Skip To Content
    Updated on Nov 17, 2018. Posted on May 7, 2013

    How To Marinate And Make Better Food

    Throw a bunch of things in a plastic bag, put in raw meat, go to work (or sleep), and when you come back, best friends.

    A marinade is a liquid mixture that you can soak food in before it's cooked to make it way more delicious.

    You can use a plastic bag...

    marthastewart.com

    ...or a nonreactive dish (glass, ceramic, plastic, stainless steel, but not aluminum or copper because they will react to the acid).

    marthastewart.com

    Don't worry too much if you don't have the exact ingredients in a recipe — just follow this basic formula.

    ACID (but not too much)

    eg: vinegar, lemon/lime/orange juice, wine, buttermilk, or yogurt

    why: tenderize protein to let the other flavor-enhancing ingredients get in there

    +

    SALT

    or soy sauce

    why: also tenderizes

    +

    OIL

    eg, olive oil, canola oil

    why: helps release the flavor of spices or herbs and hold them in contact with the meat.

    +

    HERBS/SEASONINGS/SUGAR

    eg, garlic, rosemary, ginger, chiles, maple syrup

    why: adds flavor

    +

    TIME

    Certain pairings are natural and if you think about it you probably know what they are because you eat food sometimes (lamb with rosemary; chicken with yogurt; pork with honey; shrimp with ginger). A good approach is to stick with ingredients that are common in the same cuisine. Here are some examples of that:

    ASIAN MARINADE INGREDIENTS

    rice-wine vinegar, soy sauce, mirin (sweet wine), ginger, coconut milk, lime juice, lemongrass, sugar, cilantro, garlic

    MEDITERRANEAN MARINADE INGREDIENTS

    red and white vinegar, red and white wine, beer, lemon juice, garlic, basil, parsley, tarragon, oregano, mint, chives, dill, thyme, rosemary, mustard, sugar/honey

    AMERICAN MARINADE INGREDIENTS

    Bourbon, Tabasco sauce, buttermilk, Worcestershire, sugar/honey/maple syrup

    INDIAN MARINADE INGREDIENTS

    yogurt, cumin, turmeric, coriander, curry powder, cilantro, mint, garlic

    LATIN MARINADE INGREDIENTS

    chiles, cumin, oregano, lime juice

    Watch out for sugar.

    Sugary ingredients in a marinade — like maple syrup, honey, brown sugar/white sugar, sweet wines — can cause your food to char when you cook them. So take note when a marinade has sugar in it and either use lower the heat or move the food around more as you're cooking it.

    Get even coverage.

    dadcooksdinner.com

    If you're using a dish, get your food item in a single layer then flip it once or twice over the course of its flavor bath. Shake/flip a couple times if you're using a plastic bag.

    Dont poke holes in the meat.

    smartnsnazzy.com

    This is a debate. The esteemed experts at Cook's Illustrated say you should. BuzzFeed Food editors believe poking holes in your meat is silly and will cause the natural juices to seep out when the meat is cooked, leaving it dry and abused.

    A longer marinade isn't always better — but it usually is.

    There are several factors to take into account with marinade time: type of meat, size of meat chunks, and acidity of the marinade. For dark proteins — beef, lamb, pork — longer is always better. BUT, if the food is delicate — shrimp, flaky fish — stop marinating after 15 or 30 minutes or the acid will start to break down the protein too much. Chicken is somewhere in the middle, anywhere from 2 to 12 hours is good depending on the cut (skin-on breasts require less time, for example).

    Some proteins need a marinade's added flavor more than others.

    Oh hey boneless skinless chicken breasts, you look SO GROSS. You and other protein that is tough, dry, naturally flavorless, or cheap will be especially improved by a marinade. (So in addition to chicken breast, think hanger steaks, pork chops, etc.)

    Wipe it off.

    kathdedon.wordpress.com

    When you take something out of a marinade, wipe it gently to remove most of the clingy bits of herbs or garlic. Otherwise they will char when you cook the meat.

    Marinades can be sauces, too.

    chow.com

    You can set aside some of your marinade before it comes into contact with any raw meat to use it later is a sauce. You can also use the marinade after it's bathed the raw meat, but you have to boil the marinade first to get rid of any bacteria. Otherwise, just throw the marinade away. Don't try to reuse it to marinate other meat.

    Now you are a master so you don't really need to follow a recipe — but just in case, here are some good ones.

    Underneath each photo you'll see the marinade ingredients and time so you can see the patterns.

    Toasted Sesame Ginger Salmon

    abitchinkitchen.blogspot.com

    MARINADE: olive oil + toasted sesame oil + rice vinegar + brown sugar + soy sauce + garlic + ginger + at least 10 minutes

    Get the recipe

    Miso-Glazed Tuna Kebabs

    gourmet.com

    MARINADE: miso + mirin + sugar + water + mayonnaise + 1 hour

    Get the recipe.

