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How Do I Choose the Best BBQ Meat Marinade?

Megan Shoop
Megan Shoop

Marinades infuse meat with flavor, making it juicy and tender while highlighting its inherent richness. The best tips for creating a homemade bbq meat marinade include considering the type of meat being prepared and which bbq flavors, either traditional or non-traditional, the cook enjoys most. Balancing these two factors usually produces a succulent and tasty batch of barbecue.

When creating a bbq meat marinade, the first thing to consider is the type of meat being used. Lighter meats, like chicken or pork, generally have a more subtle flavor and require equally subtle marinades to avoid hiding the meaty flavors. Marinades showcasing just one or two flavors, such as lemon-pepper or tomato and garlic, typically work best for pork and chicken.

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

Sweeter marinades, with fruit or honey-based flavors, may also highlight pork and chicken without overpowering them. Pineapple, apples, peaches, blueberries, and even raspberries often mingle well with a little honey and vinegar. The acids in the fruit and vinegar often sink deeply into the meat, while the sugars in the honey and fruit can underscore its richness. Sweet marinades may also mix well with savory spices, like Cajun seasoning or cayenne pepper, though cooks must use these in moderation to avoid masking the other flavors in a dish.

Red meats, like beef and mutton, usually have stronger flavors. A homemade bbq meat marinade for dishes featuring these types may include honey and fruit, but usually lean toward more savory ingredients like mesquite, Worcestershire sauce, hickory smoke flavoring, and soy sauce. Combining these ingredients with just a pinch of sugar, tomatoes, and vinegar usually complements red meats perfectly.

Cooks must always taste a bbq meat marinade while making one, both to ensure the flavors are balanced and to see if he or she likes it. If a recipe includes an ingredient that the cook doesn’t like, leaving it out could mean the difference between an unsuccessful marinade and an enjoyable meal. For instance, if a marinade for pineapple chicken includes hot pepper flakes and the cook doesn’t like spicy food, it is acceptable to skip them. Others that dislike sweet marinades may want to avoid recipes that include brown sugar.

Reducing the amount of unwanted ingredients may also create a delicious bbq meat marinade. Those looking to expand their palates could halve the amount of sweetness in a recipe instead of eliminating it altogether. Not only does this expose them to new flavor combinations, it can also keep the marinade from tasting too acidic, salty, or sour. Properly balanced flavors will almost always yield a delicious bbq meat marinade.

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