Marinating is a great method for adding flavor to thin cuts of meat like chicken, pork tenderloin, and skirt steak. However, there are a lot of misconceptions about the process. Take our test to see how much you know about marinating.
True or False: Marinades penetrate deep inside meat.
False. Marinades mainly coat the surface of meat. Some ingredients may penetrate just under the surface, but as a general rule marinades do not penetrate very far into meat, and certainly not all the way to the center.
True or False: An acid in a marinade will tenderize meat.
False: Acids will not tenderize meat throughout, but they can make the surface of meat mushy, especially with long marinating times. Use acids like vinegar or citrus sparingly and for short amounts of time. In order to tenderize meat, you must rely on a long, slow cooking process or a mechanical device like a jaccard to break down muscle fibers.
True or False: Pineapple or Accent will tenderize meat.
False. Natural enzymes in papaya (papain) and pineapple (bromelain) or the commercial product Accent Meat Tenderizer do not penetrate meat deeply. They only affect the surface of meat and make it mushy.
True or False: Long marinating times are better.
False. As mentioned above, long soaks in acidic ingredients will make the outside surface of meat mushy, and marinades don’t penetrate beyond a few millimeters into the meat no matter how long you soak it.
True or False: Marinades are great for all cuts of meat.
False. Since marinades only flavor the surface of meat, they work best on thin cuts with a high ratio of surface area to interior meat.
True or False: Bottled salad dressings make great marinades.
Usually false. It’s said that the favorite marinade of George Stephen, inventor of the Weber kettle grill, was Wish-Bone Italian Dressing. But dressings usually contain vinegar that can make meat mushy and the flavors can be poor. If you want to use dressing, buy a high quality product and marinate for a relatively short period of time.