To Brine or To Marinade? :: The Grilling Question
THE CHEF SCOTTY ELEMENTS OF EARNEST SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA BARBECUE ARE SUPER SIMPLE:
1. Have good beer in hand (or go for the gold with Fortaleuza tequila and fresh lime, just make sure you have a backup barbecue agent on hand!
2. Propane or charcoal... or neither? You can’t grill if you don’t have one and while I very much prefer to keep things in the natural flavor of coals and water-soaked wood chips, it’s important that we keep things real - propane is easier and quicker.
3. Always have pan spray or lavishly use oil of any sort. It’s necessary should you
wish to avoid half of your dinner over-charred and glued to the grille.
4. Turn the tunes up for your favorite ’80s band if you really endeavor to Einstein up on Bobby Flay. Happy chefs make happy food and creativity is always encouraged!
5. Purchase seasonal produce and fully fattened proteins when considering your
shopping list. The beauty of barbecue is in it’s simplicity. Well-lubricated and self-medicated are the right approaches regardless of the menu or person.
6. Your sides are just as important as your showpieces. Choose wisely and please
for the love of ABBA . . . make your own potato salad (commercial potato salad is to me just as bad as last night’s mistake-of-a-stay-over).
7. When someone asks "Can I bring anything?," a premeditated response is best,
so know your list early: Remember you’ll always need ice, more vodka, board- games, more vodka, a midget named Gertrude in drag and more vodka . . . do you get the point yet?
8. Brine your meats and marinate your seafood! What is the difference between
a brine and a marinade you might ask? Well, now we finally have something tangible to talk about.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MARINADES AND BRINES:
Marinades are usually made up of three components: Acid, oil and herbs. The acid helps to partially denature the meat’s proteins, opening up "tunnels" in the meat structure, in which flavor can seep in. However, marinades generally only penetrate the surface. Marinades work best on leaner proteins such as pork and poultry, because the muscle structures are not as dense as in beef. For denser meats, a marinade works best when the meat is cut into smaller pieces so the marinade can be distributed over a larger surface area.
Be aware however, if marinades are left on too long, the acids can actually "cook" the surface, causing the meat to dry out. Some proteins, such as pork, can marinate for hours. Other less dense cuts of meat, such as chicken breast and most fish, only need to stay in a marinade for a short period.
Brining meat -- that is, putting meat into a salt-water-sugar solution -- adds moisture to the meat through osmosis. Osmosis happens when water flows from a lower concentration of a solution to a higher concentration through a semi-permeable membrane. In meat, this membrane is the plasma membrane that surrounds the individual cells. When meat is placed in brine, the meat’s cell fluids are less concentrated than the salt water in the brining solution. Water flows out of the cells in the meat and salt flows in. The salt then dissolves some of the fiber proteins and the meat’s cell fluids become more concentrated, thus drawing water back in. Brining adds salt and water to the cells so that as the meat is cooked and fluids are heated, moisture is retained in the cells because the brining was done before cooking.