Marinade: Spinning Magic in Your Food


Photo Credit: Jeremy Keith

A marinade is a mixture of acid, oil and spices that can add flavor and tenderize meats. Though the concept has been traditionally applied to meats, its use has been expanded to include poultry, and even seafood and vegetables. The food is allowed to soak and absorb all the essences, making it acquire unique and complex flavors. Every cook can make his marinade distinct and flavorful depending on the simplicity or complexity of the ingredients used. For those who want complex flavors or have a delicious marinade without much effort, the market is swamped with premixed/packaged marinades.

Marinade 101

What are the most basic things that you need to know about making marinades? Check it out in this post “Marinating Meat Guidelines – Marinating 101.”

  • Ratio Marinade to Meat: A good marinade must not be thick; it has to be thin in consistency to easily break into the meat. As a general rule, use 1/2 cup of marinade for every pound of meat.
  • Basic Components: Recipes vary, but at its most basic, it consists of acids, oils, and seasonings. The acid tenderizes the meat as it breaks down the mat components. The oil preserves and protects the food during marinating and cooking. The spices provide the zests or flavors and may come from spices, herbs, juices and extracts, wines, etc.
  • General Rule for Timing: Foods in marinades that contain wine/alcohol, acids as well as salt must only be left in it for two hours or less. Without these ingredients, food items can be left in it overnight or even longer.
  • Refrigeration: Keep the marinated food in the refrigerator to prevent the rapid proliferation of harmful bacteria on raw meat.
  • Marinating Containers: If the marinade contains acid, don’t use metal containers. Instead, use “… re-sealable plastic bag, a sealable plastic container, or a glass container only… The easiest and less messy way to marinate meat is to use a re-sealable plastic bag.”
  • Don’t Reuse Marinades: It will be in contact with the meat that may contain harmful microorganisms. If you want to save it, boil the marinade before reusing it as a basting sauce.

The post also offers “Approximate Marinating Times” for various types of meat.

Types of Marinades

There are five types of marinades. Check these out in this JovinaCooksItalian’s post

What Makes A Good Marinade?

  • Oil-Based Marinades: Oil-based marinades, such as olive oil and sesame oil, are the most popular when it comes to day-to-day marinating. This is because they are perfectly suitable “for preserving or adding moisture during the cooking process.”
  • Italian Dressing Marinade: These can be bought as a prepackaged or bottled Italian dressing. These are easy to prepare using fresh ingredients.
  • Citrus-Based Marinades:Where oil-based marinades enhance moisture, the acidic properties of orange juice, lemon juice, lime juice and other citrus fruits can be used in marinades to tenderize meat and add a natural, sweet flavor…”
  • Wine Marinades: These are classified as acidic and can tenderize meat while enhancing its taste. “When using wine, it’s best to keep the shade of the meat and the shade of the wine in the same neighborhood…” red wines with dark meats and whites with pork and poultry.
  • Wet Rubs: Wet rubs or pastes, such as spicy mustard and barbecue sauces, are thick in consistency so that it readily coats the meat. “This gives you more control over the taste because the rub can be applied in large or small amounts as needed.”
  • Dry Rubs: These are easy to prepare and best for slow cooking. These work with just about anything and include basil, paprika, chili powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, etc. with brown sugar as a base.

Mistakes to Avoid

The technique in making the best marinade is to avoid certain “pitfalls.” Discover Rochelle Bilow’s  Build Better Flavor By Avoiding These Marinade Common Mistakes posted in Bon Appétit. Bilow writes, “A good marinade doesn’t just enhance roasted chicken, grilled steaks, or pan-fried tofu. We’d argue that in some instances, it’s necessary. .. But not all marinades are created equal.”

  • Your Marinade Is a Temple, Not a Dumping Ground: “People… tend to overdo it. As with most cooking, less is more … A proper marinade should have focus and clean flavor…
  • Don’t Get Too Salty or Acidic: Don’t use too much salt or acid. This will cause the meat to be salty or “cooked” after hours of marinating.
  • …But Don’t Be a Flavor Wimp, Either: “… the single-best thing you can do to build flavor in your marinade is to kick start the aromatics. That means bruising herbs, toasting spices, smashing garlic cloves, and chopping alliums.”
  • Don’t Be Afraid of a Little Fat: It is important as it helps even out the flavors in the marinade. There is no need to use expensive oils as its flavor gets demolished with cooking.
  • It’s a Process—Don’t Rush It: Give it time to do its thing – penetrate, infuse the flavors and break down the meat. Don’t rush the process.

The use of marinade is an easy step to leave your mark on the food and to boost the texture and flavors of food, so what’s to stop you from exploring?

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