We have all done it: we have marinated meat for hours in the fridge or bought marinated meat from the butcher. We like the way the marinade sounds like it will taste. The list of marinades goes on and on. There are marinates for spicy, some for sweet, and it adds a little something that a dry rub of spices just can’t do. But, why do we marinade meats in the first place? It can’t just be for flavor, right?
In most cases, yes. When you marinate meat, it allows for the meat to soak up the flavor in the marinade. It doesn’t happen instantly either, which is why it is always better to plan the marinade steps before hand. If you are considering marinating any meat, it will need at least a couple of hours. It does depend on the cut that you are marinating. A chicken, for example, could potentially soak up some of the flavors within two hours while steak could take up to 24 hours.
The longer isn’t always better, though. The marinade typically has some acidic property to it such as vinegar, lime, or lemon juice. It could toughen the meat rather than make the meat any more tender. That is why it is important to know how long it is recommended to marinate the meat that you are using in the marinade. A great tasting steak won’t matter if it is tough, that is part of the reason that marinades are useful.
However, it is important to remember that marinades will not penetrate the whole piece of meat. While it only goes through the surface, it will provide a soft initial bite, creating a soft feel and also allowing the flavor to stay on the meat while cooking. Though the marinades don’t tenderize the meat since it soaks in and affects the meat, it can give the meat a supple feel, though the cut of meat won’t change.
Also, for any marinade you do yourself, or even if you buy from your butcher, the marinated meats will be refrigerated. At room temperature bacteria will start to grow, so until you are ready for cooking the marinated meat, keep the meat in the fridge. While you prep to cook, you can have the meat out for at least a half an hour, then get cooking.
So, while marinades add an excellent option of flavors, that is all they do. They are not magical tenderizing agents for your steak, and stabbing the meat won’t do much about adding flavor to the center of the flesh. However, marinating has been done for years and is still one of the top ways to create unique tastes.
At Alpine Butcher, we have a decent selection of marinated meats. In case you decide you want something different, but didn’t plan out the process, you can stop in and bring some home today. Stop in or visit us at alpinebutcher.com to see what we have to satisfy your taste buds.