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Marinating chicken

JosephineJosephine Posts: 14,175Registered Users
I know I've asked something similar before....but does marinating chicken breasts overnight really make a difference in taste? I'll be grilling it on the foreman tonite. :/

TIA

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  • SaraNoHSaraNoH Posts: 827Registered Users
    Sure. Of course it depends on what you're marinating in. Some mixtures are just better at penetrating the meat than others.

    My all-time favorite marinade: Jose Cuervo Margarita mix with chopped cilantro and garlic. Mmmmmm.... I've tried using the Kirkland stuff but it's just not the same. That, with black beans, fresh salsa and some rice? YUM.
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  • SariaSaria Posts: 15,963Registered Users
    Not really. The most important thing is salting ahead. Marinades really only penetrate so much, no matter how long you leave them. Most of the flavor is on the surface. And if there's no salt, they're even more pointless.
    That and acidic marinades really shouldn't stay on meat for very long because the acid breaks down and "cooks" proteins leading to mushy, somewhat pasty meat.
    This is why fish shouldn't be marinated with acid. You're effectively making ceviche, which is nice if you're making ceviche, not if you want to cook it.
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  • NetGNetG Posts: 8,116Registered Users
    I love to marinate with tequila (the better quality the better the taste!), garlic, lime, crushed pineapple and teriyaki sauce overnight. It helps you really taste the flavor when cooked over an open flame. Always thighs instead of breasts if making it for a barbeque, unless my friend Jeff is grilling - no one else seems to use a thermometer, and he's the only one who I trust to cook chicken breasts just right; most people completely overcook, and the thighs stay tender instead of turning dry.

    I think you can get away with a lot less time on the George Foreman because the flavor doesn't get burned away by flames.
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  • jeepcurlygurljeepcurlygurl Posts: 19,240Registered Users Curl Dabbler
    I've never been a big fan of marinating. I prefer to cook with lots of herbs, different salts, fresh ground pepper.

    But if someone wants to marinate the heck out of something and grill if for me, bring it on! : )
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  • SariaSaria Posts: 15,963Registered Users
    Adding on (And this points out the importance of oil in marinades, because it bugs the heck out me how many marinades don't have any out of a need to be "healthy"; not all require oil, but a whole lot do, particularly when a lot of acid is involved):
    Contrary to what you may think, marinade actually does not penetrate particularly far into meat—even over the course of a few days, the bulk of the aromatic compounds in a marinade will travel mere millimeters into the meat (the exception being salt, small sugar molecules, and some acids). In reality, a marinade is mostly a surface treatment, and not much benefit lies in marinating for more than half a day or so. If you'd like the flavor of the marinade to completely coat your meat, your best bet is to reserve some marinade and simply toss your meat with it after it has been cooked and sliced.

    Here are a few ingredients you should consider when constructing a marinade:

    Salt is absolutely essential. It is one of the few ingredients that penetrates and seasons meat deeper than the outer surface. I like to add my salt in the form of soy sauce or fish sauce, which are also very high in glutamates, adding extra savoriness to my meat.

    Sugar when used in moderation will help the meat brown better on the grill, creating strong smoky, charred flavors. A touch of sugar also balances salt nicely.

    Aromatics are mainly a surface treatment, but they can still be quite powerful. Garlic, shallots, dried spices, herbs, or chilis are all good things to experiment with.

    Oil is often a primary ingredient in marinades. Many aromatic compounds, such as those found in garlic, are soluble in oil but not in water. The oil will help spread these flavors evenly across the surface of the meat, as well as lubricating and protecting the meat when it first hits the grill.

    Acid can balance flavors, but should be used sparingly. It can denature proteins in the meat, causing it to turn mushy over time. With very acidic marinades, it's particularly important to not overmarinade—certainly no more than half a day.

    /home/leaving?target=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.seriouseats.com%2F2011%2F05%2Fhow-to-marinate-and-grill-flank-steaks.html" class="Popup
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  • JosephineJosephine Posts: 14,175Registered Users
    Saria wrote: »
    Not really. The most important thing is salting ahead. Marinades really only penetrate so much, no matter how long you leave them. Most of the flavor is on the surface. And if there's no salt, they're even more pointless.
    That and acidic marinades really shouldn't stay on meat for very long because the acid breaks down and "cooks" proteins leading to mushy, somewhat pasty meat.
    This is why fish shouldn't be marinated with acid. You're effectively making ceviche, which is nice if you're making ceviche, not if you want to cook it.

