The ABCs of Marinades and Grilling

There’s nothing like taking a summer neighborhood walk and taking in the scents of barbecue and grilling. Grilling is a popular cooking technique, mostly because of the flavor and caramelization it produces.

One reason those complex flavors develop and grilled foods are texturally pleasing is marinading. Marinades start the breakdown of food by including an acidic or enzymatic component, allowing the flavor and juices of the marinade to penetrate the food. Oil coats the food and absorbs seasoning, making for a flavorful result.

For the perfect marinade ratio, try one part acid to three parts oil and add seasonings, such as a salty component like soy sauce and aromatics such as herbs or garlic. Don’t forget a sweet element ± juice, honey or another sugary element facilitates caramelization for an unbeatable coating. Keep reading for a delicious Asian-inspired marinade recipe. Short for time? Use your favorite vinaigrette.

As components of marinades facilitate chemical reactions, it’s important to use the right vessel to marinate foods. Avoid metal containers or covering — except for stainless steel — as the metal can react with the acid in the marinade and result in a metallic, bitter taste. Use a sealable plastic bag or glass bowls covered with plastic wrap.

More time soaking in a marinade doesn’t necessarily mean better results. Meats that have soaked too long in an acidic marinade can become tough and dry. For best results, follow these foolproof marination times:

  • Poultry — 2 hours
  • Fish and seafood — 15-30 minutes
  • Tofu — 1 to 24 hours
  • Beef and pork — up to 12 hours
  • Soft vegetables, such as mushrooms and zucchini — 30 minutes
  • Root vegetables, such as carrots and potatoes — 2 hours

Gas grills are No. 1 in American homes, followed by charcoal grills and electric grills. Proper cleaning inside and out maximizes the lifetime of this summer staple appliance. Keep these tips in mind:

  • Always cover the grill after it cools down.
  • Clean using a wire brush or grill stone after every use. It is best done when heating up for the next grill session to avoid food particles getting stuck in the brush.
  • Every 10 or so uses, remove grates for cleaning, clean or replace drip pan and clean the inside of the grill.
  • Cast iron grates need some extra love — after brushing the grates clean, brush with oil to season.
  • At the end of the grilling season, disconnect the gas supply and close it. Store propane tank in a ventilated area.

Grilling vegetables is best done by cutting them into uniform pieces. Grill soft and dense vegetables separately, as they have different cooking times.

Did you know lettuce can also be grilled? Grilled Caesar salads don’t have to be limited to fancy restaurant menus. Here’s a recipe that uses fewer dishes, less dressing and is more succulent than its raw counterpart.


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  • 3 heads of Romaine lettuce, base trimmed
  • ¼ cup Caesar dressing
  • 4 ounces parmesan cheese, shaved
  • 1 cup croutons, lightly crushed
  • Spray olive oil
Grilled Caesar Salad
Grilled Caesar Salad

Grilled Caesar Salad, serves 4

1. Start grill and heat to 400-500 degrees.

2. Wash and dry romaine lettuce leaves. Spray lightly with oil

3. Spray grill grates lightly with oil and apply romaine leaves. Grill for 1-3 minutes on each side, or until grill marks have lightly formed.

4.Transfer leaves to a plate and drizzle with 1 Tbsp Caesar dressing, 2 Tbsp crushed croutons and 1 ounce shaved parmesan.

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  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp lime
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp grated ginger
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 green onion, chopped

Shanthi’s Go-To Marinade

Whisk all ingredients, place in container for marinating and add meat or vegetables.

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