Please explain marinade components.

309
18
Joined Aug 26, 2010
The brining discussion has led me to try to understand the science behind marinades.

Since most marinades contain at least some oil, my own brand of logic says that the oil should bond with the meat surface, blocking any water-based liquids from being absorbed.  This would include the acid of citrus juices and therefore any water-soluble tastes.  However, this obviously isn't the case.

So, can anyone explain the basic components of a marinade and the impact they are supposed to have on the finished product?
 

phatch

Moderator
Staff member
9,147
832
Joined Mar 29, 2002
Cook's illustrated has noted the oil does next to nothing for the final flavor in their comparative tasting.

They did not address if it buffers the acid (most oils are somewhat acidic already) in the longer marinade times. I don't think it does. It's more of a nuetral dilution in my mind to give volume for coverage without diluting the other flavors in the marinade as water would . Plus there are flavors that are oil soluble so there could be some benefit there, especially with fresh herbs.

marinades only penetrate about the outer 1/4 inch of the product and so are best used for thin cuts. If you want flavor penetration in thicker shapes, you should look at injecting marinades.Strain the marinade well first through very fine sieve or cheesecloth as most injector needles clog easily and clean poorly.

Some specialized poaching techniques border on a hot marinade in many ways. Chinese Red Cooking is one that comes to mind and fish in a court bouillon might be included this way too.  Certainly it's a stretch of the classic definition but it resonates with me.
 
8,550
210
Joined Feb 13, 2008
The basic component of a marinade is acid.  Some common examples are wine, vinegar, citrus, yogurt, and buttermilk.  The primary effect is to tenderize.  

Pickling solutions often split the difference between brines and marinades.

Oil is often added to keep foods from drying out when cooked.  If there's oil in the solution, it's most definitely a marinade and not a brine.  Brines always have salt but no oil.  You can call anything with acid a marinade.

In addition marinades can carry a lot of different flavors and seasonings into and onto foods.  

Marinades do their work by diffusion and surface contact.  Diffusion, the product of random distribution's tendency to look fairly homogeneous, is "powered" by something called the "chemical gradient."  How efficiently a marinade will penetrate depends on what's in it.  Oil, as you guessed, tends to slow the process down. 

But if you marinate long enough you can get total penetration with a very oily marinade. 

I'll take spedies for $600, Alex.

BDL
 
Last edited:
309
18
Joined Aug 26, 2010
Now you've brought me to my next question and I can't bear the thought of devoting a topic to it.

Where can I get cheesecloth and "butcher's twine"?  I know the question is stupid, but I want to ensure I get cheesecloth that's not chemically treated an while I've seen it at Bed Bath and Beyond, it was a very small amount.  If I'm ever going to make cheese, I figure I'll need a decent amount. 
 
5,516
186
Joined Apr 3, 2010
Many of marinades do not have oil. Salt water, sugar  and herbs is a marinade unto itself yet still a brine.
 
Last edited:
2,753
16
Joined Feb 26, 2007
Now you've brought me to my next question and I can't bear the thought of devoting a topic to it.

Where can I get cheesecloth and "butcher's twine"?  I know the question is stupid, but I want to ensure I get cheesecloth that's not chemically treated an while I've seen it at Bed Bath and Beyond, it was a very small amount.  If I'm ever going to make cheese, I figure I'll need a decent amount. 
You should be able to get butcher's twine at any large supermarket.  Cheesecloth - try you local haberdashery store, even if they have only a little perhaps you could get them to do a special order for you.
 
 
Top Bottom