    I heard the acids make the meat more tender, is this not true? Is it bad for you? When you say salting, how do you do that with chicken breast..and it makes a difference if you do it overnight vs same day?
  • JosephineJosephine Posts: 14,175Registered Users
    So I used this -

    Walkerswood Caribbean Foods

    plus olive oil, shallots, onions, one green chili pepper and cilantro. My ex did this for leg quarters and would grill it and it was reallyyy good, but I'm assuming it's going to be different with breasts, that and I don't usually know what I'm doing. I noticed there is acid in the seasoning.
  • SariaSaria Posts: 15,963Registered Users
    It was back in the '80s that gastronome Nicholas Kurti, a professor of physics at Oxford University, picked up a slice of lamb and a bottle of white wine and decided to test a commonly held belief. Can a marinade really penetrate and tenderize meat? After coloring the white wine blue so he could watch its progress, he poured it around a slice of lamb. After 36 hours, it had penetrated only 10 millimeters (.39 inch).

    News of Kurti's discovery has been even slower to penetrate. Most of us still believe in the tenderizing effects of marinades (most commonly, combinations of acids, oils and flavorings). But this foodie and atomic scientist proved that although acids--vinegar, lemon juice and wine, for example--as well as certain fruit enzymes in papaya, pineapple, kiwi and fig sap do tenderize meat, the process is just too slow for normal use and the resulting change in texture is unpleasant. (When Kurti tried to speed things up by using a hypodermic needle filled with pineapple juice to inject a roast, the meat acquired a mushy texture.)

    McGee advises against soaking meat for longer than two hours in an acid marinade. "Any longer than that and the meat will have a kind of mealy stuff on the surface. The structured meat tissue becomes tiny protein particles, fine for a pate but not what you want in a steak."


    You can do low-acid marinades for long periods, but really, it's rather pointless when if you want that flavor, you can just drizzle a bit when the meat is done.
    Salt is what ultimately makes the biggest difference in flavor and texture of meat.
    por-que-no-te-callas.jpg
  • SariaSaria Posts: 15,963Registered Users
    Josephine wrote: »
    So I used this -

    Walkerswood Caribbean Foods

    plus olive oil, shallots, onions, one green chili pepper and cilantro. My ex did this for leg quarters and would grill it and it was reallyyy good, but I'm assuming it's going to be different with breasts, that and I don't usually know what I'm doing. I noticed there is acid in the seasoning.

    Usually I just make my own jerk marinade, but if I were to use a commercial marinade, I would salt my meat then add the marinade. One hour is honestly plenty, but if you want to go longer, a half a day is good. If you want to marinate a whole day, sure. I'm just telling you that it's false that there's a real difference in flavor and that depending on the marinade, it's detrimental to marinate that long.

    As for the other ingredients, I honestly believe people use a lot of superfluous ingredients when marinating because there is a mentality of more is better instead of considering what each ingredient adds. If I were using a commercial jerk marinade, I'd test it to see if it was spicy enough for me. If not, I'd sprinkle meat with some form of dried chile pepper or use fresh as your boyfriend did because the oils in the pepper definitely penetrate the meat. If I thought it needed acid or sugar, I'd add a bit of those.

    But marinating with cilantro doesn't give you much flavor. If I want cilantro flavor, I make a wet rub. Just mash it to a paste and rub on the meat. I'd add some onion in that paste, too, if I wanted a bit of onion flavor (though they do work in marinades). Being in a marinade won't really do much unless your marinade is basically cilantro pesto. Cilantro and other delicate herbs just don't pack as much punch as herbs like thyme and rosemary in marinades.

    The only thing you have to worry about with breasts is over-cooking them because unlike thighs, they are easy to overcook. That and they have less flavor. It doesn't make a difference in terms of how the marinade works.
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  • SariaSaria Posts: 15,963Registered Users
    Salt (it's on steak, but it applies to chicken and other meats):
    Truth of the matter is that you should salt your meat about 40 minutes before it hits the grill. When the salt first hits a steak, it sits on the surface. Through the process of osmosis, it'll slowly draw liquid out of the mat, which you'll see pool up in little droplets. As those droplets grow, the salt will dissolve in the meat juice, forming a concentrated brine. At this stage in the game—about 25 to 30 minutes in—your steak is in the absolute worst shape possible for grilling. That moisture will evaporate right off, leaving you with a tough, stringy crust.

