There’s a debate in the food science community over the usefulness of marinades. They’re very traditional, but all the evidence points towards two things:
1. They don’t penetrate into the meat AT ALL. The flavor they give is stuck on the surface.
2. If they’re too acidic, they turn the surface of the meat to mush
My twin heroes of food science, Cook’s Illustrated and Alton Brown have both recently weighed in on the topic. If you can catch Alton’s recent episode, “Tender is the Pork“, you can see his take on it.*
*He illustrates the debate in the food community by having a couple of guys in lab coats slap fighting. Yes, it’s juvenile. I laughed, and laughed, and laughed…
Cooks Illustrated is referring to it as “Don’t Marinate – Brinerate” (subscription required). They up the amount of salt in the marinade, causing it to work as a brine, which does draw flavors into the meat. They also keep their marinating times short, and limit the amount of acid in the mix, so the surface of the meat doesn’t get cooked by the acid. This gives you the best of both worlds – the flavors that a marinade can carry, combined with the juiciness of a brine.
Also, put aside some of the marinade aside for last minute basting; an extra layer of marinade after the meat comes off the heat adds another layer of flavors.
Recipe: Rotisserie Boneless Leg of Lamb Roast with Greek Brinerade
Cook time: 45 minutes
- Grill with Rotisserie attachment (I used a Weber kettle with the Rotisserie attachment; kettle is here and rotisserie attachment is here)
- Aluminum foil drip pan (9″x11″, or whatever fits your grill)
- Butcher’s twine for trussing the roasts
Greek style rotisserie boneless leg of lamb.
- 2 (2.5 pound) Boneless lamb leg roasts (“half” roasts, butt end if you can specify.)
- Greek Brinerate ingredients
- 1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano (or 2 tbsp fresh oregano, minced)
- 1 tablespoon fresh Lemon juice (about 1/2 a lemon)
- Zest from 1/2 lemon
- 4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
- 1 teaspoon honey (or sugar)
- 1 tablespoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- Boneless lamb leg roasts, opened up and trimmed of fat
- 1. Brinerate the lamb: One to one and a half hours before cooking, open the roasts up, and trim any excess fat from them. Put them in a gallon ziploc bag (or two, if they’re large). Whisk the ingredients for the brinerade together until well mixed, then reserve 1/4 cup for later and pour the rest into the bag with the lamb. Squeeze out any excess air, then zip the bag closed, and massage it to get both roasts covered with the brinerade. Let rest in the refrigerator, turning occasionally to evenly brinerate, until ready to cook. (Due to the acid in the lemon juice, you don’t want to brinerate more than an hour and a half.)
- 2. Prepare the grill: Prepare your rotisserie for cooking on indirect high heat. For my Weber kettle, I light a chimney starter* full of charcoal, wait for it to be covered with ash, then pour it in two equal piles on the sides of the grill. Put the drip pan on the charcoal grate between the piles.
- 3. Truss and spit the lamb: While the grill is heating, take the lamb out of the refrigerator, pat dry with paper towels, and roll the two roasts into cylinder shapes. Truss the roasts every 1 1/2 inches with the butcher’s twine, then skewer them on the rotisserie spit.
- 4. Cook the lamb: Put the spit on the grill, start the rotisserie spinning, and close the lid, cooking with the lid closed as much as possible. Cook with the lid closed, until the lamb is 135*F in the thickest part for medium, about 45 minutes. (Cook to 125*F for medium-rare, and 120*F for rare. (Unlike beef, I prefer my lamb cooked to medium). Start checking the lamb’s temperature at 30 minutes, and watch out for the bone and the spit – they can throw the reading off. Right before taking the lamb off of the grill, baste it with the reserved brinerade. Remove the spit from the rotisserie, remove the lamb roasts from the spit onto a platter. Baste them with the brinerade again, then remove the trussing twine and let the roasts rest for 15 minutes. Slice the lamb 1/2″ thick and serve.
*Provencal Brinerade: Substitute Herbes de Provence instead of oregano, and add 1 tsp Dijon mustard to the brinerade.
*Serve this with a greek salad, some Roasted Red Pepper Dip, pita bread, and some tapenade. Or, serve it as Gyros – slice thin (1/4″ or less), and serve it with tzatziki sauce, pita bread, and some shredded lettuce and thin-sliced red onion.
*Ideally, you would cook this with one whole lamb leg that has been deboned. I used the two half legs because that’s what my grocery store sells.
Questions? Comments? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.
Cook’s Illustrated Magazine, June 2009, “How to Cook: Brinerating” article [Subscription Required]
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