A marinade is a liquid solution where you soak meat into. It can be discarded or it can be cooked. Its origin traces back from the ancient Egyptian times. Frenchmen started marinating their meats around the 1300s. Mexicans used papaya as a meat tenderizer even before Columbus’ time. Asians have also been using this technique for centuries now. In the United States, bottled marinades became popular in the 1800s. But, the method was definitely used before that. Still, marinades give flavor and depth to all meat dishes. The flavor varies depending on the ingredients used. Marinades are usually a combination of dry and wet ingredients. Dry ingredients include herbs and spices. Meanwhile, wet ingredients might include liquid seasonings, oil, alcohol, and fruit juices. Enzymes like ginger, pineapple, or papaya can also help to tenderize the meat. Acid liquids like wine, vinegar, or lemon juice also provide the same effects.
- Before, a marinade was simply salted water or seawater. In fact, that is where the term “marinade” came from. “Mare” is the Latin word for sea. However, some sources claimed that the term “marinade” originated from either the French word “mariner,” which means “to pickle,” or the Italian word “marinare,” which means “to marinate.” Nevertheless, since there were no refrigerators back in the days, marinades were just considered as a way of preserving food.
- Marinades lower the risk of cancer by 95%. It acts as a barrier for high-temperature cooking, which can form cancer-inducing HCAs.
- Marinades can only reach up to 1-3 mm below the meat’s surface. Hence, if you have a thick cut of meat and you want the flavor or tenderizer to penetrate up to the bone, use an injection.
Marinade Buying Guide
Marinades are something that doesn’t have to be bought in the supermarkets. It’s easy to make at home; you’ll only need simple ingredients that are usually found in your kitchen or pantry. However, if you still opt to buy the ready-made ones, here are some tips that might help:
- You can find ready-made marinades in or around the spice aisle section of your favorite grocers.
- Check out the sodium content. Although salt is the most essential ingredient in marinades, most of the mass-produced marinades go heavy on it. Better yet, opt for reduced-sodium or low-sodium, and just add salt as you normally do.
- Look for the bad stuff. Preservatives and additives are common in ready-made marinades. Thus, look for the ones with the least amount, as these ingredients can weaken your heart tissues and can contribute to weight gain. I’m sure you don’t want that.
- Check out the expiration date. Although commercially produced marinades usually last for about a year or so, it is best to double-check the expiration date, especially if you’re buying from a store that has a low turn-over rate.
- As always, marinades from local food vendors and artisans in farmers’ markets are better than the mass-produced ones. Here, you’ll get close to no preservatives and the ingredients are usually organic. Their products are made in small batches and you might be able to get free samples along the way.
Marinade Production & Farming in Texas
While marinades are easy to find in large supermarkets such as H-E-B and Natural Grocers, the state of Texas also features countless numbers of local food vendors that sell better-tasting and higher-quality marinades. Moreover, our Texas Real Food website is home to many artisans that would love for you to connect with them. Most of them would also love to deliver marinades right at your doorstep.
Pesticides, additives, and chemicals:
Not only that store-bought marinades usually go heavy on salt, but they’re also commonly produced with certain preservatives, additives, and chemicals that not only enhance the flavor but also increases its shelf-life. Thus, we visited some of the local grocers in Texas and found these not-so-good ingredients:
- MSG – Monosodium Glutamate is used to enhance the flavor of almost any product. It is the one responsible for creating that umami flavor. Although it is generally classified as safe to consume, it can cause headaches, flushing, palpitations, sweating, nausea, numbness, and weakness to some people. It allegedly can cause asthma, brain damages, and even cancer; however, these allegations remained controversial.
- Sodium – Although sodium is a natural food that balances our body fluids, it can cause harm when consumed past its RDA which is 2,300 mg per day.
- Natural and artificial flavorings – These are usually chemically-formulated products that are used to intensify the flavors of the product. Although they are labeled as such due to its very small quantitative participation in the product, it’s always a better option if we stay away from these ingredients. For mass-produced marinades, some of which come in the following names: disodium guanylate, disodium inosinate, disodium succinate, sodium phosphate, sodium metabisulfite, soy protein isolate, and alike. Some natural flavorings also include herbs and spices like garlic and onion.
