Marinating and Brining for a Barbecue
Marinade
Many a great barbecue meal starts with the
application of a good marinade to the meat.

BBQ Marinades serve a few purposes. Perhaps the
most obvious is that they flavor the meat that is
being prepared. Marinades also can serve to
tenderize meats by utilizing some agent in their
make up to break down some of the tougher fats
and connective tissue found in the meat.

I seem to have found that marinades with acidic
qualities, such as those with lime juice that you
may use for fajita steaks, provide the most
tenderizing potential.

Timing of the Marinade

If you use a really good marinade, more than likely it
will be designed to help flavor the meat you are
cooking by penetrating into the meat itself. That
means that the longer the meat marinates, the
stronger the flavor of the marinade that will come
through. This can be both a good and a bad thing!

It seem like every time I am going to marinate
something, I'm having a really busy day and forget
to put it together in time to get the optimal for the
process to work. Then you have to strengthen the
marinade a little bit to get the flavor, but you lose out
on the tenderization process.

Likewise though, if you marinate some cuts of meat
too long, you don't get a good balance between the
taste of the marinade and the natural taste of the
meat.

That being said, consider what you are cooking,
how big and how dense a cut it is, and try your
marinade out for different lengths of times to see
which comes out to suit your tastes best. But make
sure it is one of your
first considerations when you
are cooking, to allow yourself enough time for the
marinade, some of which you may want to apply to
day before you cook. Once you get too close to the
time you plan to serve the meat, you can't turn back
the clock for the marinade!

We off some of our ones we like and how long we
like to do it in the
recipe section on marinades   
As far a how to marinate, you can do it in
just about any non-reactive container. We
don't like to put a marinade in a metal
container, especially not cast iron (don't
want to ruin that seasoning!). Past that, the
key for us is  to seal the container before
putting it back into the fridge. This should
help to keep any other residents of the
refrigerator from lending their own flavor to
the meat. We often like to just place our
meat in a well sealed zip lock type plastic
bag. Using the bag allows us to slosh the
meat and marinade around a bit, kneading
it with our hands, to ensure good coverage.
The picture at right is actually a few skirt
steaks marinading in an olive oil based
marinade that we like to throw together.
Brining
Brining is basically soaking your meat in a
salt, or salt-based solution = brine = to
both flavor and preserve moisture of the
meat. Think of it as a different kind of
marinade. We swear by it for our
Thanksgiving turkey, and in fact we use it
often for much of our poultry.

We brine our Thanksgiving turkey for about
an hour per pound, sometimes just in a
simple mixture of table salt and water.
Kosher salt is good too, just make sure to
up the quantity by about half because the
larger crystals of the Kosher means you do
not actually get as much salt per cup as
you do in the tighter packed table salt.
General rule of thumb is a cup of salt per
gallon of water that you use. You will need
enough water to completely cover the
noble bird. And don't leave it in too long,
you can absolutely make the turkey too
salty if you do.
Start with your turkey completely thawed, cleaned out - basically ready to cook. Mix the brine first, put into a container large enough for
your bird, and then add the turkey.

This entire container will now need to be refrigerated the entire time of the brining session. I like to just put mine in a cooler - one of
those throw away Styrofoam ones so I don't have to worry about trying to get it clean enough to use again afterwards - and let it soak. If
you live where it is cold outside at the time, you can most likely just leave the cooler outside and it will be fine. You can add ice if need
be, but if you do, put it in a zip lock type bag first and then put the whole bag in the cooler with the brine and the bird. That way you do
not dilute the brine as the ice melts.

You can also add spices and other flavors to your brine to enhance the taste of the turkey. Sugar is a very popular addition, as are
peppercorns and juices. If you use a flavored brine that needs to cook first, make sure you let the brine cool completely before you put
the bird in it.  See my
recipe section for some other ideas.
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