It’s that time of the year again, when our days are filled with festivities and feasting. Amidst the celebrations and the kolakolis however, there is work to be done. Upholding the tradition of sacrifice, otherwise known as qurbani, comes with a long list of tasks and checking it all off can get quite stressful if you aren’t sure how to go about it all. While the actual task of hacking meat falls on the shoulders of the butcher, everything else from the packaging to the cooking is pretty much in your hands.
To save the day, here are four hacks that will help make this Eid your best yet:
Marinating your meat can do wonders to make it more tender and flavourful. What a good marinade does is; it acts on the surface and breaks it down just a bit so that it can absorb flavor better. While many variations of marinade recipes can be found, a basic one will comprise of salt, oil, flavorings and acid – SOFA for short.
An easy one to whip up uses olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and salt. A handy guide to remember is to use two parts of fat for every part of acid, and mix in salt and flavorings – such as garlic, herbs and spices – to taste. For tough meats like beef and lamb, spice rubs work well too and are even more convenient to make. It’s essentially just applying powdered herbs, spices and salt onto the surface of the protein and letting it sit for a couple of hours. Marinades work best on smaller portions of meat or thinner cuts; the more the surface area the better it works.
Since the actual feasting begins on the very day, it’s difficult to marinate meat overnight. Lucky for us, that isn’t actually necessary - anywhere between three to five hours should be great.
Once you’ve marinated your meat, you’ll have to let it sit. If you went for a liquid marinade, the best option would be to use Ziploc bags. Portion your meat into the bags and pour in some of the marinade. Massage it to cover all the nooks and crannies of your protein and then seal it to get all the air out.
If you used a spice rub or even if you didn’t use a marinade, your meat should never be left on countertop. Air can dry out your meats which may result in a loss of flavor, texture and the rich color of the cuts. In order to maintain and store meat properly, you should wrap them up in plastic bags and remove as much air as possible before freezing. A good trick is to use straws to suck the air out before sealing the bag or you could press out from the edges of the meat too if the straw hack grosses you out.
The meat’s been cut, washed, marinated and sealed – what next? Both you and the meat can chill for a while. Pop it into the refrigerator and take a breather, you deserve it after all. Marinated meat shouldn’t be left at room temperature since that’s the sweet spot for bacterial growth, bacteria multiplies fast on the surface of raw meat when it’s warm.
Also, realistically speaking, cooking the entirety of qurbani meat in a single go is hard to do unless you plan to feed an army. For the meat you aren’t cooking any time soon, you need to freeze it quickly.
If you’ve ever taken meat out of a freezer to defrost, you’ll notice pink liquid at the bottom of the bag. Once the meat thaws, you lose that liquid and with it you lose the meat’s tender fresh goodness. To retain the quality of meat, you’ll need to freeze it as fast as possible. Slow freezing creates large ice crystals which damage the cells and dissolve emulsions in your protein. To avoid this, have an ice bath prepped and ready for when the meat arrives from the butcher and flash freeze it before storing in the freezer.
Defrosting meat can be a hassle, but as with freezing, it’s got to be done properly for best results. Leaving your meat out at room temperature and hoping for the best may be a dangerous bet.
The most reliable method to prevent bacterial growth is to pop the meat into the refrigerator after taking out from the freezer. This takes a lot of time, so if you’re in a rush then you could use a cold water bath instead. Submerge your sealed food into a bowl filled with cold tap water, and change the water whenever it comes to room temperature. Just remember, you can’t refreeze thawed meat; so only defrost what you’ll be cooking immediately.