- Modified Food Starch – This additive is usually made with wheat, potato, corn, or tapioca. It acts as a binding agent, thickener, stabilizer, and preservative. This additive offers empty calories – they provide no nutritional value, yet it adds a considerable amount of carbohydrates which can promote weight gain. This ingredient should also be avoided by someone who is gluten intolerant.
- High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) – This artificial sweetener never does any good to our health. Too much consumption of this additive can lead to diabetes, heart disease, fatty liver disease, obesity, and other serious diseases.
- Caramel Color – It is a water-soluble food coloring that is made from caramelizing natural sources such as sugar or corn. Nonetheless, it acts as an emulsifier and a dye for a more appetizing color. Although this additive is generally safe to eat, it might increase the risk of high blood pressure or hypertension if eaten regularly and in great amounts.
- Potassium Sorbate – This additive is used to retard yeast and molds in foods, thus acting as a preservative. It is a chemical that is commonly found in cosmetics where it can lead to scalp or skin irritation. That being said, consuming this chemical can cause allergic reactions and headaches.
- Color additives – these are food colorings or dyes that are added to food products to improve its color. Some are natural and some are artificial. Examples of these are annatto extract (yellow), caramel (yellow to tan), beta-carotene (yellow to orange), grape skin extract (red and green), and dehydrated beets (bluish-red to brown). Nonetheless, this additive can cause skin irritation, rashes, and eczema. Artificial ones can also upset one’s stomach and experience difficulty in breathing.
Store-bought marinades are commonly packed in jars, glass bottles, plastic bottles, and pouches. It’s very rare to find marinades in aluminum cans, as the metal reacts to the marinade’s acid.
Marinades are for meats; that’s for sure. And, one thing that a culinary chef hates is throwing something that is very flavorful and useful. Thus, marinades can certainly be a great addition to meat dishes if you turn them into a sauce. We all know that raw meat contains bacteria and when we marinate meats, the bacteria also contaminates the marinade. Hence, if you’re consuming the marinade, which is what we all should be doing, make sure that you boil them first up to 145ºF for at least 15 seconds.
Marinades, especially if you include an acid to it, should be kept in a non-reactive container such as plastic, glass, or stainless steel. Never put your marinades in an aluminum container as the acid will react with the aluminum, infiltrating the metal into the food. If you do that, your aluminum container will not only discolor, but your food will also taste like metal. Marinades should then be stored in the refrigerator. Room or counter temperature is most likely in the temperature danger zone, which means that the bacteria in raw meat will rapidly multiply if you leave it in the counter.
Make your own Texas steak marinade and let’s get grillin’!
Generally speaking, marinades are easy to make and you only need four ingredients. The first and the most important ingredient is salt; it is the epitome of marinades. Second, you will need flavoring. Any herbs, spices, or seasonings, regardless if it’s dry or wet, will absolutely work. Third, you might want to add an acid. Acids are meant to tenderize meat, especially if you’ve got the tough ones; vinegar, lemon juice, or wine works perfectly. Lastly, you can add oil or butter – real butter, not margarine. The addition of fat is completely optional; however, it holds everything together and it adds moisture and mouthfeel to the meat. To prepare your marinade, just mix three parts of oil for every part of the acid. Season with salt and your selected flavorings. Done! And, if you want to save some money on expensive restaurant steaks, you have to consider this: First of all, Texas is a cattle state. It is home to many cattle ranches that raise high-quality and scrumptious beef. Thus, all you need is nothing but good quality meat and four simple ingredients to make a Texas steak. You may also opt to barbecue or broil, just follow the same recipe.
Yield: 2 servings
- A pinch or two of salt
- A pinch or two of ground black pepper
- A tablespoon or two of soy sauce
- A tablespoon or two of Worcestershire sauce
- ½ lb beef steak
- Mix the first four ingredients and marinate the beef in the fridge for at least an hour.
- Grill the steak according to your preferred doneness.