Editors Note: The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) has provided the following article. For more information on the CIA, please visit www.ciaprochef.com and see the end of this article.

Good cooking begins with good ingredients, and together, they lead to a good bottom line.  

When a spice blend is used as a dry rub (also called a dry marinade) to coat food, the food is left to stand after application, under refrigeration, to absorb the flavors. Very often, these rubs contain some salt to help intensify all the flavors in the dish. Dry rubs may be left on the food during cooking or they may be scraped away first.  Spice blends may also be added to aromatic vegetables as they cook during the initial stages of preparing a braise or stew.  The fat used to cook the vegetables releases the flavor of the spices and infuses the dish more effectively than if the spice blend were simply added to a simmering dish. Barbecued beef and Jamaican jerked pork are examples of dishes that may be prepared using a dry rub.

Marinades generally contain one or more of the following: oil, acid, and aromatics (spices, herbs, and vegetables). Oils protect food from intense heat during cooking and help hold other flavorful ingredients in contact with the food. Acids, such as vinegar, wine, yogurt, and citrus juices, flavor the food and change its texture. In some cases, acids firm or stiffen foods (e.g., the lime juice marinade that “cooks” the raw fish in ceviche); in others, it breaks down connective fibers to make tough cuts of meat more tender (for example, the effect of the red wine marinade used over several days to prepare beef bourguignonne). Aromatics provide specific flavors.

Marinating times vary according to the food’s texture. Tender or delicate foods such as fish or poultry breast require less time. A tougher cut of meat may be marinated for days. The ratio of acid to other ingredients may also affect timing. High-acid marinades such as those used to prepare ceviche have the desired effect within 15 or 20 minutes of applying them to a food. Others are best left in contact with foods for several hours; still others require several days to work.

Some marinades are cooked before use; others are not. Sometimes the marinade is used to flavor an accompanying sauce or may itself become a dipping sauce. Marinades that have been in contact with raw foods can be used in these ways, provided that they are boiled for several minutes first to kill any lingering pathogens.

To use a liquid marinade, add it to the ingredient and turn the ingredient to coat evenly.  Cover and marinate, under refrigeration, for the length of time indicated by the recipe, the type of meat, poultry, or fish, and the desired result.  Brush or scrape off excess marinade before cooking and pat dry, particularly if the marinade contains herbs or other aromatics that burn easily.

The Culinary Institute of America is an independent, not for profit college offering bachelor's and associate degrees in culinary arts and baking and pastry arts as well as certificate programs in culinary arts and wine and beverage studies. The CIA, which also offers courses for industry professionals and food enthusiasts, has campuses in New York (Hyde Park), California (St. Helena), and Texas (San Antonio). See www.ciachef.edu

From the November 1, 2010, Prepared Foods E-dition