TIP OF THE DAY: Five Minute Marinating Tips | The Nibble Webzine Of Food Adventures - The Nibble Webzine Of Food Adventures TIP OF THE DAY: Five Minute Marinating Tips | The Nibble Webzine Of Food Adventures
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TIP OF THE DAY: Five Minute Marinating Tips

Whether you decide to grill, roast, or sauté meats and other foods, marinating will make them tastier.

A marinade is a savory, acidic sauce comprised of an acid, oil and seasonings. The food—fish, meat, vegetables—is bathed in the marinade to enrich its flavor and/or to tenderize it. The breaking down of the tissue also causes meat and poultry to hold more liquid, making it juicier.

The marinade should be relatively thin in consistency, in order to penetrate the food. The acidic ingredient can be buttermilk, lemon juice, wine/beer, or yogurt, seasoned with herbs and/or spices. Sometimes oil is eliminated from red meat marinades, because meat generally contains enough fat.

1. MIX any good cooking oil with an acid (lemon juice, vinegar, wine).


Old-school marinating: in a glass or plastic dish. Photo courtesy 12Tomatoes.com.

2. CHOP up some fresh herbs and garlic cloves or add herbs and/or spices from your pantry. For an Asian marinade, mix soy sauce with oil, chopped onions and garlic.

Thanks to Linda Stadley of What‘s Cooking America and FoodSafety.gov for some of these tips:

  • RATIO: A general rule of marinade-to-meat ration is 1/2 cup of marinade per pound of meat. If you use a little more marinade, it will be OK.
  • FRIDGE: Always marinate in the refrigerator, never marinate at room temperature or outdoors when barbecuing. Bacteria can quickly multiply on warm, raw meat. If the recipe says to marinate at room temperature, ignore it.
  • TIME: Marinades that contain no salt, acid, or alcohol can be marinated overnight or, in some cases, longer.
  • TIME: Marinades that contain acid, alcohol or salt should not be used for longer than four hours, because those ingredients will chemically “cook” or denature the food, the way raw seafood is cured by citrus juice to create ceviche.
  • TIME: Marinades that contain citrus juices, especially lemon or lime juice, should be used for only 2 hours or less. Mind the time: foods left too long in these blends can change color and texture. Fish fillets, for example, can change in a matter of minutes.
  • TIME: You can store marinated poultry in your refrigerator for two days. Beef, veal, pork, and lamb may be marinated up to 5 days.
  • SAFETY: Be sure to use a food thermometer and cook the meat to a safe minimum internal temperature. Here’s a temperature chart.

    The best way to marinate: in a resealable
    plastic bag. Photo courtesy McCormick.
  • NO METAL: Do NOT marinate in a metal container: The acidic mixture can react with the metal. Marinate only in a sealable plastic bag, plastic container or glass container. Turn the food occasionally so that all sides are coated evenly with the marinade.
  • COVER: If you marinate in container (as opposed to a plastic bag), cover it.
  • DON’T REUSE: Never reuse marinade unless you’ve boiled it to destroy harmful bacteria, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. If you plan to use some of the marinade as sauce for the cooked food, reserve that portion apart from what you are using to marinate.
  • BOTTLED DRESSING: A common tip is to marinate in bottled Italian dressing, a ready-mixed combination of acid, oil and seasonings. But why pay several dollars for bottled dressing when you can use your own oil, and vinegar and garlic for pennies?


    The easiest and least messy way to marinate food is to use a resealable plastic bag. When all of the air is pressed out before the bag is sealed, the marinade completely surrounds the meat.

    This dramatically reduces the amount of marinade necessary, and also affords even marination, allowing maximum penetration of the marinade from all sides.

    Here are tips from McCormick for five-minute marinating. If your recipe calls for a longer time, follow the instructions.

    1. PLACE the food and the marinade in a resealable plastic bag.

    2. PUSH the air out of the bag and seal tightly.

    3. MASSAGE the food for five minutes, turning the bag often so it absorbs most of the marinade. (this is easy to do with meat and seafood; vegetables should just be squished around in the bag).

    4. REMOVE the food and cook. Discard the bag with the remaining marinade.


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