A great marinade helps to flavour and tenderise the meat, resulting in juicy dishes for your guests, and doesn’t require as much preparation as you might think! Marinades can work in as little as 15 minutes, and are cheap and easy to prepare.
Marinades are usually made with one key ingredient like vinegar, lemon juice, wine or yoghurt which is then mixed with oil and selected spices. There are lots of recipes available for classic marinades or you can experiment and create your very own recipes to taste.
When creating a marinade, you should make enough to cover your meat completely and save some in a separate container in the fridge to use later whilst cooking.
The best way to marinade meat, fish and tofu is with strong sealable sandwich bags. Most of you will already have a stock of these in your kitchen cupboards ready for lunchboxes but if not, you will be able to buy them cheaply from the supermarket.
Place your meat, fish or tofu into a sandwich bag, leaving enough space for your marinade to be poured in. Put the bag onto a plate to ensure there are no leaks and then pour in approximately 2/3 of the marinade that you’ve made (save the remainder for cooking). Seal the bag tightly and using your hands, gently massage the meat or fish to ensure it is fully covered.
Place the plate and sandwich bag into the fridge alongside the marinade that you’re saving for grilling, and leave to marinade for thirty minutes or the following recommended times:
Pork: Smaller or tender cuts of pork such as a rack of ribs, pork chops or tenderloin should ideally be marinated for 2-4 hours. Larger cuts from the loin or shoulder weighing under 8lbs, should be marinated for between 4-8 hours, and if over 8lbs, 10-12 hours is the recommended marinade time. Whole shoulders will take between 16 and 24 hours to infuse flavour from marinade so are best prepared a day in advance.
Beef: Rib and short loin steaks are the quickest cuts to marinade if tight on time as flavour can be fully infused between 30 minutes and 1 hour. The recommended marinade time for small, tenderloin roasts and sirloin or tri-tip steaks is 2-4 hours so these are also doable on the day of the BBQ. Tougher steaks such as flank, hanger and skirt should ideally marinade for 4-6 hours and large roasts between 8 and 10 hours. Untrimmed beef brisket should be marinated for at least 16 hours so is best prepared the day before.
Poultry: Poultry is great to marinade as you can easily pierce the skin to infuse flavour quickly. Skinless and boneless chicken breasts take just 30 minutes to marinade, and turkey breasts are done in an hour. For juicy legs, thighs and wings, three hours is best for all poultry and a whole chicken can even be marinated in 4 hours. For a whole turkey, 6-8 hours is recommended.
Fish and Seafood: Shrimps and prawns are the quickest to marinade, taking just 15-45 minutes dependant on their size. It’s actually important that they are not left to marinade for much longer than this as the acidity of many marinades can begin to cook the seafood. Flaky fish fillets also only take 30 minutes to marinade, and firm fish fillets take up to an hour. Fish steaks take 1-2 hours to infuse flavour properly but are still perfect to do on the day of the BBQ.
Tofu: A popular alternative source of protein and great for vegetarians, tofu has little or no flavour of its own making it ideal for marinating. It’s best to slice the tofu chunks into thinner slices, and marinade for at least one hour but for fuller flavour, 8-10 hours is recommended.
Once you are happy that your marinade has had long enough to work its magic, your meat, tofu or seafood is ready to BBQ! Dispose of the marinade in the sandwich bag and keep the food covered and refrigerated until you are ready to grill. Whilst grilling, use the marinade that you previously separated to baste regularly and voila! Tasty, tender meat every time.