Topic 4 Some Healthy Cooking Techniques for Meat and Fish

Marinating consists of placing a food (meat or fish) in an acidic liquid for a few hours. This technique aims to give more flavour and leave the meat or fish more moist. The acidic medium also softens the product to be cooked. Vinegar, wine or lemon juice are commonly used acids. However, it is important to note that the effect of marinating, especially on meat, is very superficial as the liquid penetrates little into the meat. The reason why this happens is because it is very difficult for the molecules of the liquid to penetrate the cells of the muscle tissue, which is why it is not necessary to keep the product for a long time, as a few hours (even as little as 30 minutes) will modify the flavour.

Marinades can be very varied although there are a number of elements that should not be missing, as indicated in the table.

 Ingredients to make a marinade
Basic ingredientsSalt, Grease
Acidic ingredientsVinegar, Wine, Lemon juice
CondimentsHerbs, Spices, Sauces homemade or low in additives such as sugars and salt

Salt is an important ingredient in marinating because, in addition to enhancing the flavour, it breaks down the protein structure of the top layers of the meat or fish. This allows some moisture to penetrate.

The fats in the marinade allow the flavour to spread evenly and lubricate the meat or fish during cooking. Yoghurt is used in Indian marinades.

Vinegar, wine or lemon juice provide the acidity that helps to soften meat or fish. The acidic environment is also very important in reducing the formation of advanced glycation compounds (AGEs). These compounds are formed when foods are subjected to high temperatures and dry heat. The moisture and acidity achieved with the marinating technique significantly reduces the production of these compounds that increase the risk of diabetes and obesity.

The papillote technique consists of wrapping the meat or fish in a sheet of aluminium foil or greaseproof paper with a few drops of fat, vegetables and flavourings (herbs and spices), making a tightly closed package. These packages are baked at 180-200ºC for about 25 minutes per Kg of weight. This technique allows the product to be protected from the direct heat of the oven and the humidity of the product to escape, so it is cooked with its own juices. This technique also allows the vitamins and minerals of the food to be better preserved as it avoids exposure to high direct heat. It also achieves a very juicy texture of the vegetables, without becoming too soft as can happen with boiling, and the colors are kept more vivid and very natural flavor.

Recipes

We show 2 recipes to cook meat:

  • Beef stew with red wine
  • Marinated chicken