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Adding flavor to grilling season with marinades

Warm weather has pushed its way into Illinois, and it’s the ideal time to fire up the grill while spending time with family and friends.

Whether grilling fruit, meat, chicken, seafood, or vegetables, it is essential to monitor the grill, use separate serving trays and utensils for raw and cooked meat, use a food thermometer, and wash hands frequently to prevent foodborne illness.

One grilling suggestion Lisa Peterson, Nutrition & Wellness Educator with University of Illinois Extension College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences, recommends is marinating meat, fish, and poultry before grilling.

“Marinating helps tenderize, moisten, and add flavor to the meat while reducing flame flares from dripping fat, and black charring,” Peterson said.

The American Institute for Cancer Research indicates marinating meat creates a barrier between the meat and high heat from the grill, reducing the formation of potentially harmful chemicals.

A marinade is a savory, acidic sauce where food is soaked to enrich the flavor and tenderize the food.

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest 5 1/2 ounces of lean protein per day following a 2,000-calorie eating pattern. Lean meat contains less saturated fat and a tougher exterior, making it ideal for marinating.

“When grocery shopping, choose meat with a lower percentage of fat and pick select or choice over prime cuts. They contain less of saturated fat,” Peterson said.

The American Heart Association indicates a diet high in saturated fat raises LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, which increases the risk of heart disease, the No. 1 killer among Americans.

Marinades generally consist of three ingredients: oil, acid, and flavorings such as herbs and spices.

When making marinades at home, a basic marinade is three parts oil and one part acid with the addition of seasoning. Vegetable oil, olive, sesame, nut, or herb-infused oil helps preserve moisture in the meat.

“Red meat typically has enough fat, where oil may not be necessary. Fish and chicken are leaner, and may benefit from the addition of oil,” Peterson said.

Furthermore, a general guideline when making homemade marinades is one half cup marinade per pound of meat.

Food safety should be a priority when preparing a marinade.

“Always marinate food in the refrigerator and never use additional marinade that was sitting in raw meat on cooked meat,” Peterson said.

If wanting to use a marinade on cooked meat, set aside extra marinade that has not come in contact with raw meat. Additionally, avoid marinating food in metal containers as the acidic marinade can cause a negative reaction with the metal and contaminate the food.

Questions about food safety, marinades, or looking for recipes? Contact the local University of Illinois Extension office.

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