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The primary goal of a marinade is to add flavor — simple as that. Marinating foods in a liquid concoction allows the primary ingredient to absorb extra flavor.
Marinades can be used in different ways with a range of ingredients. For instance, acid works to denature ingredients and to firm their texture — like what a high concentration of citrus juice does when making ceviche. Salt and alcohol also have similar denaturing properties when used in a marinade.
On the other hand, firmness is not a desirable quality in, say, steak. To achieve tenderness in beef, the marinade must use ingredients like yogurt, pineapple, papaya, or ginger, all ingredients containing enzymes that can break down connective tissue in meat.This does not mean that marinades with acids and those with enzymes are mutually exclusive. Both enzyme-rich ingredients and acids are extremely flavorful, and are only effective over time, so quick marinades welcome all types of ingredients.
Let’s break down the components of a standard marinade: acid, fat, aromatics (herbs and spices), and enzymes. The amount of each is up to your palate. We’ve discussed the properties of acids and enzymes, and the purpose of aromatics is straight forward, but note here that fat is also a very important factor in a marinade. Fat, such as olive oil, is a vehicle for flavor. Fat helps to bring all the fat-soluble favors through the meat.
In this slideshow for 25 Meat and Vegetable Marinade Ideas to Spice Up Summer, you’ll find a list of curated Daily Meal recipes that incorporate a marinade in some way. You’ll find everything from overnight-marinated, fall-off-the-bone ribs, to fruit and vegetables that get a blast of flavor thanks to a quick marinade. Whatever you are in the mood for, this list is sure to inspire... and maybe make you drool a little.
Rachael Pack is the Cook editor of The Daily Meal. Follow her on Instagram @rachael_pack