One thing I’ve learned about meat is that even the toughest cut can be tender to the bite if it’s marinated correctly.
But if you’re going to use a marinade on meat, it should be low-acid. My favorite is one that contains sesame oil, teriyaki sauce, honey and orange juice as well as some rosemary, garlic and onion. The recipe calls for a cup of teriyaki and one-third cup each of honey and orange juice. I’ve found that using any more orange juice can make the meat tougher than it was to start.
An exception would be a fairly tight-textured cut of meat such as flank steak, which can survive a more acidic marinade. Since the marinade only penetrates a fraction of an inch, it won’t toughen the meat.
Another thing you should remember when marinading meats and seafood is that you can boost your intake of antioxidants by choosing sauces that contain foods, herbs and spices such as hot peppers, allspice, sesame and ginger, all of which have high antioxidant properties.
Foods rich in antioxidants play an essential role in preventing cardiovascular diseases, cancers, neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, inflammation and problems associated with cutaneous aging, studies have shown.
Although marinating meat reduces antioxidants levels of herbs and spices by 45 percent to 70 percent, there still is a benefit over cooking meat plain with no marinade, according to a University of Western Ontario study.
And according to the American Institute of Cancer Research, marinating can reduce the production of potentially cancer-causing compounds in grilled meat. Marinating meats before grilling them may reduce the amount of heterocyclic amines that can form on meat exposed to high cooking temperatures. AICR studies have shown that in some cases, even briefly marinating foods can reduce HCAs by as much as 92 percent to 99 percent.
Speaking of tougher cuts of meat, here’s a grilled flank steak sandwich recipe that’s the beneficiary of a ginger-soy marinade.
Ginger-Soy Marinated Flank Steak Sandwiches
FOR THE MARINADE:
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons canola oil
¼ cup grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons chili-garlic sauce, or more to taste
4 scallions, ends trimmed and thinly sliced
1¼ pounds flank steak
FOR THE SANDWICH SPREAD:
¼ cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons chili-garlic sauce
FOR THE SANDWICHES:
8 ¾-inch-thick slices crusty country-style bread
1 tablespoon extra-virgin oil
3 cups loosely packed watercress or arugula
In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, brown sugar and soy sauce until the sugar is dissolved. Whisk in the oil, ginger, chili-garlic sauce and scallions.
Place the steak in a shallow glass dish. Add the marinade and turn to coat the meat well on both sides. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours, turning once.
Heat a gas grill to medium-high or light a charcoal fire.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, honey and chili-garlic sauce. Set aside.
Brush both sides of the bread slices lightly with olive oil.
Grill the steak until the underside is well browned, about 5 minutes. Turn the steak over and grill about 4 minutes longer for medium-rare. While the steak is grilling, place the bread slices around it to toast, about 1 minute per side.
Let the steak stand for 5 minutes, then cut it across the grain into thin slices. Spread a thin layer of the chili-garlic mayonnaise on each toasted bread slice. Arrange the steak over 4 of the slices. Top with watercress or arugula and the remaining bread slices.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 520 calories, 174 calories from fat, 19 grams fat (6 grams saturated, no trans), 58 milligrams cholesterol, 47 grams carbohydrates, 37 grams protein, 2 grams fiber, 780 milligrams sodium.