Why Salt Can Be The Enemy Of A Good Marinade

Marinades are important if you want to impart extra flavor to your favorite meat. Let's face it, some of the most delicious barbecue foods start with a marinade. Marinades, per Meathead's AmazingRibs.com, are like a bath for beef, pork, and chicken. However, the barbecue site notes that a marinade's reach is usually rather shallow, only really affecting the meat's exterior. Only salt can penetrate deep enough to add seasoning beneath the surface.

Salt is a great flavor enhancer. It is the single, most readily accessible ingredient most of us keep on hand to season our favorite dishes. In 2019, Americans spent $2.3 billion on salt, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, and Statista notes that just last year, the country's consumption of this savory addition was a whopping 54 million metric tons. The U.S. definitely appreciates what this seemingly magical mineral does. 

But when it comes to marinades, adding salt can be confusing. In fact, salt can be your marinade's enemy. You don't want your meat to wind up being too salty where everyone at the table is gagging and grabbing for water, but you also don't want your marinade to be impercetible on your proteins. Marinating your meat perfectly is not as easy as it sounds.

How much salt you use depends on your other ingredients

According to Reader's Digest, too much salt in a marinade can result in dry, tough, less than melt-in-your-mouth meat. The outlet warns not to add too much of this ingredient to your marinade and suggests that you should salt as you cook, or give your meat an extra sprinkle at the table. Bon Appétit seconds this recommendation, noting that salt can draw out the moisture in your meat that makes it so juicy and delicious. If it's too dry, your kids might ask for ketchup to make it edible, and no one wants that. However, that doesn't mean you should nix salt altogether.

Cook's Illustrated shares that marinades are generally high in salt. Taste of Home points out that the amount of salt you use in your marinade will likely depend on the other ingredients you are using, as well as how long you plan on marinating your meat. You should expect to use anywhere from 1/4 to 1 teaspoon of this seasoning. However, if you are using soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce which are both already salty, you'll want to add less salt to your marinade. The same is true if your meat is going to be soaking in its aromatic bath for 4 hours or longer.