Marinades make food taste better

A zesty marinade turns ordinary cuts of meat and ho-hum vegetable dishes into mouth-watering masterpieces. And great-tasting, ready-to-use dressings and sauces make marvelous instant marinades. They do double-duty-tenderizing as they add distinctive flavors.

Commercial dressings and sauces contain food acids such as vinegar and lemon juice, which soften meat fibers and connective tissue. They are especially good for tougher, less expensive cuts of beef. The oil in salad dressing helps provide tenderness. During cooking, the oil is distributed among meat fibers, adding flavor and slowing the evaporation of moisture.

More tender, succulent cuts of meat-tenderloin, lamb chops, and porterhouse steaks-should not be placed in a marinade for long periods of time. Just brush with your favorite marinadeduring cooking to add subtle flavor. Chicken, pork, fish and game also are delicious marinade partners.

Raw, crisp-tender or canned vegetables marinated an hour or two will spark up any meal. Flavor choices are abundant-from the traditional favorites such as Thousand Island, French and Italian, to the newer flavors such as Green Goddess, creamy cucumber, buttermilk, garlic and herb.

Any pourable dressing works as a marinade, so try them all! Be creative and vary the taste even more by adding Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, mustard, wine, herbs, spices, or some other personal touch. But take care not to overly dilute the vinegar or lemon juice in the dressing if you want to tenderize as well.

According to Food Product Design magazine, popular flavor trends in marinades include citrus and tropical fruits, such as mango and pineapple; alcohol flavors from Bloody Mary to beer to bourbon; and chile flavors including Thai, chipotle, serrano, Scotch bonnet and jalapeno.

Marinating Tips:

  • Allow about ½ cup of marinade for each pound of food.
  • Average marinating time for meat can range from three hours to overnight. Cubed meats for kabobs usually require 2-3 hours. Always marinate your meats in the refrigerator.
  • Remember that marinades flavor or tenderize only the outside ¼ inch of each piece.
  • Marinating 12 hours or more reduces cooking time by one-third.
  • Zip seal bags are great containers for marinating. No clean up is necessary.

Recipes:

Cucumber and Tomato Salad
1 cucumber, peeled, sliced thinly
2-3 Roma tomatoes, sliced thinly
3 tablespoons Italian Salad Dressing
¼ teaspoon dried dill weed

Toss sliced cucumber and tomato with dressing. Refrigerate, covered, at least 2 hours. Sprinkle with dill weed immediately before serving. For 2 to enjoy.