Three golden rules for making a great braai marinade, no recipe required

Every braai master should have a signature homemade marinade up their sleeve. Follow these easy tips to perfect yours

23 September 2020 - 00:00
A homemade marinade can be made with a variety of flavourful ingredients and spices. Get creative.
A homemade marinade can be made with a variety of flavourful ingredients and spices. Get creative.
Image: 123RF/Elena Veselova

Marinades are brilliant because they not only add flavour to braaied meat but tenderise it too. They also add moisture, which helps to keep it juicy as it cooks over the coals.

While readymade marinades are a convenient option, many have a similar taste that can overpower the natural flavour of your meat. Some also contain all sorts of artificial additives and preservatives, so read the label before buying and if the list of ingredients is long and contains things you’ve never heard of, return it to the shelf.

Besides which, making your own marinade at home is quick and easy. You can use a variety of flavourings including herbs and spices, so get creative and, as long as you follow these three golden rules, it’ll turn out wonderfully every time:

1. START WITH THE RIGHT RATIO OF OIL

Oil is a marinade essential. A great carrier of flavour, it helps to add to the juiciness of the meat and to stop it from sticking to the braai grid.

Save the quality extra virgin olive oil for the salad and rather use a vegetable or canola oil. The ratio is two parts oil to one part acid.

2. ADD SOME ACID

Acidic ingredients such as wine, beer, vinegars, soy sauce, citrus juice, yoghurt, buttermilk, and sour cream help to tenderise meat.

Dairy products tend work well with lamb and pork, whereas the more robust flavours of red meat are best complimented by wine, beer, vinegars and citrus juices. I find that red wine overpowers the flavour of the meat, so I use white wine instead.

3. UP THE FLAVOUR WITH HERBS AND SPICES

The building blocks of a good marinade are onion and garlic and depending on the flavour profile you are after, herbs and spices and other ingredients like mustard and honey.

Seasonal fresh herbs like the more robust parsley, rosemary, thyme and coriander work well. Remember that every 15ml (1 tbsp) of the fresh herb can be replaced with 5ml (1 tsp) of the dried herb as these have a more concentrated flavour.

SOME FAB FLAVOUR COMBOS

SOUTH AFRICAN FAVE

Although it doesn’t follow the standard marinade rules, this is a hot favourite for marinating red meat and ribs.

Beer-marinated braaied chicken thighs.
Beer-marinated braaied chicken thighs.
Image: Hein van Tonder

Just remember to wipe off as much of the marinade as you can before placing the meat on the braai as the high sugar content will cause it to burn and stick to the grid.

How to make it: Combine chopped onion with some crushed garlic and chopped chilli (optional). Add equal quantities of fruit chutney and tomato sauce; you can use sweet chilli sauce in place of the tomato sauce or a combination of the two. Add a dash of soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce and some runny honey or brown sugar.

SPICY BEER MARINADE

This boozy marinade is a good all-rounder.

How to make it: Combine a can of beer with onion, garlic, a dash of chilli sauce, cider vinegar, oil, mustard, runny honey, seasoning and some rosemary. You can replace the beer with ginger beer or apple juice omitting the honey because both are sweet alternatives.

THAI-STYLE MARINADE

This exotic marinade is particularly good with poultry.

How to make it: combine coconut milk, grated ginger, crushed garlic, chopped lemongrass, the zest and juice of a large lime or lemon, finely chopped fresh coriander and chilli together.

INDIAN-STYLE MARINADE

This colourful marinade works well with lamb, pork or chicken.

How to make it: combine yoghurt or buttermilk, lime or lemon juice, a dash of turmeric and curry paste together.

If you'd like your marinade to double as a sauce, bring it to the boil on the stove before serving.
If you'd like your marinade to double as a sauce, bring it to the boil on the stove before serving.
Image: 123RF/Elena Veselova

MARINADE DOS AND DON’TS

  • Once you have added the marinate to the meat, don’t leave it out on kitchen counter, especially in summer. Store it in the fridge.
  • When the meat is removed from the marinade, don't use it as a sauce unless you have poured it into a pot and brought it to a rolling boil on the stove for at least 5-10 minutes, adding water if necessary.
  • Once the marinade has been used, it’s best to discard it.
  • It's preferable to marinate meat in glass, ceramic and plastic containers instead of metal dishes as there could be a reaction between the acid ingredients in the marinate and the metal.
  • Tip: Ziplock bags are excellent for marinating meat. This way you can easily massage the marinate into the meat and keep turning it over in the fridge so both sides are well-marinated.