Tasty Solutions for Marinades
By Paula Frank
Endless creative combinations exist when it comes to designing flavor systems for marinades. Flavor chemists develop nuances from the most common to the most obscure for the product developer’s and research chef’s use, which vary from one application to another. A particular flavor may add authenticity, replace a raw material that is difficult to source or mimic a process such as grilling.
A marinade’s flavor system typically contains several different types of flavor-contributing ingredients that create a balanced sensory experience through aroma, taste and mouthfeel. Some ingredients help enhance the natural character of the substrate that is being marinated, while others provide a complementary flavor or an ethnic flair. Building a flavor system for a marinade requires knowledge of the substrate as well as all processes involved from the marinating step to finished product preparation. Storage conditions and finished product form, be it liquid or dry, also play a role in flavor ingredient selection.
The more people travel, the more sophisticated their palates become, and as cultures become more diverse, ingredients once considered exotic become more commonplace. Thus, marinades with ethnic or regional flair, such as those flavored with teriyaki, Caribbean jerk, curry or Southwestern notes, continue to rise in popularity. Also in demand is a Brazilian marinade containing lime, brown spices, such as cinnamon and nutmeg, and a grill note, says Lynn Foster, creative culinary applications manager, Haarmann & Reimer, Teterboro, NJ.
In addition, requests for marinated meats in retorted soups are on the rise, indicating consumers’ interest in more complex flavor profiles. Other popular flavor trends, some a result of greater global influence, include citrus and tropical fruits, such as mango and pineapple; alcohol flavors from Bloody Mary to beer to bourbon; and chile flavors including Thai, chipotle, serrano, Scotch bonnet and jalapeño.
Working with flavors as opposed to fresh, raw ingredients offers several benefits. For instance, a chile pepper’s heat varies from crop to crop. Additionally, heat preference and tolerance may differ geographically, notes Foster, who describes a Buffalo marinade prepared with a higher heat level for those in the Southwest region who are more accustomed to spicier foods.
Flavors not only reduce the variability inherent in natural commodities, but increase the opportunity for flexibility in formulation. Not only can a chile pepper’s heat be manipulated, but the roasted character can be adjusted as well, says Michael Morrison, product development chef, David Michael & Co., Philadelphia.
“Flavors can replace certain raw materials, such as herbs and spices that carry bacteriological loads, which may affect shelf life and stability of the marinated substrate,” says Dolf De Rovira, president, Flavor Dynamics, Inc., South Plainfield, NJ. Highly acidic ingredients, such as fresh lemon juice, chemically degrade meat or shrimp’s texture if marinated for a period of time. This can be avoided by using a lemon flavor instead of fresh juice, notes Morrison. “This way, more flavor absorbs into the product as it sits longer without chemically cooking it.”
Flavors also can replace essences of heat-sensitive products. Formulations containing dairy-based ingredients that would ordinarily burn and generate off-flavors during processing can use very specific dairy-flavor topnotes, such as sweet cream or condensed milk, to fill the void. As an example, a chicken marinade containing coconut with real dairy ingredients and sugar burns on open-flame cooking. This marinade was successfully reformulated with heat-stable dairy flavors, sweeteners and topnotes that don’t burn under these harsh conditions, explains Michael Buononato, manager, culinary group, Wynn Starr Flavors Inc., Allendale, NJ.
Flavors are also a solution for ingredients requiring frozen or refrigerated storage or excessive handling. For instance, a frozen block of chicken broth may be replaced with a dry, shelf-stable flavor that not only offers flavor consistency from batch to batch, but ease of handling and storage as well, says Buononato. Flavors also replace ingredients that are cost-prohibitive. Flavor consistency, lower usage levels and lower cost-in-use result when peach flavor replaces fresh peaches, which are seasonal, in a peach marinade, notes Foster.
Flavors such as roast, grill and smoke, simulating actual cooking methods, often are used in marinades destined for applications requiring minimal preparation, such as those that are baked or microwaved. Alternatively, a lower-fat substrate can mimic a full-fat item when fat flavors are injected into the muscle. “As the fat flavor is injected into the muscle at 40°F or less, it flows and binds to the protein so that it doesn’t purge,” says Buononato. “This process adds succulence to the meat, thereby simulating a full-fat cut.”
Flavors give product developers the ability to differentiate their products; by manipulating flavor notes, basic marinades, such as teriyaki or honey mustard, take on unique characteristics. A teriyaki marinade may incorporate ginger, roasted sesame, pineapple and soy-sauce flavors. The teriyaki profile changes as flavor levels or particular aromatic compounds change, notes Foster. For instance, the ginger flavor may be strong without a chemical-like burning sensation as a background note, or very pungent.
“Honey mustard has both taste and feeling factors, such as pungency, for instance,” says De Rovira. “To enhance or modify the characteristics of mustard, consider adjusting the sulfur character, or look at the time intensity of the flavor’s sweet character as an antithesis to the sharp topnote. You can also give it more depth with flavors.” Some operators prefer using straight honey or mustard, or a combination of lower levels of real honey and mustard enhanced or topnoted with flavors, notes Foster.
