Every country has its own traditions when it comes to marination, for marinades add flavour to the dish.

In India, the preferred marinades are yoghurt, buttermilk, tamarind juice, green mango, ginger-garlic paste, limejuice, green papaya skin, tomato paste, and vinegar in some cases.

Western cuisine makes extensive use of vinegar-olive oil mixtures, citric extracts, papain, red wine, beer and, rarely, yoghurt. Marination is not an exact science. The stuff only works on the surface it touches — so pierce large cuts of meat with a knife or a fork.

Preparations containing olive oil penetrate deeper into the meat because of an emulsifying effect. Half-an-hour in an acidic bath is sufficient for small cuts of chicken; large cuts of red meat may need hours.

Always refrigerate during marination to prevent overgrowth of bacteria and spoilage of meat. Because the tenderising process releases a lot of fluid, overcooking a marinated piece of meat will cause it to become dry.

Health benefits: Research shows that marination reduces the production of heterocyclic amines (HCAs) during cooking. HCAs are carcinogenic, and arise from cooking meat under high heat, especially on an open flame.

Grilled meat is the richest source of HCAs, and marinating the meat in red wine, beer, or olive oil — containing preparations cuts down the production of HCAs. Never use leftover marinade as a sauce. Always prepare a fresh batch, if you want to serve it as a sauce.

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