Help a novice cook

Being the novice chef I am, I must ask what is probably an obvious question. How exactly does one marinade meat? Do you take the sauce and put it in a ziploc bag with the meat? Or do you brush it on and ziploc it? Or what?

It’s one of my goals to be a decent cook before I get out of college and I’ve got a few years to follow through on this, now the other question is, are there any good introduction cooking books. Not recipes necessarily. Is there Cooking for Dummies? ponders

Thanks all

Yes, there are “ccoking for dummies” books. Check the cooking section of your local Barnes &Noble.

poke some holes in the meat with a fork, put it in a ziplock bag with the marinade, slop it around some and make sure it’s coated (you don’t have to brush it). Put it in the fridge. That’s it.
There are recipes for virtually anything on the internet, but for technique, you can find beginners’ type books. You can also learn a lot from Food Network. I reccomend “Good Eats” with Alton Brown for good basic techniques with simple ingredients.

I always recommend How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman to people looking for a good basic cookbook. It really does tell you how to cook almost everything, and he assumes that you know almost nothing - there are all kinds of helpful diagrams to show you how to dice an onion, how to cut up a chicken, etc.

With the plastic bag marinating technique that Diogenes recommends, give it at least an hour to soak, but you can leave it in the fridge overnight for extra flavor.

Personally, I wouldn’t poke my meat with a fork while marinading.

A good marinade usually starts with three basic ingredients: an oil, an acid, and herbs and spices. The oil helps helps transport the flavor of the spices and herbs, as well as helping in forming a good crust while grilling. The acid tenderizes the meat, and the herbs impart the flavor.

For oils, you can use vegetable oil, olive oil, light sesame oil, pretty much anything.

For acids, lemon juice, lime juice, wine, orange juice, mustard, soy sauce, yogurt, etc…

For herbs, garlic, rosemary, pepper, thyme, etc.

Probably the simplest marinade out there is Italian dressing. You’ve got all your basic ingredients in there: oil, acid, herbs. Pour it over your chicken, put it in a ziploc bag, and let it sit for an hour in the fridge.

What you will need to know is that different meats require different marinading times and different approaches. Fish and boneless chicken only require an hour to marinade. Beef and pork, 4-8 or more hours. Fish and chicken also don’t require as much acidity in the marinade…you run the risk of overtenderizing your meats.

You don’t need to cover your food with the marinade. A half-cup or so will do for a two-pound piece of meat. Just turn the meat from time to time to ensure even distribution.

To give you an idea of what I might do for a beef marinade, I would take a half cup of oil, a half cup of a hearty red wine, a clove or two of garlic, some rosemary sprigs, and pepper and marinade the meat in that.

For chicken, I like an African/Portuguese piri-piri marinade. One part oil, one part lemon or lime juice, and lots of hot red chiles (Thai birds’ eye).

Also worth noting is marinading is best reserved for tougher and cheaper cuts of meat. You don’t have to marinade the heck out of everything. Sometimes, you just want the pure flavor of the meat to come through, like in a nice filet or T-bone. People can get too carried away with their marinades, sometimes.

Have fun and experiment. Part of the fun of marinades is developing your own.

With apologies in advance . . .

Marinade is a noun. It’s what you soak your meat product in. Marinate is a verb. It is the action of soaking the meat product. I marinated my chicken in marinade.

You may now resume your regularly scheduled thread.

Thank you, Jodi and GilaB. I was almost ready to rant about it.

Now you may resume your regularly scheduled thread. :stuck_out_tongue:

Of course you don’t actually need a ziploc bag; you can do it in a bowl and cover it with plastic film - the bag just makes it convenient - instead of removing the film and stirrring/turning the contents of the bowl, you just pick up the bag and jostle the contents.

The recipe may suggest reserving some marinade to brush onto the meat all the while it is cooking - DO NOT save any used marinade from the bag for this purpose - it will have been contaminated by meat juices, possibly harbouring harmful bacteria (of which the ones left on/in the meat will be destroyed by cooking) - if you add some of the contaminated marinade to the meat a short time before the end of cooking, there may still be dangerous levels of living bacteria present when you eat the food.

If the recipe calls for applying extra marinade while cooking, reserve a cupful as soon as you make it, before adding the meat.

