Is it better to marinate meat in a glass dish, plastic dish, metal dish, or baggie? Or it doesn't matter at all?
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Nancy is a trusted home cook.
One nutritionists' association says ok to glass & plastic, no to metal because it interacts with the marinade..
I favor glass and ceramic because they are inert (don't interact).
I often use a resealable plastic bag to marinate meat in. I've found that I need less marinade. If I need to keep the meat in the marinade in the fridge for several hours or overnight, I then put the sealed bag in a bowl so I don't have to worry about it leaking. In general I try to avoid plastic, but in this case, I prefer ease of cleanup and not having to make extra marinade (or turning my meat every few hours).
Definitely the way to go- some of the stuff you see sold in marinade uses only a tablespoon or two for 2-3# meat; I wonder if you could be that efficient at home with one of those vacuum sealing devices.
Using a vacuum sealer is unnecessary unless your intent is A.) to freeze the marinading items or B.) to eventually cook sous vide with the immersion circulator.
Like ktr, I find that using a resealable baggie 1.) reduces the amount of marinade I must make and 2.) ensures that the marinade has continual contact with all exposed surfaces.
The easiest way is to use the water displacement method. Fill a large receptacle with water. Put the marinading items in a ziplock bag and close the seal most of the way. Submerge the bag in the water bath; the barometric pressure will force most of the air out of the bag. Seal bag, remove from water and let marinade (fridge, etc.).
This works great if you are transporting the marinading items to a location offsite (like a football tailgate or picnic). As ktr mentions, this makes cleanup easy and there are no containers, etc. to schlepp back home.
A vacuum sealer isn't "necessary", but you can't get that kind of results without it- whether you can with it, I don't know. Personally, I find that baggies are almost always the wrong shape for this or anything else- you want as close a fit aas you can get; I usually end up using something like a recycled bag from English muffins; depends on the piece of meat. There are easier and less wasteful ways to get air out of the bag than a water bath.
I don’t find the total expulsion of air all that critical for mundane marinating which is why I use ordinary ziplocks.
I always have a selection of quart, 1 gallon and 2 gallon bags around, so finding some that works is not a challenge. You can employ previously used ziplocks or reuse bags after marinading in some circumstances.
Identifying if the bag is intact is easy: just fill up from the water bath and note any leaks.
As a SoCal native, I am quite aware of what a precious resource water is. For the water bath itself, I find myself using the same water for cooking veggies/pasta/etc., cleaning or watering plants (indoors or outdoors). Nothing is wasted.
Once again- expulsion of all air is not necessary, nor is using a bag, but if you want to minimize the amount of marinade it is. I typically use wine based marinades, which can get expensive- if I could use a Tb instead of a cup I'd probably do it more often. The point I'm curious on is if you can duplicate the commercial results with a home vacuum sealer- I doubt it and don't plan to buy one, but I am curious. Don't see the point of the water bath at all- a few inches of water isn't going to produce more than a couple ounces per square inch of pressure (compared to an atmospheric pressure around 32 psi). Baggies are a weird shape for just about anything but a sandwich- they're stuck with being flat because of the zipper, they have corners that are almost never filled- actually, the old thin plastic baggies that were sealed with twisties were a lot more practical for most things.
Today’s consumer vacuum sealers work on the same principles as the commercial vacuum sealer I used a quarter of a century ago.
The packaging is a roll of two-ply plastic, like an endless baggie. You cut off the amount of material you need. There’s a seal-only function on the sealer; it’s basically a heat strip that melds the plastic materials together to form a seam. Stick the food in the bag then lay the bag in the device. Use the vacuum function to remove air and then use the seal function to close off the bag.
A ziplock is not that much different but the zip closure interferes with the vacuum sealer. Theoretically you could cut off the zip closure and stick the surgically altered ziplock in a vacuum sealer, but why waste the money?
Unless you work in a specialized industry (like poultry) or for a major food manufacturing corporation, the principle is the same, the packaging is usually the same. The bags are square or rectangular. Whether or not there are unused flat areas and square corners is irrelevant. Vacuum packed food all over the world is like this. I brought back vacuum packed food from both Europe and Japan in the past few months, it’s basically a square/rectangular bag. Even things like frozen steaks from Omaha. Vacuum packed food has been sold this way for decades.
As for the efficacy of the water displacement method for removing excess air, maybe you are skeptical but I speak from personal experience. I have done this myself and witnessed the results first hand. IT WORKS. Not as good as a dedicated device, but certainly better than trying to press the air out with your hands.
And there are situations at home when using the water displacement method will trump the consumer grade vacuum sealer.
Can you poach a chicken breast in two tablespoons of liquid? Not if you do it in a saucepan on the stove. However, you can if you cook sous vide. Put the chicken breast in a ziplock bag, add seasoning, then add your liquid (wine, water, previously made stock, whatever). Cheap vacuum sealers are often challenged by liquid contents as the vacuum function will suck out some of the liquid which moistens the plastic material and interferes with the sealing function. This is exacerbated by any grease or fat in the liquid.
Thus, the water displacement method comes to the rescue. Put the bag in your water bath and most of the air will be expelled. This is particularly important because air bubbles prevent the heat from the water in the circulating bath to contact the food surface, resulting in imperfect cooking. Another problem is that large air pockets cause the bag to float, and with it the food items, again resulting in irregular cooking. The whole point with sous vide cooking is to have the food items in constant and full contact with the heated liquid. Most people would actually cook their chicken breasts in the water bath used for the water displacement; for me, this is a 12-quart Cambro wrapped with a beach towel to improve thermal efficiency (I cut a hole in the lid to accommodate the immersion circulator). No waste whatsoever. Heck, I’ve cooked 36 hours with basically zero water loss from evaporation.
Note that the water displacement method is frequently discussed in online discussions about sous vide cooking, including Kenji and Daniel over at Serious Eats. It’s not just random silliness from the Internet.
I do not own one of the consumer vacuum sealers but I have it on my wishlist, waiting for the price to drop.
Too bad we're not being paid by the word. Such meats as I buy prepackaged- mostly sausages and flank steaks- tend to be in packaging so tightly that it's difficult to get them out without cutting into the contents.
For sure, the Japanese are miles in front of the rest of the world when it comes to thoughtfulness in packaging, not just food.
Silica gel packs, reclosable bags, tear notches, gold twist ties, etc.