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With marinades, dinner is in the bag

By Jeff Wilkin
Wednesday, July 10, 2013

When people consider marinades, they often give chicken, steaks and shrimp long soaks in tomato, citrus, beer and wine mixtures.

I’ve got another way, and it’s a perfect fit for summer. Instead of soaks, I put my steaks into quick savory “saunas” on the outdoor grill. All you need is a little imagination, a few sheets of aluminum foil and about 30 minutes in front of the fire.

This week, a couple of small loin steaks were on the menu. I placed the first steak on a long sheet of foil, and covered it with juice from two fresh lemons and two fresh limes. A couple slices of Spanish onion and a generous sprinkling of herb and garlic seasoning followed.

Keep it loose

I wrapped up the steak tight, but not too tight. Once the steak hits the heat, the warmth will “expand” the foil pouch just a little bit.

So you want to make sure your wrap job is a bit loose, to accommodate all that heat. I generally add another sheet of foil around the wrap, just to ensure that my marinade does not leak.

The second steak received tomato treatments. I had about a quarter-bottle of barbecue sauce in the refrigerator, and added a couple of generous squirts of ketchup and about 4 ounces of light beer. The bottle got a shake, and I got soupy, spicy splashes of a tomato-based marinade. I covered the steak and part of the foil with the mix — use a lot, because it’s going to steam into the meat anyway — and added spices and onions. Another wrap job, and the beef was ready for the fire.

Cooking with foil means you’re cooking a little blind — you can’t see how the steaks are doing. I generally give the meats about a half hour over medium heat, and that gives me medium-well to well-done steaks.

With the aluminum cover, it’s just about impossible to burn the contents.

And with all that heat inside the aluminum, the citrus and tomato marinades are “steamed” into the meats. The more marinade used, the more moist the finished product becomes.

Freeing the chef

I know some people like to apply marinade as they cook, brushing steaks at every turn.

And you will get those nice grill marks on the meat during the process.

But the foil method gives the chef more freedom to enjoy conversations or cold beers with friends while supper cooks. And the used foil is just thrown out, a simple clean-up job.

My latest hot marinated steaks turned out terrifically. Very tender meat, and a distinct difference in flavors. You could really taste the lemon and lime in the one steak, and the smoky barbecue and tangy tomato in the other. Even most of the onions survived the process without any charring.

I’ve used spicy hot sauce, Italian salad dressing, steak sauce, onion soup, cranberry juice, apple juice, grapefruit, mustard and dark beers for marinade mixes. Any other ideas are welcome.

 
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