    Give it a bit more time, and eventually that brine will begin to break down some of the muscle tissue in the meat, allowing the juices to be re-absorbed, and taking the salt right along with it.
    What does this lead to? Meat that is both better seasoned and more tender and moist when you cook it.

    EDIT: Do use kosher salt, not regular table salt. The larger grains of kosher salt (which should more accurately be called "koshering salt," as salt itself is always kosher—kosher salt is coarse salt used in the koshering process) are easier to sprinkle evenly with your fingers, and will also draw more initial moisture out of the meat to dissolve than table salt.

    Note that the 40 minutes is a minimum. A day or two ahead is even better.
    If you use coarse sea salt normally, use that. Kosher salt is cheaper, though, and very easy to apply.
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  • JosephineJosephine Posts: 14,175Registered Users
    Okay cool, I figured the onions/cilantro/garlic(forgot to mention I added that) didn't add much since they are just chopped into the seasoning and oil. But I like them on the side after cooking. Good news that marinating time doesn't make a difference but salting does. Less prep time better for me. The jerk seasoning has salt in it, so I guess that's why it's still good.
  • SariaSaria Posts: 15,963Registered Users
    Most jerk seasoning has salt, but not nearly enough to substitute for salting.
    Kayb sent me some jerk rub and I still seasoned the chicken pretty much normally in addition to the rub.
    Unless what you use is really salty, you'll still need to season.

    But yeah, to summarize, season ahead of time and marinate for as long as you prefer. It's not necessary to marinate for a day or more to get the flavor. Even just one hour will give you good flavor.
    por-que-no-te-callas.jpg
  • LAwomanLAwoman Posts: 2,949Registered Users Curl Neophyte
    I love to marinate with tequila (the better quality the better the taste!), garlic, lime, crushed pineapple and teriyaki sauce overnight.

    mmm that sounds FAB. Definitely stealing this! ;)
  • JosephineJosephine Posts: 14,175Registered Users
    Saria wrote: »
    Most jerk seasoning has salt, but not nearly enough to substitute for salting.
    Kayb sent me some jerk rub and I still seasoned the chicken pretty much normally in addition to the rub.
    Unless what you use is really salty, you'll still need to season.

    But yeah, to summarize, season ahead of time and marinate for as long as you prefer. It's not necessary to marinate for a day or more to get the flavor. Even just one hour will give you good flavor.


    Okay so just to make sure, you rub kosher or sea salt all over the meat and let it sit in the refrigerator for a day or two at most? Do you poke holes or slits in the meat?
  • scrillsscrills Posts: 6,700Registered Users
    I tend to skip the marinade. Proper seasoning seems to be more effective. That, or a glaze.
  • JosephineJosephine Posts: 14,175Registered Users
    scrills wrote: »
    I tend to skip the marinade. Proper seasoning seems to be more effective. That, or a glaze.

    Oops I guess technically I used a seasoning..didnt realize there's a difference.
  • SariaSaria Posts: 15,963Registered Users
    Seasoning = salt, pepper (it's really a flavoring, but it's kind of standard)
    Flavoring = spices and herbs
    You can flavor with dry rubs, wet rubs, and marinades. Technically brining, but brining is more a seasoning technique.

    Marinating involves a wet mix and your product being basically submerged/immersed in the liquid for a certain period of time.
    por-que-no-te-callas.jpg
  • JosephineJosephine Posts: 14,175Registered Users
    Thanks for the info everyone.

