BBQ: Marinating Myths; there’s the rub

??Over a very nice pint of Seafarers, I was thinking out loud about BBQing tonight, and how once you’ve made the step beyond burgers and sausages the first method to make your BBQ food more interesting is to do a marinade. However, it might not be the best thing to do and it certainly might not be the easiest. Made me think why we marinate meat and fish in the first place?

Idly flicking through Breakfast TV this morning, I heard a trailer for barbeque tips from an expert, so I hit record and watched it later. Beyond the airhead questions and the limited time available to the “chef” being interviewed was the serious point that many people now have?? got the hang of their basic barbeque techniques and want to branch out into more interesting food. The cook advised against gloopy sugary sauces, which will burn all too easily and?? suggested marinating.

Now, he had 30 seconds to speak, and who knows what he would have gone on to say, but marinating is not for all cuts of meat and it won’t necessarily do what you think it might do. The myths about barbequing marinated meat and fish – and in fact, this applies to marinades on the whole, but anyway, is that you marinate to impart flavour to what goes on the grill. By marinating, you somehow auomatically make the food more interesting and tasty.

My view is that the prime purpose of marnating is to tenderise and/or pre-cook. What!? Surely you add flavours to the marinade and they end up making your bit of chicken a cut above. Well, first, to tenderise a piece of meet is going to need a serious amount of forethought. 24 hours, in all probability, for the effects of the marinade to work on the meat. In anything but fish or small cuts of fillet (for kebabs, say) less time is just not going to do anything. You might get a bit of colour going from the wine or port, or soy sauce, but see how it doesn’t penetrate the meat? On top of that, most of your flavours will stay in the marinade. And you might even leach juices out of the meat.

No, a much better way, which requires far less planning, is a rub. A rub consists of a dry or semi-wet combination of herbs/spices/aromatics that you well, rub into the surface of the meat. No pretence that this is going to penetrate deep into the flesh (unless you make deep cuts) but practially all your flavours are stuck to the meat with very little wastage and it provides a tasty crust that gets served with the finished article. It looks and tastes great, and can be done in minutes while the BBQ gets to temp.

Rubs are especially good if you are doing a bigger piece of meat, say a half-leg of lamb and especially if you are using indirect heat. They work brilliantly on fish too; say, whole mackerel. You can do predominantly spicy, for example, for pork: ground dried chillies, coriander, fennel seeds, garlic and szechuan black pepper, or predominantly herby: thyme, sage, lemon, garlic black pepper, which works great on lamb. Or any combination you fancy.

I often mix the ground ingredients into a loose paste with the a addition of any of oil, lemon juice, soy sauce. Remember though when using oil on the BBQ that it could cause flame-ups and so is best suited to indirect grilling methods – or the Sunday roast, for that matter. As a suggestion, why not do the Sunday roast on the barbie???

Right, I’m off to light those coals.