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Midnight MarinationStory on Cooking Tips: Marinating Meats Safely.


Marinates are consistently flavored, taste juicier & tenderer.


But need the right balance of acid, oil & spice!

Previous TaleTown Story: Chicken Or Fish Marinate

“What is the best way of doing marinates, Ma?” Hosh asked Isha. "And what foods can you marinate?"

“Marinating is simply the process of soaking foods in a seasoned liquid, before cooking them,” she answered. “This liquid is called the marinade."

"It can either be acidic like vinegar, lemon juice, or wine; or enzymatic, as in pineapple, papaya or kiwifruit. This liquid is mixed with oils, which different cultures season with their different herbs and spices.”

“Marinates are popular because they flavor foods well, make them taste juicier as well as tenderize tougher cuts of meat."

"Acid causes the meat to break down, allowing the meat tissue to absorb more moisture. This produces a juicier, more consistently flavoured result."

"But too much acid is bad for organic matter, so depending on what is being marinated with what, this process can last seconds or days. The trick is in getting the balance of acid, oil, time and spice right.”

“Marinades can break down the surface and turn the outer layer mushy, if left frozen. But always refrigerate food after marinating, to inhibit bacterial growth in raw red meat, fish, and chicken."

"These contain harmful bacteria and therefore need to be cooked after marinating. They also contaminate the marinade, if you've made it in bulk, wishing to use some later - as dipping sauce."

"A safer thing to do, is to boil any excess marinade you made directly before using it as sauce, but used marinade should not be made into a sauce."

"It should be thrown away, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research. That is why I always use my home-made marinades immediately."

“Many Asian and Oceania sauces use coconut milk, a creamy liquid, to bind together and smooth out individually strong or spicy flavors like mint, garlic and red pepper."

"I don't use sauces much. I like to use yoghurt instead, and in a marinade. Many marinades, such as those made with oil and vinegar, don’t work well as sauces anyway.”

"Yoghurt tenderizes meat beautifully, especially if it has time to work its magic - 30 minutes for cut-up pieces, 60 minutes or more for larger pieces such as chicken breasts."

"Chefs will tell you, that meats that are marinated before cooking have a richer, more complex flavor than those served simply with a dipping sauce. But when people are rushed for time, they resort to buying commercial marinades and sauces."

"United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) cautions in their book on Food Safety, that the container used for marinating should be of glass or food safe plastic."

"Metal pots and glazed pottery can contain lead which reacts with the acid in the marinade, and so should be avoided. Another problem is that you may need to plan a day ahead, so tough meats have time enough to marinate."

"I use skinless, boneless chicken breasts, because they can be marinated in as little as 30 minutes while whole chickens may need 6-8 hours."

"A good poultry marinade not only helps prevent meat from drying out on the grill, but also protects the more delicate pieces, while adding extra flavor consistently."

"Just makes sure that you separate the pieces, and stir the cuts thoroughly, allowing the marinade to anoint the meat fully.”

“Lean chicken is also a great protein source for the health-conscious, and is reputedly rich in vitamin B. It is quick to cook and lends itself easily to different types of cooking."

"You can roast it with fresh herbs like garlic, onions and orange, or barbecue with a hint of acid from the lemon or earthy freshness from the rosemary."

"You can spice it up as the Indian Tandoori, or wine it down as English fry after dusting with basil, paprika, garlic, salt and pepper."

"If you are a bit low on budget, try the salt marinade - it makes the chicken skin crispy and the flesh wonderfully sweet.”

“I've heard that Japanese marinate in a combination of miso, beer, soy sauce, sugar and sesame oil before barbecuing. Jamaicans on the other hand, reportedly use Jerk seasonings and Jerk rubs on beef, pork, chicken and fish."

"Obviously, they’d need to marinate beef, mutton and pork the longest, poultry less, and vegetables, fish and seafood the least. I’d safely allow up to 30 minutes for the last group, 2-3 hours for boned and skin-on chicken breasts, thighs, or drumsticks, and overnight for the tougher meats.”

“As you can now imagine, different marinades are used in different cuisines. You will find umpteen recipes on the internet and on YouTube."

"Since you now know how to safely marinate, try and experiment with different ingredient combinations. Some real simple ones to start with, are those which use brine alone, or simply use soy sauce and garlic."

"I like to use herbs, garlic, ginger, lemon and spices. Herbs like mint, spices and garlic also contain health-protective phytochemicals, so the flavor they add to foods is just a bonus. But enough theory for one day. Now go in the kitchen and create something!”

Next TaleTown Story: Chickpeas Dip - Hummus

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