Marination is the process of soaking foods in a seasoned, often acidic, liquid before cooking. The origins of the word allude to the use of brine (aqua marina) in the pickling process, which led to the technique of adding flavor by immersion in liquid. The liquid in question, the 'marinade' can be acidic with ingredients such as vinegar, lemon juice, or wine, or savory with soy sauce, brine or other prepared sauces. Along with these liquids, a marinade often contains oils, herbs, and spices to further flavor the food items.
It is commonly used to flavor foods and to tenderize tougher cuts of meat. The process may last seconds or days. Different marinades are used in different cuisines. For example, in Indian cuisine the marinade is usually prepared with mixture of spices.
In meats, the acid causes the tissue to break down, allowing more moisture to be absorbed and giving a juicier end product. However, too much acid can be detrimental to the end product. A good marinade will have a delicate balance of spices, acids, and oil. It is generally not recommended that raw marinated meats be frozen, as the marinade can break down the surface and make the outer layer turn mushy.
Often confused with marinating, "macerating" is a similar form of food preparation.
The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends discarding used marinade that has been applied to raw meats. Meats, such as red meat, fish, and chicken, may contain unhealthy substances or microorganisms which may enter the marinade, according to health experts attributed by the AICR. These substances would become neutralized in the cooking process but using the leftover marinade later as a sauce holds the risk of reapplication. If additional flavoring from the marinade is desired, prepare a new batch.
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