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Bag or Dish?

Either one works
well.  Be sure to use
a nonreactive dish,
i.e. non-metal,
choose glass or
ceramic.  If using a
bag, place it in a
bowl to catch any
leaks. Never use an
uncooked marinade
as a sauce--it's

Marinades are treatments applied before cooking to enhance the flavor of food.  In its simplest form, a
marinade is a seasoned liquid.  Beyond that, all is fair.  Basically it is a combination of an acidic
liquid,  oil and flavoring.  As for the flavoring, it can be any variety of herbs, spices, seeds, condiments,
sugar -- and the list just keeps on going.  You have plenty of leeway to be creative and use what you
have on hand.

Marinades can be wonderfully convenient.  If you plan ahead, marinades can make a weeknight meal
something really special -- and fast -- upon your return home from work.

Marinade Basics

Allow 1/4 cup of a wet marinade to coat, but not soak, one pound of protein.  

Marinade times:
  • Fish:                30 minutes to 1 hour
  • Chicken:         30 minutes to 2 hours
  • Meats:             30 minutes to 24 hours.  

Plan on marinating for at least 4 hours to tenderize; to add flavor, 30 minutes is enough.

It is safe to marinate at room temperature for up to 2 hours.  Longer marinating should take place in
the refrigerator.  

Food should be turned at least once, preferably a few times, while marinating.  

Marinades may be used as sauces, but must first be brought to a boil to kill any dangerous bacteria.

Handy Hint:
If the marinade has oil in it, be sure to pat the food dry before placing it on the grill. This will reduce
the possibility of flare-ups from dripping oil.

What's the difference between a marinade and a vinaigrette?

Marinades and vinaigrettes use the same basic ingredients, just in different proportions.

Standard proportions for a marinade versus a vinaigrette are:

Marinade:     3 parts acid to 1 part oil
Vinaigrette:   1 part acid to 3 parts oil

A vinaigrette can be used as a no-fuss, easy marinade.

Since vinaigrettes contain a higher percentage of oil than a marinade, you might add more of an acid
such as vinegar or lime, lemon, or orange juice.

Also, add a few more herbs or spices to punch it up some. Remember, you need more flavor in the
1/4 cup of marinade that a steak sits in than you need in the 1/4 cup tossed with a few cups of salad

Here are five standard flavor combinations for marinades to lend a variety of ethnic flavors.

Use these as a starting point.  Combine an oil and an acid in the recommended proportion of 3 parts
acid to 1 part oil, then add in flavorings to suit your taste.

Sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, hoisin sauce, hot chili oil, grated ginger, garlic, five-spice powder.

Plain yogurt, lemon juice, ground cumin, curry powder, minced fresh coriander(cilantro), grated
ginger, fresh mint

Olive oil, balsamic or red wine vinegar, minced garlic, fresh rosemary, oregano, basil, fresh sage.

Olive oil, red wine vinegar, minced garlic, fresh thyme, dried lavender

Olive oil, lime juice, fresh or dried chiles, fresh coriander (cilantro).

More Marinade Info

Marinades containing acid (such as wine, vinegar, citrus or acids from food such as tomatoes) will
denature the food that it flavors. Whether a marinade "tenderizes" food is a source of debate. What the
acid truly does is break down the enzymes of the food on its surface. Many people feel that therefore
the food is tenderized. Others translate the feeling of denatured enzymes on the food's surface as
"mushy" rather than a "tender" mouth-feel (particularly if it is a less densely packed food such as fish
that has been marinating a long time).

Marinating can be overdone, particularly if there is acid in the mixture and the food is less dense and

How much a marinade affects the texture of a food is a result of several factors:

The density of the food.
  • If the food is dense, such as a carrot, the marinade is unlikely to affect its texture.
  • If the food is less dense, such as a piece of fish, then a marinade may change its texture,
    depending on other factors.
The mass of the food.
  • The texture of a smaller piece of food, such as a minute steak, will be affected more by an
    acidic marinade than will a large piece of food, such as big beef roast.
The acidity of the marinade.
  • The higher percentage of acid in the marinade, the more a food's texture will be affected.
Protect Foods from Drying Out
  • Oil protects leaner foods from drying out during high-heat cooking. It helps to hold in the
    natural moisture and reduce the loss of moisture during cooking.

More Marinade Basics

To coat the meat as evenly as possible and make cleanup easy, put the meat and marinade in a self-
sealing plastic bag. Set the bag in a non-metal bowl or shallow dish, and turn the bag occasionally.
Marinate in the refrigerator, never at room temperature. Plan on marinating for at least 4 hours to
tenderize; to add flavor, 30 minutes is enough. The texture of some meats, poultry, and fish may
change if they're marinated too long. If a recipe suggests a time limit, be sure to follow it.
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