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I have a ton of questions re: Brines, marinades......

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    I have a ton of questions re: Brines, marinades......

    Get ready because I'm new to the Pitmasters Club and I need a BBQ edumacation!

    #1. What, if any spices and herbs are water soluble?
    #2. Besides green herbs like Oregano and Basil, what other herbs and spices only oil soluble?
    #3. Is denaturizing and tenderizing the same thing? The reason I ask this is the mythbuster that states marinades do not tenderize is contrdicted by another statement saying that marinades do tenderize. This is a bit confusing for us non experts.
    #4. Does the adding of salt to a marinade which makes it brininade help tenderize? Because I know that the addition of salt helps meat retain more of its moisture, but not much else.
    #5. If you are making a paste out of herbs and spices to cook indirectly, how much oil do you need and about how long does it take for the herbs and spice to release their flavor and aromatics?

    I will have a ton of more questions in the very near future........Thanks for the help!

    1&2) To start you out, a good read for you would be Meathead's Zen of Herbs & Spices article. Most herbs/spices that do not dissolve in water are oil soluble. Good rule of thumb but not absolute.

    3&4) They will to an extent, but remember how far a marinade penetrates- not far. How far will salt penetrate (or the salt in the marinade)? Much further. I will forward this to Meathead so he can help clarify it further since he's the author..

    5) I would say go with whatever makes a workable paste. The oil will largely drip off and cook off, but in the meantime it helps hold the spices and release their oils/flavors


      I did read Meathead's Zen of Herbs and Spices and that's why I asked the question. I have a instructional BBQ DVD titled "BBQ Secrets The Master Guide to Extraordinary Barbecue Cooking" and in there was a simple recipe for a marinade. The recipe called for approximently 1/6 Vinegar of choice, 1/6 of a fruit juice, 2/3 water and seasoned salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder and chile powder but NO oil. Terry Black from Super Smokers, a BBQ joint located in St. Louis, MO said put it together and let it sit overnight in the fridge so that all the oils from the seasonings get released.

      So here is my question: If these spices are NOT water soluble, do their characteristics get released into the marinade or where they just wasted?

      This brings up another question.

      If spice and herbs are only oil soluble, does'nt it make sense that your marinade must include an oil like canola oil so that the flavor and aromatics in the spices and herbs get released?

      Thanks for your help!


        First of all, and this will sound egomaniacal I know, everything you read elsewhere is wrong. Modern food science makes most cookbooks and websites out of date. The important article for you to read is my article on the science of marinades. It is important to know that marinades are mostly surface treatments. Salt penetrates and that's about it. There are some exceptions, marinades penetrate most seafood and some veggies, but not most land animals. Only think cuts.

        Marinades work on some foods but not on others. A good marinade contains certain ingredients but not others. Here's the truth about marinades and brinerades.

        Herbs and spices are either water soluble, alsohol soluble or oil soluble. Some are soluble in more than one solvent. A typical marinade containing oil and vinegar (which is 95% water) has 2 of the 3 solvents so it will dissolve most of the aromatics. But remember, meat is 75% water and oil and water don't mix! Oil will NOT penetrate meat much deeper than the cracks and pits on the surface. And meat is already like a water saturated sponge, so vinegar won't go far either.

        Now think about this: warm saliva is a fine solvent....

        My chef and I are currently going through my entire spice rack to categorize them and their solvents. Sit tight. But a rule of thumb is spices and powders dissolve in water and green herbs have flavorful oils that come out in oil.

        Some types of denaturing also tenderize, but not all. Can you show me where I have contradicted myself on this? Sometimes I write something that is conventional wisdom, and then I do experiments or find science that proves otherwise. I might have missed correcting an article.

        The best way to make tender meats is to cook over low temps. High temps get the proteins' undies in a bunch. An alternative is enzymes. Salt's impact is minimal.

        When making a paste, I usually give you a ballpark quantity, but it doesn't take much, just enough to cot the surfaces. You can eyeball it.


          Dear Meathead:

          Please forgive me, I did not mean to offend you and I don't think you're an egomaniac either! I've already learned a ton of information from your site and I'm just getting started. I'm a stickler for detail, because I want to do things correctly and I'm tired of screwing things up.

          You gave me the answer that I was looking for! And that is that green herbs are oil soluble and basically the rest are water soluble. I had a hunch that this was the answer but I needed to hear it from an expert like you. Is my assumption correct?

          My next question is in regard to making marinades or brineminades. If I wanted to make a "Mexican" type marinade for skirt steak and I'm using lime or lemon juice as a flavoring, I've learned that the marinade cannot contain more than 1/8 of a fruit juice. Aside from the seasoning that I would add, what would be the best idea for the remaining 7/8's of the liquid?

          Should I use 1/8 part of a vinegar or is something else better? Remember, I am about at the 3rd grade level when it comes to BBQing but I wanna learn more about everything.