    Planked Salmon with Coconut Rice

    epicurious.com

    MARINADE: maple syrup + Dijon mustard + soy sauce + lime juice + at least 10 minutes

    Get the recipe

    Grilled Fish Tacos

    MARINADE: lime juice + cilantro + oil + salt + 15 minutes

    Get the recipe.

    Grilled Salmon with Strawberry-Avocado Salsa

    jasonandshawnda.com

    MARINADE: orange juice/zest + lime juice + salt + pepper + garlic + chili powder + cumin + cilantro + olive oil + 30 minutes

    Get the recipe

    Steamed Fish with Chickpeas and Currants

    chow.com

    MARINADE: oil + cumin + cinnamon + sumac + 30 minutes

    Get the recipe

    Miso-Glazed Salmon Steaks

    bonappetit.com

    MARINADE: miso + mirin + vinegar + ginger + sesame oil + 30 minutes

    Get the recipe.

    Seared Tofu with Spicy Stir-Fried Cabbage

    gourmet.com

    MARINADE: soy sauce + cream sherry + garlic + ginger + sugar + 10 minutes

    Get the recipe

    Stir-Fried Marinated Tofu and Mushrooms

    kalynskitchen.com

    MARINADE: soy sauce + rice vinegar + sesame oil + red pepper flakes + 30 minutes

    Get the recipe

    Wheatberry Salad with Grilled Tofu

    gourmet.com

    MARINADE: tomatoes + red wine vinegar + balsamic vinegar + Dijon + sugar + salt + black pepper + oil + 30 minutes

    Get the recipe.

    Shallot-Marinated Tofu with Miso Dipping Sauce

    wholeliving.com

    MARINADE: lemon juice + grated lemon zest + orange juice + grapeseed oil + shallots + cilantro + Dijon mustard + salt + pepper + 1 hour

    Get the recipe

    Spicy Shrimp Tostadas with Jalapeno Avocado Sauce

    runningtothekitchen.com

    MARINADE: paprika + cumin + chili powder + salt + pepper + 30 minutes

    Get the recipe

    Drunken Shrimp

    chow.com

    MARINADE: soy sauce + garlic + jalapeños + cilantro + lime juice + oil + sugar + lemongrass + 10 minutes

    Get the recipe

    Maple-Chili Grilled Shrimp

    adelightfuldish.blogspot.com

    MARINADE: salt + brown sugar + smoked paprika + cayenne pepper + chili powder + crushed chili flakes + oregano + salt + 1 hour

    Get the recipe.

    Shrimp Tikka with Fresh Mango Chutney

    gourmet.com

    MARINADE: lime juice + jalapeño + ginger + garlic + garam masala + turmeric + nutmeg + 30 minutes

    Get the recipe

    Spatchcocked Lemon Herb Chicken

    gourmet.com

    MARINADE: garlic + kosher salt + fresh thyme + fresh rosemary + lemon juice + olive oil + paprika + at least 4 hours

    Get the recipe

    Brazilian Beer Marinated Chicken

    James Baigrie

    MARINADE: garlic + ginger + onion + paprika + salt + black pepper + caraway seeds + green pepper + mustard + beer + oil + 4 hours

    Get the recipe.

    Garlic-Marinated Chicken Cutlets

    marthastewart.com

    MARINADE: olive oil + garlic + white wine vinegar + fresh thyme + salt + pepper + 10 to 30 minutes

    Get the recipe.

    Chicken and Ginger Clay Pot

    chow.com

    MARINADE: brown sugar + water + ginger + garlic + soy sauce + fish sauce + lime juice + star anise + chiles + at least 1 hour

    Get the recipe

    Chicken Thighs Marinated with Homemade Ssam Paste

    foodandwine.com

    MARINADE: miso + sugar + sesame oil + fish sauce + white vinegar + chile powder + garlic + ginger + onion + 8 to 12 hours

    Get the recipe.

    Basic Buttermilk Fried Chicken

    chow.com

    MARINADE: buttermilk + salt + thyme + pepper + cayenne pepper + at least 8 hours

    Get the recipe

    Apricot-Glazed Chicken

    gourmet.com

    MARINADE: shallots + ginger + veg oil + red-wine vinegar + soy sauce + apricot preserves + at least 8 hours

    Get the recipe.

    Buttermilk and Herb Marinated Chicken

    marthastewart.com

    MARINADE: buttermilk + rosemary + salt + pepper + 1 to 8 hours

    Get the recipe.

