This seems fitting given the national holiday we're having today in which we pretty much have to celebrate... okay, maybe it's more mourn the death of Summer by throwing a good ol' fashion BBQ throw down. But it seems that these two jerk-offs over at the New York Times decided to troll the BBQ community by suggesting that marinades are a thing of the past.
Marinating, it’s said, not only adds flavor and moisture that will stay with the food through the rigors of the grilling process, but also tenderizes whatever you’re about to put over the coals.There’s only one problem with this comforting culinary scenario: as we’ve learned over 20-plus years of grilling, it’s mostly just not true.
Let’s take the supposed advantages of marinades one by one.
First, the idea that it tenderizes your food. While it’s true that acids in marinades have somewhat of a tenderizing effect on proteins, it is limited to the proteins with which they come into contact. As you will see if you cut open a piece of chicken or steak that’s been sitting for a couple of hours or even overnight in a marinade, the liquid penetrates hardly at all. This means that only the outer surface of the food is affected. And even this isn’t that helpful, because in our experience what actually happens is that the surface just gets slightly mushy — not a desirable effect.
Second, marinades deliver relatively subdued flavors, which is not what you’re going for in grilling.
Even when marinades include powerful flavor-carriers such as spices, they are diluted by the liquid in which they swim. Think how this differs from simply coating whatever you’re about to grill with a spice rub. Since rubs consist of pretty much nothing but spices and are applied directly to the food, you get the full effect of their deep flavors, further intensified by their interaction with the heat of the fire.
As long as you hold back on the salt, you can slather on these rubs as thickly as you like. And because they are solid rather than liquid, they stick to the food better. Liquid on a damp piece of meat just doesn’t compete.
But there’s more to it than that. In addition to being diluted, the flavors in a marinade are melded, blended together. For other kinds of cooking, more subtle cooking, that may be considered a virtue. What starts out as a collection of simple individual flavors ends up as a more rounded, fuller and complex single flavor.
I take offense to this whole article. I mean, it starts off with this picture of ribs just getting thrown on the flaming red hot grill. How the fuck do you think that's going to cook properly, marinade or not, on that sort of setting. Yes, they do say in the article to put them on medium heat. But that's fucking stupid in itself as well.
Everyone who is anyone or knows anything about how muscles and tendons work in meat realizes that you should put those ribs in a smoker or indirect heat at all possible times and slowly work it. Again, if you marinaded it or not, this is a very simple truth unless you want burned and tough ribs that no amount of BBQ sauce could every cover up.
I get it, it's a movement that pushes for meat to be a bit more simple than it needs to be. But to this article I say that for those who take the extra steps and treat their meat right in putting it in brine or rubbing some seasonings on it, you'll get rewarded ten fold with the finished product. Just because you don't have to put something on the meat before you cook it doesn't make it better without it on.
All that I'm saying is that on this Labor day weekend, your ass better be behind a grill and it better be with meat that was marinated or had some sort of rub on it. You don't want to go bareback on your meat, man. You just don't want to do that regardless what these fucks say.
And with this posting, I should be back from a trip to New Mexico. I mean, to be honest besides Breaking Bad, the only thing I knew about Albequerque was that Bugs Bunny often missed a turn there. And while I was a couple hundred miles shy of Texas BBQ, where they would flog the shit out of this New York journalist for his stance against rubs, I did have some tasty fucking Chili.