RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Whether you’re using a grill pan on your stovetop or firing up your backyard grill, it’s great fun to try out new grilling techniques and recipes. And if you know how to marinade, the possibilities are endless. Fresh, homemade marinades are easy to prepare, and will add zest and novel flavor to any fish, meat, or vegetables you care to try. They can also boost your antioxidant intake, and can even help lower cancer risk. And it’s easy to make your own additive-free versions using tasty, antioxidant-rich ingredients like citrus juices, olive oil, honey, ginger, tomatoes, hot peppers, fresh rosemary, and other herbs.
Most marinades include three key components:
• First, an acidic ingredient, such as vinegar, wine, tomatoes, yogurt, or citrus juice. The acidic component tenderizes meat by helping to break down protein. The acid agent makes meat easier to digest, helps slow the growth of harmful bacteria, and allows moisture and flavor to permeate the meat.
• Next, an agent that adds sweet, spicy, or salty notes. Good options include Dijon mustard, soy sauce, honey, chopped chile peppers, or other vegetable or fruit purees.
• Finally, an accent of dried spices or fresh ginger, garlic, or herbs.
Combine all three components plus your main-dish meat, fish, or vegetables in a plastic bag. Marinate in the fridge for as little as 30 minutes or as long as overnight, depending on the recipe.
A marinade can help counteract some of the risks that come with grilling. For example, when meat is heated to a high temperature, this may produce carcinogenic substances known as heterocyclic amines, or HCAs. But according to the American Institute for Cancer Research, marinating meat can lower HCAs by as much as 99 percent. A recent Kansas State University study found that marinated steaks had 87 percent fewer HCAs than nonmarinated steaks. Adding fresh herbs, spices, citrus juice, honey, and fruit or vegetable puree to a marinade provides extra antioxidants that fight disease and aging.