Acidic marinades will “cook” fish in a very short period of time, making it tough. I never marinate fish for more than 15 minutes in anything that has lemon juice in it. Try buttermilk for marinating fish instead.

Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book is my all time favorite basic cook book. The recipes are basic, but cover a wide range of foods. There are also some nice section on terms, equipment and techniques.

I got my copy when I was in college (ack, 15 yrs ago). It was my grandmothers. It is still the first book I turn to when I need to know how long to cook sweet potatoes for, or a good gravy recipe.

Cooking threads usually do best in the Cafe Society forum, so I’ll move this one over there.

moderator GQ

Good posts on marinating, not much to add at this point. I like Joy of Cooking, which doesn’t just list a bunch of recipes but teaches techniques and discusses all different types of food. Also Le Technique by Jacques Pepin is very good for classic French technique, though not for the beginner.

I would have to second this. You don’t want holes in your meat when you cook it, because the juices will just drip out. Never pierce the meat until you’re going to slice it to eat it.

As for marinades, experiment. Read up on some basic marinades, and then take it from there.
I’ve used pineapple juice for pork, tomato soup on roasts, and all sorts of things on chicken.
You can try a good dark beer, a good healthy sprinkle of fresh cracked pepper and some chopped onions for beef roasts, too.
Rosemary is excellent on chicken and turkey. I’ve used a little canola oil, balsamic vinegar, a bit of fresh chopped garlic and a bunch of fresh rosemary as a marinade for both chicken and turkey. It’s wonderful, and smells great while it’s cooking.
As a novice cook, you might prefer the Ziploc method. It’s very easy to mix the mariande in the bag, add the meat and let it sit. You can pick it up, move the meat or pieces of meat around, and set it back down to continue marinating.
Just remember, as Mangetout said, discard any leftover marinade that the raw meat sat in. If you want to use some as a baste, put it aside before you put the raw meat in it.

Dang, I opened up the thread thinking it had to do with helping a novice cock. I have to wear my reading glasses more often…

This is a common misconception but it isn’t true. People seem to have the idea that a cut of meat is like a water ballon and that if you pierce the surface that “all the juice runs out.” The cellular structure of meat is such that very ittle juice is lost from piercing and a little perforation with a fork enable the marinade to penetrate the meat a little more quickly.

Poking: You do not poke tender cuts like steaks and chops that are to be cooked quickly over direct heat. Tougher or larger cuts that are cooked slowly over indirect heat, like butts and brisket: poke away!

Marinade: To my suprise, the best steak marinade I have ever found is canned bruschetta filling. It’s got tomatoes (acid), basil and garlic (spices), and olive oil (oil). It makes awesome marinade for rib eyes.

Or, if you’re going to reduce the marinade as a sauce to serve with the meat, put it in a saucepan while the meat’s cooking, bring it to a boil, and simmer for several minutes. Many recipes I’ve used include this step.

Will it kill you? Dunno, but I’m not dead yet.

As an alternative to marinade, try a “dry rub”…a mix of salt, spices, and dried herbs, rubbed into the meat before cooking (grilling, usually). A dry rub will give you more flavor in less time.

If this is really intended as advice for a novice cook, I would recommend just using Italian dressing as a marinade. It’s something you likely already have in the house, it’s pre-mixed in a workable proportion, and it’s got everything you need in it. You should, of course, feel free to experiment, but it’s a good foundation.

Yes and no.

If you perforate the meat before cooking, as in, when it’s raw and you’re about to put the marinade on, you’re correct. Juices aren’t going to come gushing out.

However, you absolutely do not want to slice or perforate the meat while it’s cooking or even when it’s just come off the cooking surface. When heated, the cellular structure of the meat contracts, and allows the juices to run more freely. The juice is also forced to the outsides of the meat, instead of in the center.

When you cut into a hot steak, the juices will indeed run out. That’s why after you remove meat from the heat source, you must let it sit for 5 or 10 min (depending on how thick it is.) This allows the cells of the meat to become more relaxed, and the juices to be absorbed back into the meat.

The last thing you want when you cut into a steak is for all the juices to go running out. Bad bad bad!

My favorite chicken marinade is soy sauce and a heap of garlic. A little dried orange peel and some rosemary add some great aromatics.

Dry rubs are great, unless you’re pan frying (I make chicken on the stove top quite a bit) and dry spices will burn faster than anything.