    Chicken, Mushroom, and Bok Choy Kebabs

    gourmet.com

    MARINADE: garlic + soy sauce + Sherry + brown sugar + ginger + Sesame oil + 3 hours

    Get the recipe

    Pomegranate-Marinated Lamb with Spices and Couscous

    bonappetit.com

    MARINADE: pomegranate molasses + garlic + olive oil + ground ginger + cinnamon + cumin + paprika + salt + pepper + at least 8 hours

    Get the recipe

    Greek-Style Leg of Lamb

    foodandwine.com

    MARINADE: olive oil + onion + garlic + dill + lemon juice + lemon zest + dried oregano + at least 4 hours

    Get the recipe.

    Roasted Marinated Lamb with Lemon and Rosemary Potatoes

    marthastewart.com

    MARINADE: lemon zest and juice + garlic + rosemary + oil + at least 8 hours

    Get the recipe

    Lamb Kebabs with Mint Pesto

    bonappetit.com

    MARINADE: olive oil + garlic + coarse salt + coriander + 2 to 4 hours

    Get the recipe.

    Grilled Leg of Lamb with Ancho Chili Marinade

    bonappetit.com

    MARINADE: red wine + oil + garlic + fresh oregano + ancho chile powder + lemon juice + green onion + brown sugar + salt + pepper + at least 8 hours

    Get the recipe.

    Marinated Lamb Chops

    foodrepublic.com

    MARINADE: garlic + shallots + rosemary + thyme + red pepper flakes + olive oil + 6 hours

    Get the recipe

    Balsamic and Rosemary-Marinated Florentine Steak

    Marie Hennechart

    MARINADE: balsamic vinegar + olive oil + rosemary + 6 hours

    Get the recipe.

    Pan-Grilled Beer-Marinated Hanger Steak

    bonappetit.com

    MARINADE: soy sauce + olive oil + garlic + Dijon mustard + rosemary + Worcestershire sauce + ground black pepper + dark lager beer + 12-24 hours

    Get the recipe

    Cola-Marinated Flank Steak with Frito Chilaquiles

    foodandwine.com

    MARINADE: cola + jarred Thai green curry paste + jalapeños + 15 minutes.

    Get the recipe.

    Harissa-Marinated Tri-Tip Roast Recipe

    chow.com

    MARINADE: harissa + vinegar + salt + pepper + olive oil + garlic + 8-12 hours

    Get the recipe

    Sirloin Steak with Roasted Potatoes and Asparagus

    marthastewart.com

    MARINADE: mustard + lemon juice + garlic + salt + pepper + 10 mins to 24 hours

    Get the recipe

    Hoisin-Marinated Tri-Tip Roast Recipe

    chow.com

    MARINADE: hoisin + ginger + garlic + rice vinegar + soy sauce + freshly ground black pepper + olive oil + 8 to 24 hours

    Get the recipe

    Red Wine Braised Short Ribs

    userealbutter.com

    MARINADE: garlic + thyme + orange zest + bay leaves + allspice + peppercorns + cloves + wine + 12 to 24 hours

    Get the recipe

    Coffee-Marinated Bison Short Ribs

    bonappetit.com

    MARINADE: water + chilled strong brewed coffee + kosher salt + dark brown sugar + maple syrup + fresh rosemary + Worcestershire sauce + 4-6 hours

    (these are actually bison short ribs, not beef, but the marinade would work nicely with either)

    Get the recipe

    Honey-Marinated Pork with Gremolata

    bonappetit.com

    MARINADE: honey + garlic + orange juice in small bowl + sea salt + pepper + at least two hours

    Get the recipe

    Mojo Pork Kebabs

    marthastewart.com

    MARINADE: oil + garlic + red-pepper flakes + lime juice + orange juice + 30 minutes to 12 hours

    Get the recipe.

    Marinated Pork Chops

    marthastewart.com

    MARINADE: soy sauce + hoisin sauce + garlic + honey + sugar + 1 to 24 hours

    Get the recipe

    Pork Tenderloin Marinated in Amber Ale

    foodandwine.com

    MARINADE: amber ale + carrots + celery + celery + onion + at least twelve hours

    Get the recipe.http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/pork-tenderloin-marinated-in-amber-ale

    Pineapple Pork Chops

    bonappetit.com

    MARINADE: pineapple + cilantro sprigs + chiles + soy sauce + fish sauce + garlic clove + at least 6 hours

    Get the recipe

    Vinegar and Spice Oven Ribs

    chow.com

    MARINADE: dark brown sugar + cider vinegar + lemon zest + garlic + kosher + paprika + freshly ground black pepper + allspice + at least 6 hours

    Get the recipe

    Burmese Red Pork Stew

    bonappetit.com

    MARINADE: soy sauce + sesame oil + chili oil + at least 6 hours

    Get the recipe