    So it came out sort of rubbery, don't know if this means it was overcooked or what. The seasoning was too strong. I now remember it only tasted good with leg quarters on a real grill. With boneless meat it was way too strong and hot. I think I'll try thighs next. I generally prefer white meat in certain dishes but I prefer dark meat for flavor, especially if it's the only thing I'm eating.
  • SariaSaria Posts: 15,963Registered Users
    Rubbery means it was over-cooked.
    I do think jerk rub/marinade is better on dark meat.
    Were your chicken breasts thin? That would explain why you thought the flavor was too strong and the over-cooking.
    It sounds like you might have used too much of the marinade. I've made jerk chicken with boneless thighs which are fairly thin and they work very well.
    por-que-no-te-callas.jpg
  • SariaSaria Posts: 15,963Registered Users
    Josephine wrote: »
    Saria wrote: »
    Most jerk seasoning has salt, but not nearly enough to substitute for salting.
    Kayb sent me some jerk rub and I still seasoned the chicken pretty much normally in addition to the rub.
    Unless what you use is really salty, you'll still need to season.

    But yeah, to summarize, season ahead of time and marinate for as long as you prefer. It's not necessary to marinate for a day or more to get the flavor. Even just one hour will give you good flavor.


    Okay so just to make sure, you rub kosher or sea salt all over the meat and let it sit in the refrigerator for a day or two at most? Do you poke holes or slits in the meat?

    It's just seasoning the meat. Just sprinkle it over the surface of the meat, flip, and do it again then let it do its thing. It's basically the first step in cooking any meat.
    por-que-no-te-callas.jpg
  • JosephineJosephine Posts: 14,175Registered Users
    Saria wrote: »
    Rubbery means it was over-cooked.
    I do think jerk rub/marinade is better on dark meat.
    Were your chicken breasts thin? That would explain why you thought the flavor was too strong and the over-cooking.
    It sounds like you might have used too much of the marinade. I've made jerk chicken with boneless thighs which are fairly thin and they work very well.

    No the breasts weren't thin. I think I just used too much of the marinade. Next time, which will have to wait until next week, I'll try seasoning with salt overnight and use less jerk seasoning the night of grilling. I'm not sure I like the jerk seasoning for this purpose though.
  • KurlyKaeKurlyKae Posts: 3,413Registered Users
    Saria wrote: »
    Josephine wrote: »
    Saria wrote: »
    Most jerk seasoning has salt, but not nearly enough to substitute for salting.
    Kayb sent me some jerk rub and I still seasoned the chicken pretty much normally in addition to the rub.
    Unless what you use is really salty, you'll still need to season.

    But yeah, to summarize, season ahead of time and marinate for as long as you prefer. It's not necessary to marinate for a day or more to get the flavor. Even just one hour will give you good flavor.


    Okay so just to make sure, you rub kosher or sea salt all over the meat and let it sit in the refrigerator for a day or two at most? Do you poke holes or slits in the meat?

    It's just seasoning the meat. Just sprinkle it over the surface of the meat, flip, and do it again then let it do its thing. It's basically the first step in cooking any meat.

    Saris, I've been following similar directions from you for a while with success. But, I did not know to let the chicken sit salted for forty minutes before cooking. Did it tonight and it came out better than ever!

    Thanks and hugs for you from this kitchen challenged curly!
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  • SariaSaria Posts: 15,963Registered Users
    Oh, that's great to know! Thank you for the hugs. :)
    (I enjoy the auto-correct fudge there, btw; it does it to me sometimes, too.)

    Yeah, either do it at least 40 minutes before or right when you're going to cook it. In between that time the salt draws out juice that the meat doesn't have enough time to re-absorb, so you get drier meat. So you either want to avoid letting the moisture get drawn out by salting last minute, or you need to give it enough time. Obviously salting ahead of time is the preferable option!
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  • Jess the MessJess the Mess Posts: 5,844Registered Users
    I'm guessing this is why my dad's teriyaki tri-tips are so yummy. He marinades for days but it's the salt from the soy sauce that really does it. Yummy. Now I want some tri-tip.
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  • SariaSaria Posts: 15,963Registered Users
    This is another good one about marinade myths and it mentions the benefits of butterflied chicken, which is a great way to cook chicken:

    The Food Lab: How To Make Awesome Tandoori-Style Grilled Chicken At Home | Serious Eats
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  • SuZenSuZen Posts: 1,595Registered Users
    Tandoori chicken, yum! That's my favorite grilled chicken.
  • SilverCurlsSilverCurls Posts: 294Registered Users
    SuZen wrote: »
    Tandoori chicken, yum! That's my favorite grilled chicken.

    Me too! Love it!

    I have a roaster in the fridge. I think I'll butterfly it and marinate it in yogurt and some seasonings.
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