If you’re barbecuing chicken, the best way to ensure tender, flavoursome meat is to marinate the poultry before you cook it. How does this work, and what makes a good marinade? Read on to discover how to make the most of your next barbecue, courtesy of our five barbecue marinade tips for chicken.
1. Understand what a marinade does
Marinades can do two things. They can be used to tenderise meat, and they can also be used to infuse it with flavour.
Salt and/or sugar are often combined with an acidic liquid when creating a marinade. This combination can transform the chicken’s texture, and it takes time to work. The flavours contained within a marinade do not really penetrate the meat; the flavour will always be one that’s present on the surface rather than deep within the piece of meat. Salt can work its way into the flesh a little if enough is used – you need to allow 1.5 tablespoons of salt per 250ml of liquid for this to have any effect, however.
2. Getting the timing right
An acidic marinade should not be left on meat for longer than overnight, as marinating for too long can cause the surface of the meat to become dry and stringy. A period of five or six hours is best, if possible. A marinade without any acidic content can be left on the poultry for longer than this, but a more prolonged time period will not make it any more effective.
Marinating overnight is often done simply because it’s an easy way of preparing in advance. Planning to marinate for exactly five to six hours before you cook the meat is not always practical in reality, after all.
3. Increase the surface area and don’t overcook
Creating a bigger surface area for the marinade to work on it the first step; this can be achieved by making slashes in the chicken pieces with a sharp knife. Doing this can also help the chicken to barbecue more quickly. Try not to overcook it, however, as poultry would then become dry and tough – a like an overcooked Christmas turkey. If you can control the heat setting on your barbecue, a high heat is best as this will ensure the sugars caramelise, forming a tasty crust on the meat.
4. All in the mix
It’s not too difficult to create your own marinade. What you should aim for is a balance between sweet and savoury, as well as oily and acidic liquid. A simple chicken marinade, for example, can be made by adding garlic and fresh herbs to equal quantities of lemon juice and olive oil.
5. Experiment with ingredients
Other popular marinade ingredients include pepper, chilli, spices, honey or brown sugar, soy sauce, wine vinegars and lime juice. It really depends on the flavour you are aiming for. A Thai-style marinade, for example, may combine fish or soy sauce with lime juice or lemongrass, sugar and chilli, while a Tandoori marinade recipe might contain yogurt as well as a spice blend such as garam masala and turmeric. Paprika can give a Spanish flavour, or add lots of chilli for chicken with a kick.