Another version of a honey-mustard marinade may incorporate honey granules, a spray-dried version of honey, topnoted with honey flavor, says Melanie Dubberley, applications chef, technical support, Wynn Starr. “The next step is to spray-dry a Dijon mustard, round the profile by adding back key flavors lost during spray-drying and then adding this mix to the honey portion,” she says.
Other basic marinades become signature products by including subtle background flavor notes. For instance, adding a lemongrass flavor to a honey barbecue gives it an Asian-like quality, suggests Buononato.
While soy sauce is traditionally found in marinades such as teriyaki and sesame, it complements other marinade types such as honey mustard, garlic, herb, citrus and ginger, says Kunitomo (Tom) Kizu, assistant vice president, research & development, Kikkoman Marketing & Planning, Elgin, IL.
Smoke and grill flavors contribute distinct traits to a variety of marinade applications. “Light traditional-type smoke flavors provide a unique complexity to Asian marinade ingredients such as ginger, scallion and cilantro,” says Melissa Kedrowski, corporate chef/culinary development specialist, Red Arrow Products Company LLC, Manitowoc, WI. “Mediterranean items such as eggplant, bell pepper, fennel and artichokes can be marinated with a grilled-type flavor and then baked or steam-cooked to create an open-fire-grilled taste. Certain grill flavors complement Caribbean- and Cuban-style marinades by accentuating the ethnic flavors and providing char-grilled flavor with savory depth. Specialized smoke flavors may be utilized to impart sweet or ashy notes to Cajun applications, while mesquite-smoke flavors provide an open-fire taste to Southwestern and Latin cuisines.”
Flavor systems for marinades may contain a variety of ingredients. Concentrated flavors made either from natural sources such as botanicals, chemicals, plant proteins, animal proteins and other animal byproducts, or synthetic chemicals and compounds, often make up key characterizing flavor notes. When a protein source and reducing sugars combine under high temperature and pressure during the Maillard reaction, flavors that have cooked or roasted notes form. These reaction flavors have meat-like characteristics when amino acids from a meat-protein source combine with fat, such as tallow for beef-type flavors.
Flavor chemists can develop any type of flavor from anchovy to wok oil to humus using chemical compounds, organic acids, fatty acids, spices, extracts, oils and a variety of other ingredients. “Dry, concentrated versions of culinary products such as mirepoix and demi-glace are also available,” notes De Rovira. Flavors may be water- or oil-soluble liquid, paste or dry — produced either by spray-, pan- or drum-drying.
Salt and/or sweeteners, including sugar, molasses or honey, help balance and round out the system’s overall flavor profile. Additional building blocks, such as yeast extract, hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP), monosodium glutamate (MSG), and high 5' products, such as 5'-inosinate (IMP) and disodium 5' guanylate (GMP), enhance the flavor system and often increase the salty perception. These enhancers may be used in the marinade formulation and/or in the concentrated flavor’s formulation.
Yeast extracts give marinades a brothy character and help enhance meaty or vegetable notes. They also “add specific regional flair such as Indian, Asian, roasted, barbecue, grill, etc.,” says Fred Wustholz, technical affairs manager, DSM Food Specialties USA Inc., Eagleville, PA. “The specific strain of yeast used, hydrolysis rate and amino acids created dictate the flavor profile among a wide variety of available yeast extracts.” Browning results when the amino-acid-containing yeast extracts undergo the Maillard reaction in the presence of sugars — a trait often desirable in a flavor system for a marinade.
MSG and HVP contain glutamate, a naturally occurring amino acid found in protein. MSG, at approximately 87% glutamate, enhances body and mouthfeel. For optimal enhancement, use a finished-product level of 0.1% to 0.8% — roughly equivalent to naturally occurring glutamate levels found in average serving sizes of foods such as tomatoes or mushrooms.
“HVP is a very cost-effective flavor enhancer,” says Yogi Desai, manager, flavor technology, Innova, a Griffith Laboratories Co., Oak Brook, IL. “With their meaty flavor, umami-enhancement and salt content, HVPs make an ideal component in the marinade system. Soy-based HVP generally works well in stronger-flavored meat applications such as beef, while more mild meat applications use corn-based HVP. HVP can be developed into more characterizing flavor profiles by altering drying and processing procedures or using unique protein sources such as wheat or pea protein.”
Soy sauce is not only used as a flavoring ingredient, but as an enhancer as well, especially since glutamic acid, or glutamate, is part of its amino-acid makeup. “Amino acids in naturally brewed soy sauce are produced by the enzymatic degradation of protein, which occurs during the fermentation process,” says Kizu. “naturally brewed soy sauce is a balance of various taste compounds, such as salty, bitter, sweet, sour and umami, combined with a savory aroma. Salt contributes to soy sauce’s flavor-enhancing effect. It works synergistically with glutamic acid to enhance the food’s flavor. Salt from soy sauce also helps the marinade penetrate beneath the substrate’s surface. Ethanol generated by the action of yeast has a similar effect.”
