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How to make a marinade

publication date: Jul 3, 2008
author/source: Fiona Beckett
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If you’re cooking meat on the barbecue you need to marinade it first. Why? Well to add flavour, obviously, but also to protect you against the charring that can cause the potentially dangerous chemical compounds to which Kerry alerted us here earlier this week.

All marinades should contain some kind of acid to help tenderise and lift the flavour of the meat (lemon juice and yoghurt are the most usual ones), some oil to protect it from burning and flavouring ingredients such as garlic, herbs and chilli.

Before you cook the meat you should shake off any excess so that it doesn’t splash onto the coals and make them smoke. You may also want to add a little sugar or honey to some recipes but don’t overdo it as that can also make the surface of the meat burn.

Leftover marinade can be used to baste the meat but bring it to boiling point for a few minutes first to kill any potentially harmful bacteria. And don’t be tempted to keep it for another batch of meat the following day!

Here are two really simple marinades for chicken

Lemon, garlic and herb marinade
(enough for 1 kg chicken pieces)
Juice of 2 lemons (about 5/6 tbsp)
4 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
A couple of sprigs of fresh thyme or rosemary or 1/2 tsp dried oregano, thyme or herbes de Provence

Whisk the oil and lemon juice together in a shallow ovenproof dish with 2 tbsp water, the garlic and herbs. Skin the chicken and stab the fleshy parts of the meat a few times with a sharp knife to help the marinade penetrate then lay the pieces in a single layer in the marinade. Rub in the marinade so all sides of the chicken are coated, cover with cling film and leave in a cool place for an hour, turning the chicken another couple of times. 

Either heat the grill or a moderate oven (190°C/375°F/Gas 5) transfer the chicken pieces to a roasting tin and cook them for about 10-15 minutes, turning them once and basting them with the reserved marinade. Transfer them to the barbecue, shaking off any excess marinade (which would make the coals flare up) and cook for another 10-15 minutes, basting occasionally,  until any juices run clear when you stick a sharp knife in them.

Tandoori marinade
(enough for 1 kg chicken pieces)
2 tbsp tandoori or other medium hot curry paste
A small (150ml) carton of plain, unsweetened yoghurt
1 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil + extra for basting
1 clove of garlic crushed
1-2 tsp lemon juice

Mix the tandoori paste, yoghurt and oil together and thin with a couple of tablespoons of water. Season with the garlic and a little lemon juice to taste. Follow the instructions above for marinading and cooking the chicken, except baste with oil rather than the yoghurt-based marinade which will split if you heat it.


* I always think it's worth part-cooking chicken before you put it on the barbecue to ensure it gets cooked right through.



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