the calorie count down, only use a half-cup of marinade to every pound of meat. This will be enough to coat the meat, but cuts down on excess.
- Never marinate meat at room temperature. Although marinade can slow the growth of harmful bacteria, it cannot stop them completely, so marinate your meat in the fridge.
- Never reuse uncooked marinade. If you are making a sauce, boil leftover marinade to kill bacteria (your safest bet for sauce is to reserve a portion of marinade before you add the raw meat).
- According to the USDA, chicken and other poultry must be used within two days of marinating and beef and other types of meat should be used within five days.
You only need enough marinade to cover the meat completely with a thick layer. It is important to make sure that it is completely covered in the marinade so it can work on the entire exposed surface. You also need to keep meats of any kind refrigerated. Do not let food sit at room temperature any longer than absolutely necessary. When marinating take your food straight from the refrigerator to the grill.
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