When you are at the grocery store and stop by the meat counter, you might wonder about freshness and flavor. You can pretty easily tell if the fresh meat looks “normal” or if it maybe isn’t so “fresh” after all. But with marinated meats, it is not quite so easy to tell. In fact, those meats that have been soaked in a specific flavor of marinade, will many times adopt the color of the marinade. This begs the question about grocery store marinated meats – how fresh are they?
How do you know if the meat is really fresh and if it is going to taste as good as if you’d marinated it yourself?
The length of time it takes to marinate meat will depend on the type of meat. The denser the meat the longer it will take for the marinade to penetrate the meat and infuse it with flavor. Chicken is relatively light meat and should marinate in a couple of hours, in contrast, pork and beef are likely to take 24 hours to marinate properly.
Of course, as well as leaving the meat for the right amount of time, you also need to ensure the marinade is strong enough. The stronger it is the better the flavor will be distributed through the meat.
How Fresh Is the Marinade?
The best way to assess the freshness of the meat and the marinade is to ask the shop itself. If they prepare the marinades on site then they’ll know when they are made and what meat is used. This means you can pinpoint how old everything is and decide if the meat s fresh enough.
However, when it is pre-packed, it is much more difficult to establish the age, and therefore freshness, of the meat. There will be a date on the packet but this is usually a best before date, not something that tells you when it was packed.
It’s also worth looking at how they are stored. Pre-packaged meats are sealed against bacteria but it can be harder to be certain that they have stayed at the right temperature all the time, especially during the delivery and stocking process.
However, marinated meats on the fresh meat counter are often left in open trays. Despite the temperature of the cooler, this can encourage bacteria and pests, particularly flies. The meat may be fresh but it may not be healthy!
How Delicious Is It?
This will actually be subject to personal taste preference. Some people love milder flavors while others prefer to have the meat steeped in flavor. The only way to be sure is to try the meat and decide for yourself.
If you like it you can buy it again. However, you should take a few minutes to check out the manufacturer and the food processing equipment they use. It’s important they use the best and clean it thoroughly, if they don’t it will be difficult to get the same flavor every time. You’ll also need to consider the hygiene process to ensure the meat stays fresh and bacteria-free.
That’s the bottom line, you’ll need to assess your local store yourself and then try the meat, then you’ll know whether it’s worth getting again or not.