Marinade is a medium used to prepare meat for cooking, usually grilling. Marinades enhance flavor when the meat absorbs some of the marinade and tenderizes the surface. Most supermarkets stock an array of herbed, curried, fruited and spiced marinades.
Marinades are usually a mixture of an acid, salt, fruit or vegetables and spices used on meat, fish or other foods. Marinades affect the surface of the food, breaking down the proteins on the surface of the meat, making it more tender. Because marinades only penetrate the surface of the meat, they are best used on smaller cuts like steak and pork chops. However, using an injector to inject the marinade into the center of the meat can remedy this.
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While marinades are used to tenderize meats, brines are used to add moisture. Cooking can dry out meat, and a brine helps it stay moist by breaking down the surface and retaining water, which results in a juicier meat. Brines usually contain a liquid and salt with other ingredients optional to add flavor. Dry rubs are mainly used to add flavor to meat.
Types of marinades
Three types of marinades are utilized to enhance flavor and tenderize. Acidic marinades contain a base ingredient such as wine or vinegar or highly acidic juices such as tomato or citrus juices. The acid loosens the bonds between proteins in the meat, causing them to tenderize. But marinading too long will actually cause meat to get tough.
Enzymes found in raw fruits such as papaya, pineapple, kiwi, fig and mango break down meat proteins’ fibers and are used in some marinades. The enzymes in dairy foods such as buttermilk and yogurt also tenderize meat and are used in some marinades. Keep in mind, if meat is left too long, enzyme marinades can cause meat to be mushy.
Bottled or pre-packaged marinades are available in a wide variety of flavors, such as teriyaki, cajun, garlic and herb, chipotle and sriracha. Packaging includes bottled marinades, marinades that include an injector and marinades in a bag.
Marinade nutrition facts
The serving size indicated on Nutrition Facts panels for marinades is one tablespoon. However, the amount actually consumed with a portion of meat is variable. The calorie content in one tablespoon is fairly low, from zero to 35 calories per serving. The source of calories is most often carbohydrate from ingredients such as honey, sugar or corn syrup. The amount of carbohydrate per one-tablespoon serving can be as high as 9 grams per serving.
Unlike salad dressings, which are frequently used to marinate meats, bottled marinades typically have very little if any fat. However, bottled marinades are usually high in sodium, some containing over 600 mg of sodium per one-tablespoon serving.
Manage the sodium
The American Diabetes Association recommends sodium intake be less than 2,300 mg daily, the same recommendation as the general public. For those with high blood pressure, reducing sodium intake further may be indicated.
Allegro Hot and Spicy Marinade contains 670 mg of sodium per one tablespoon, which is close to one third of the daily sodium intake recommendation. Lower-sodium marinades such as Mrs. Dash marinades, which contain no sodium, and many Lea & Perrins marinades in a bag contain less than 200 mg sodium per tablespoon.
Bottled marinades make it fast and easy to season and tenderize your meats, but be sure to check Nutrition Facts panels for salt and sugar content. Your nutrition goals will determine the marinade that best fits your needs. Choose marinades with less than 200 mg sodium and 2 grams of carbohydrate per one-tablespoon serving.
Want to learn more about eating well with diabetes? Read “Improving Your Recipes: One Step at a Time,” “Top Tips for Healthier Eating” and “Cooking With Herbs and Spices.”