Other flavoring ingredients include fruit and vegetable juices and powders; specialty oils, such as walnut, sesame or peanut; ingredients that add pungency, such as horseradish and ginger; flavored vinegars; spices, herbs and seasonings; and smoke and grill flavors. Spices and herbs are available as particulates, oils, oleoresins, aquaresins, and in some cases as flavors or encapsulated powders. The choice depends on the marinade method, processing conditions, type of substrate, cost, desired intensity and whether the marinade is oil- or water-soluble.
Carefully controlled pyrolysis of wood yields natural smoke products with varying degrees of smoke flavoring and browning potential. Applying patented combustion technology to oils produces grill flavors, notes Ronald Foster, product and process development specialist, Red Arrow. “Smoke and grill flavors are available in a variety of forms to meet specific processing needs. Water-soluble products are well-suited for addition directly to marinade systems, while spray-dried powders are easily blended with other dry components of a marinade formulation,” he says.
Transforming art into science
Working on flavor systems for marinades is typically a collaborative effort. “Chefs work in conjunction with flavor chemists to create authentic, culinary flavors,” says Dubberley. The process often begins with a marinade recipe that is converted to an industrial formula — all while taking processing and marinating methods into consideration.
“To duplicate a horseradish-sauce profile for a marinade, just evaluate the flavor profile and feeling factors,” notes Dafne Diez de Medina, group leader, meat applications, Innova. “You don’t need the texture component of mayonnaise, but the flavor volatiles, such as the dairy and sulfur compounds, plus the pungency and chemical burn sensation from the horseradish itself.”
Buononato explains, “A Buffalo wing concept can be translated to a breaded chicken sandwich by incorporating the heat, butter and lemon topnotes into the marinade. The chicken then is frozen, dipped in a Buffalo-wing sauce, which acts as a batter, and then breaded and fried. The topical flavor gives an initial impact, while the marinade flavor continues the experience throughout the chewing process.”
At times, a marinade delivers cooking-process flavors to a substrate to give it more complexity, particularly for convenience items that undergo minimal cooking. Flavor chemists simulate these flavors by incorporating compounds associated with reactions that actually occur during the cooking methods. For instance, frying produces an oxidized fat note, and grilling forms some Maillard reaction notes combined with smoky, charred notes characteristic of polyphenols, says De Rovira. During sautéing, aldehydes and sulfur components form, fats become slightly oxidized and amino acids and sugars react, forming caramelized notes. Incorporating flavors such as these into marinades can be a step-saving solution for operators who lack certain cooking equipment.
Designing around the process
Flavor systems must be designed with processes in mind. Marinades are applied via a static system, tumbling or through injection. “A static or tumble marinade allows you to use more viscous ingredients and particulates, but the impact of flavor deep into the meat may not be as great as it would with injection,” says Desai.
“If the goal is flavor penetration in a thicker muscle, an injection marinade containing all soluble ingredients can be used initially, followed by a tumbling process with or without the addition of particulates,” adds Diez de Medina. “This will distribute the flavor, extract some protein, thereby increasing bonding, and add a visual component to the surface if desired.”
“Visuals are important,” says Buononato. “People expect to see pieces of ginger or sesame with a teriyaki marinade. The same applies to a lemon-pepper marinade. Lemon and heat topnotes can be injected into the meat helping the flavor linger, while a lemon-pepper seasoning is rubbed on the meat’s surface. Any meat cut greater than a half-inch thick is going to be problematic for a tumble or static marinade because all the flavor will settle on the surface and not penetrate inside.”
Injecting marinades containing highly colored ingredients, such as a chile-pepper extract, can cause discoloration or streaking in muscle tissue, cautions Dubberley. This can be avoided by replacing the red chile-pepper extract with soluble spices.
Exposing muscle tissue to highly acidic ingredients for long periods of time creates a breakdown of the protein fiber, causing the texture to become mushy and ultimately resulting in a dried product. “Muscle begins breaking down below a pH of approximately 3.5 to 4.2,” notes Diez de Medina. “Encapsulation of the acid can protect the meat’s texture until it is cooked.”
Another option involves increasing the flavor notes of the acidic component, such as the lemon portion of the lemon flavor, while decreasing the acid level, adds Buononato, or the lemon flavor can be injected internally, while the acid is added to the frozen meat’s surface.
Since meat marinades undergo some form of heat processing, “building heat stability into the flavor system is paramount,” says De Rovira. “This may be accomplished by adjusting the matrix, encapsulating the flavor, using precursors or chemicals that develop flavors when exposed to heat, or by adjusting the concentration of volatiles to nonvolatiles.”
Developing flavor systems for marinades is both a creative and complex process. One of the biggest challenges, and perhaps the most enjoyable, is putting flavor profiles together that give the marinade uniqueness and a competitive edge, says Buononato. Although certain complications arise from time to time, flavor chemists and chefs find ways of circumventing them by combining food science and culinary techniques. After all, flavorful marinades not only improve the flavor and texture of a cut of meat, but add value from a profitability standpoint as well.
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