Change it up: Chicken Marinades from Around the World

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As outdoor grilling enthusiasts, we all have our go-to marinade recipe for the best chicken in the neighborhood. Recipes for a good marinade are like gold, because they make a simple grilling event into a showplace dinner. The marinade does most of the work. After a few hours or a day of soaking, the hardest part is done. All there is left to do is grill.

Many world cultures have a traditional marinade flavor base for chicken. Recipes from one country utilize the culture’s basic spices then branch out in personal ways. In the US, we tend to use oil and salt in almost every chicken grilling recipe, but our specialty is barbecue chicken. Tastes of BBQ sauce differ around the nation’s regions but good ol’ American BBQ is unmistakable.

There are so many different marinade recipes, we should step away from our loved BBQ to try some of the best flavors the world has to offer. A great thing about chicken marinade recipes is that like our BBQ formulas, they are relatively simple yet highly customizable. Once you get a solid foundation of a culture’s basic spices, oils and vinegars, you can whip up your own versions and impress your family and guests with your culinary finesse.

Here are a few cultures known for their delicious chicken dishes and the basic tastes that go into their good marinades.

Turkish chicken marinades use cumin, coriander, paprika, black pepper, saffron, and sometimes even cinnamon. Garlic, onion, tomato paste and yogurt along with olive oil are used in the sauce. Persian chicken uses many of the same ingredients. Marinate chicken anywhere from 20 minutes to 3 hours. Overnight marination is safe as long as the chicken is sealed and refrigerated properly. The longer the chicken sits in the marinade, the stronger the taste will be. Many times Turkish foods are grilled on kebabs with vegetables. Cube and skewer the chicken before grilling. Hint: don’t make the skewers longer than the plates you’ll use on the table.

Greek chicken is known for copious amounts of greek seasoning” whose ingredients seem to be a mystery. Thankfully, one may purchase a small bottle of it pre-made. The other ingredients commonly used in greek chicken marinades are olive oil (made from greek olives, of course), lemon juice, lemon zest, thyme and black pepper. Greek chicken is often served with a delicious yogurt-based dip called Tzatziki dip. Cucumber and other flavors add a cool blast to calm down the pepper on the chicken. You may have eaten cucumber dip” on a gyro. It isn’t just for gyros. Don’t forget the Tzatziki dip when serving your greek chicken.

Thai grilled chicken is a popular take-out order (sometimes called Gai Yang), but you can make a delicious version in your own kitchen. Grill it outdoors or over a fire pit to make your neighbors think you’ve opened up a dining club in your backyard. Thai spices are cilantro, lemongrass, lime, curry and red chili. Other flavors come from sesame oil, fish oil, palm sugar, and mango, peanut or orange sauces. Serve alone or over noodles or rice.

We can’t have a grilled chicken post without a quick nod to Teriyaki chicken, a favorite across the land. Teriyaki marinades use soy sauce, worcestershire sauce (pronounced WUST-urr-shur” -skip the first er” and shire” sounds like the end of New Hampshire), vinegar, garlic, and onion. Teriyaki chicken skewers are often filled with pineapple and shrimp too.

We all love our BBQ, but you can step up your menu with a few good marinade tricks. Look up  a few recipes and make one your new specialty. 

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