Skip to main content
You are the owner of this article.
You have permission to edit this article.
Edit
Soak it up: Marinades for summer grilling
FOOD

Soak it up: Marinades for summer grilling

Homemade marinade an inexpensive way to addmore flavor to grilled foods

  • Updated
  • 0

It’s time for a good soaking — meat and vegetables, that is.

Memorial Day is nearly here and for many it’s the prompt we need to give the barbecue grills a thorough scrubbing, grab some tongs and an apron and throw a few choice cuts of meat over a fire.

If you’re looking for easy ways to add extra flavor to chicken legs, pork chops and T-bone steaks — or even antipasto platters and vegetable medleys — marinades can make the difference between a run-of-the-mill meal and a stellar one.

A juicy steak is delicious, but adding a smoky bacon marinade — a garlicky mixture with thyme, red wine vinegar and rendered bacon fat — elevates the meat to something way beyond boring.

Think balsamic vinegars are just for salads? Mix that vinegar with olive oil and fresh herbs to liven up everything from pork chops to portobello mushrooms.

And marinades can boost flavor even when you aren’t grilling. Fried chicken on the menu? Give the chicken a soak in a slightly spicy buttermilk marinade before dredging it in your signature batter. The buttermilk keeps the chicken tender and juicy while spices including cayenne pepper and ground celery seeds give the meat some zing.

Want more marinade ideas? Lucy Vaserfirer might have a suggestion or 200.

Vaserfirer, blogger (hungrycravings.com) and culinary teacher based in Vancouver, Wash., is the author of “Marinades: The Quick-Fix Way to Turn Everyday Food into Exceptional Fare, with 400 Recipes.”

A native of Uzbekistan, Vaserfirer grew up in Texas and now teaches culinary classes at community colleges and elsewhere around her Pacific Northwest community.

If variety is the spice of life, this cookbook is like a spice rack on steroids.

Vaserfirer includes the traditional concoctions of oils, vinegars, herbs and fruit juices. But she also provides exotic blends that are sure to cross someone’s cooking boundaries with ingredients like root beer and bourbon, buttermilk and dill pickle juice — even recipes with flavors that mimic bloody marys, mojitos and other spirits.

And no, Vaserfirer hasn’t forgotten about dessert. Hints of caramel, vanilla and orange blossom water are delicious for macerating berries, sliced oranges and more. (Meat marinates, fruit macerates.)

But the bottom line is this: No matter which marinade is your favorite (hers, by the way, is the shashlik marinade, a family recipe that touts her Uzbekistan roots and includes cumin, coriander, allspice berries and bay leaves) marinades are a simple way to get the most from grilled foods.

It’s as simple as throwing ingredients into a large plastic zip-top bag (Vaserfirer’s favorite tool when it comes to marinades) adding meats and vegetables and letting them marinate until they’re good and ready.

“It really is the ultimate in convenience cooking,” Vaserfirer said by phone from her home. “Dinner practically cooks itself — you just have to move it to the grill.”

As someone who grills year-round and sees the benefits of grilling as more than just tasty food (think less cleanup in the kitchen), Vaserfirer emphasizes that cooks should view her recipes as guides and not be afraid to incorporate their own flavors and tastes.

The book is divided into sections for easy reading and each recipe includes suggestions for cuts of meat and vegetables to use.

She said many of her recipes are made with ingredients found in most pantries as well as within the contents of refrigerator doors.

Vaserfirer offers tips for grilling temperatures and duration, and notes that making a large batch of your favorite marinade, then freezing it, is a great time-saver when you want flavorful food in a pinch.

She also says that it’s OK (gasp!) to reuse marinades as sauces, something typically considered a no-no. The key, she said, is boiling the marinade long enough to kill any bacteria from the meats.

Or, she said, simply make more marinade than you need and use it later as sauce and basting liquid.

And her marinades aren’t always intended for food before it’s cooked. One of her favorite side dishes is chunks of grilled eggplant and zucchini that she puts into a marinade after they come off the grill.

It’s the perfect picnic food, she noted, as the vegetables don’t have to be refrigerated and can be served at room temperature.

Versatility and creativity are the name of the game, Vaserfirer said. “People should not be afraid to be creative. The suggested uses are just that — suggestions.”

Vaserfirer added: If you’re looking at a particular marinade and there are ingredients you don’t like or maybe you want in greater quantity, “go with your gut.”

Your gut, she said, will thank you.


Smoky Bacon Marinade

You’ll need: 1-gallon zip-top plastic bag

Yield: About 1 cup (enough for 5 to 8 servings)

½ cup canola oil

¼ cup warm rendered bacon fat

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

¼ cup diced yellow onion

1 garlic clove, minced

½ teaspoon minced fresh thyme

Generous pinch cayenne pepper

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Measure all ingredients into a 1-gallon zip-top plastic bag and shake or squeeze to blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Suggested uses: chicken breasts (marinated overnight) or fish fillets, shrimp or sea scallops (marinated 20 to 45 minutes)

— “Marinades: The Quick-Fix Way to Turn Everyday Food into Exceptional Fare, with 400 Recipes” by Lucy Vaserfirer


Spicy Buttermilk Marinade

You’ll need: Mortar and pestle and a 1-gallon zip-top plastic bag

Yield: About ½ cup (enough for about 4 servings)

½ cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon granulated garlic

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon paprika

¼ teaspoon celery seeds, ground with a mortar and pestle OR use a small heavy sauté pan to crush the seeds

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Kosher salt

Measure all ingredients into a zip-top plastic bag and shake or squeeze until blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Suggested uses: chicken pieces or pork chops (marinated 2 hours to overnight) or beef cube steaks (marinated 2 to 4 hours)

— “Marinades: The Quick-Fix Way to Turn Everyday Food into Exceptional Fare, with 400 Recipes” by Lucy Vaserfirer


Balsamic Marinade

As Vaserfirer notes in her cookbook, this marinade “makes the best antipasto vegetables ever.”

You’ll need: 1-gallon zip-top plastic bag

Yield: About 1 cup (enough for 5 to 8 servings)

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

6 garlic cloves, minced

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons mixed fresh herbs, minced (such as rosemary, flat-leaf parsley, oregano, marjoram, rosemary and/or thyme)

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients in a 1-gallon zip-top plastic bag and shake or squeeze until blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Suggested uses: Chicken breasts, pork chops, beef steaks or lamb chops (marinated 2 hours or overnight,) fish fillets, shrimp or sea scallops (marinated 20-45 minutes), raw vegetables (for grilling and broiling — marinated 30-60 minutes) or roasted vegetables (marinated overnight)

— “Marinades: The Quick-Fix Way to Turn Everyday Food into Exceptional Fare, with 400 Recipes” by Lucy Vaserfirer

Related to this story

  • Updated

Lucy Vaserfirer says there’s no hard-and-fast rule for creating marinades but they usually consist of equal parts salty, sour and sweet ingred…

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.

Topics

Breaking News