          If I am making a marinade with dried herbs, how much oil is needed in the marinade to release the flavor and aromatics?

          BTW, I bought a PK grill after reading all the info on your website. I like it alot. Is there a PK Grill forum section on this site? I need to learn more on how to cook the more complicated stuff on it. So far, my chicken and steak is killer on it, but I want to move on to ribs and briskets and admittedly, I'm insecure about my outdoor cooking skills but gaining more confidence.

          Thank you for your answers,


            Oh heck, I forgot to ask you another question.

            Are the microscopic cracks and dents in chicken and pork the same size as beef?

            Or are they smaller or larger?

            If they are larger, are they large enough for garlic or sugar molecules to enter?

            Oh yeah, one more thing. I made your wife's Italian Vinaigrette yesterday, It was a big hit, everyone really liked it.


              WEKing I mean this in the gentlest way possible as I don't want to curb your enthusiasm. The Pit is a community forum intended for community interaction. If you have questions after reading an article it's best to pose those questions in Disqus, which is the comment system you'll find at the bottom of every article on the Amazingribs.com site. Meathead does come into The Pit to answer questions from time to time, but it's not a given he can address every question our thousands of members may ask.

              Have you listened to the "Magic of Salt" Seminar? I think you'd find it very informative and relevant to some of the questions you've asked. It's also just a killer seminar.


              • David Parrish
                David Parrish commented
                Editing a comment
                Sorry for the confusion. Disqus is the comments system used on the amazingribs.com web pages. Here's an example: http://amazingribs.com/recipes/my_in...n_of_salt.html

                If you look at the bottom of that page you'll see comments powered by Disqus software. Disqus is the same comments system you see on other popular websites like CNN.

                Right now we're in The Pit (pitmaster.amazingribs.com). This is a forum powered by vBulletin software. The "Magic of Salt" link above is still in The Pit, so replies are through the forum software. I know, clear as mud, right?

              • WEKing
                WEKing commented
                Editing a comment
                Now I'm really confused. When I joined this site a week or so ago I thought I would simply be able to ask questions about all the aspects of outdoor cooking so I could expand my knowledge. Now it looks like if I ask a question about a seminar that I have just watched, I am commiting some sort of message board crime. The Zen of Salt was a very interesting article and does have a disqus button, but the article that interested me was the Magic of Salt and there is no discus button. Is there a reason for this?

                So to clear things up (if that's possible) I am not allowed to ask questions on the Pit community forum regarding cooking, but only community interaction, whatever that is. But I am allowed to ask questions on a Disqus forum that in this case, does not exist?

                It is as clear as mud. I'm not as computer savy as most of you probably are, so I need some guidance. What is your definition of community interaction? I'm not familiar with Disqus, because I don't watch CNN or read their website

              • David Parrish
                David Parrish commented
                Editing a comment
                You can ask questions. My point is that when you post questions here in The Pit it's really to engage in a dialogue with other club members. We have a great community here with a lot of very knowledgeable members who love to help out.

                Put another way... Meathead comes in sometimes to answer questions, but it's mainly other members who are going to respond to you here in The Pit. So when asking questions you should typically be open to responses from anyone and not direct questions to a specific person.

                Seminars are a little different and frankly the question system is a bit complicated. I'm heading to bed but will write more on seminars tomorrow.

                There's a lot of info here. It's like drinking from a firehose. Take a look around, make friends, and get a feel for the community. It'll all make sense soon enough

              Thanks for the recommendation. I did not know about the Discus comment system. I'm brand new here and learning how to get around......I've seen the Magic of Salt seminar, it did not mention the size of the microscopic dents and cracks in pork or chicken and if it did, it went right over my head.......


                I know it may have been more in the context of salt but I really thought Dr. Blonder talked about the porous nature of chicken in the seminar. I'll have to go back and check.

                Have you read this article? http://amazingribs.com/recipes/rubs_...of_brines.html

                Search for "pore" and "porous".


                  WEKing, as far as spices are concerned, I like to warm some peanut oil, crash dried herbs between my fingers and mix them in. Leave that for about 10 minutes.
                  For spice paste, there's no specific amount of oil. Just heat the oil in the microwave slowly add it to the spices until you get the thickness that you like, leave the paste for 10 minutes before using.
                  When I cook indoors, say sauteing onions, I add any spices or dry herbs that I plan to use in the hot oil with the onions. Makes a great difference


                    All sources here point to all meats, except seafood and fish, having similar flesh density as far as marinades and spice penetration behave. Seafood and fish are accepted to have more porous flesh and therefore more penetration for brines, etc. The exact levels on a molecular scale I do not believe are listed here. Perhpas that is a bit beyond the scope of these articles. Suffice it to say a marinade will behave similarly on beef and chicken for the purposes of BBQ. I do find that chicken benefits from sugar in the wet brine, if one chooses to use a wet brine. Do I know exactly how far sugar penetrates into chicken? No. But it makes it taste better, this I have proven and reproven!



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