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5 Asian secrets to tender, flavorful meat on the grill

Pickles and Tea

If you’ve ever been a victim of tough, dry meat fresh off the flames, you’ll want to read this. I’m not going to talk about techniques or equipment – I’ll leave that to the experts – but I do want to discuss marinades, or rather what what goes into them. Many Asian grilling marinades rely on certain ingredients, some surprising, some maybe not so, to both tenderize and flavor meats.

Grilling aficionados agree that salt rubs and brines are key to a moist and tender product on the grill. They’re certainly trending right now. However, if you ask any Asian grandma how they prepare their meat for the grill or request your Filipino neighbor’s family barbeque recipe, you’ll notice that neither are on the agenda. 

So why be a lemming when you can show off at your next cookout by taking your cue from Asian cuisines? I’ve taken the liberty of compiling my favorite ingredients/recipes for you to try. They’ll no doubt keep grilled meat moist and punch up the flavor at your next barbecue:

1. Fruit

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Asian pears—and some say, apples and kiwis—contain enzymes that dissolve protein and connective tissue and are the secret to every Korean grandma’s outrageously delicious barbecue recipe. In this kalbi recipe given to me by my friend Susan’s grandma, kiwis are peeled and pureed before being mixed into the meat marinade. Popular Korean food blogger Maangchi uses pureed pear in her recipe for beef bulgogi, and I’ve seen recipes using pear juice or shredded apple too.

For the simplest application, mash or slice fruit and spread over thin cuts of meat and leave for a few hours before grilling.

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