Acidic To Enzyme, Top 4 Types of Marinades You Must Know
Image Credit: Marinated turkey,

Marination of food is an essential step in cooking. It adds taste and tenderizes the meat, fish, seafood, and vegetables making it easier to cook and more enjoyable to eat. Marinating allows the flavours to penetrate the meat, resulting in a more flavorful and juicy dish. Additionally, marination can help reduce the formation of harmful compounds when meat is cooked at high temperatures. Often, many people feel marination is a homogenous process, and a fit-for-all method works fine. But that isn't true. Broadly there are 4 types of marinades. 

Marinades from different cultures employ different spices to achieve their desired flavour profiles. Garam masala is typical in Indian marinades, while red or green curry paste is typical in Thai marinades. Additional seasonings, such as prepared Dijon mustard for a French taste profile, coconut milk for a Caribbean style, or hoisin sauce for a Chinese marinade, can be used as well.

Acidic marination

Acid-based marinades may be found in dishes worldwide, including the German sauerbraten, braised beef marinated in red wine vinegar, and the northern Italian delicacy Barolo al Brasato, braised beef in red wine. They use aromatics and spices in addition to citrus juices, wine vinegar, or wine. Acids such as vinegar are often used to tenderize meat. However, contrary to popular belief, they toughen the flesh's exterior and do not penetrate very far. 

Dairy marinades

Yoghurt marinade for chicken, Image Source:

Marinades made from dairy products, such as buttermilk or yoghurt, are the only ones that effectively tenderize the meat. Instead of toughening meat like citrus or vinegar marinades do, the moderate acids in these items provide flavour. The calcium in milk and other dairy products stimulates protein-breaking enzymes in the meat, making it soft and analogous to that of aged meats.

Marinades with enzymes

Tough slices of meat may be made more chewable and enjoyable by using the enzymes contained in certain fruits. Protein enzymes which are known as proteases, found in papaya juice make it a popular steak tenderizer. Meat might become dry and mushy due to the effectiveness of these chemicals. A little bit of papain goes a long way when utilizing it. In most cases, a concentration of about 0.05% by weight is all that's needed. Kiwi, raw pineapple, honeydew melon, and figs are some examples of tropical fruits with these qualities.

Marinades with oil

Raw vegetable pork, fish, or chicken benefit from simple oil, herbs, and spices marinades. Some ingredients that work well in these marinades are fresh herbs, dried chiles, garlic, and ginger. You can use olive oil, sesame oil, hazelnut oil, coconut oil, or a combination of oils.

Fish marinade in oil, Image Source: iStock

Pay attention to the proportions. Add two parts acid to 1 part oil. Wines of both colours, fruit vinegar, and citrus juices are all good examples of acids. Buttermilk for southern fried chicken and yoghurt in Indian tandoori are two examples of sour sauces. Acidic ingredients like vinegar and citrus juice should be used sparingly. The acid can alternatively be replaced in whole or in part by soy sauce, fruit juices (pomegranate, tomato), or Thai fish sauce. Canola, soy, olive, and sesame oils all work, as do more flavoured options like tahini and tamari. 

The marinade duration

Marinades can only seep in around 1/4 inch/ 1 cm deep, so marinating for extended periods is pointless. Birds like poultry, duck, turkey breast and leg pieces take 2 hours for good marination, while the whole bird might take 4-6 hours. Likewise, a steak cut of beef, pork, and mutton requires 2 hours, and a loin portion needs 4-6 hours. Fish steak and cuts take 10-15 minutes, whereas the ceviche demands 2-3 hours. Shrimp marination time varies between 10 and 15 minutes.