Marinades impart flavor to meat, vegetables, fruit or tofu. The acid component of marinades can also help to tenderize tougher cuts of meat, although the effects are mainly limited to the surface of the meat.
Basic Marinade Components:
• Acid, such as wine, citrus juice, vinegar or yogurt
• Oil, such as olive oil, vegetable oil or sesame oil
• Flavoring, such as fresh herbs or dried spices
Most foods will absorb the flavor of a marinade within 1 hour, but many can withstand longer marinating times for maximum flavor benefits. Marinating meats for too long can cause the texture to become grainy or mushy. Follow these general guidelines:
Shellfish and Shrimp: 15 – 30 minutes
Meat for Kabobs: 15 – 30 minutes
Fish Fillets: 30 minutes – 1 hour
Chicken Breasts or Thighs: 1 – 3 hours
Whole Chickens: 2 – 6 hours
Flank or Strip Steaks: 2 – 6 hours
Pork Chops or Tenderloin: 2 – 6 hours
Leg of Lamb or Lamb Chops: 2 – 6 hours
Large Beef Roasts: 6 hours – Overnight
Ribs: 6 hours – Overnight
Whole Hams: 6 hours – Overnight
Pork Shoulder: 6 hours – Overnight
Choose a nonreactive container for marinating food such as glass, plastic, stainless steel or ceramic. Some metal containers, including aluminum and copper, can impart a metallic flavor to meat. For easy cleanup, a zip-top plastic bag works well.
Marinate meat and fish in the refrigerator if the marinating time is longer than 30 minutes. If you plan to use a marinade for basting the food during cooking, be sure to boil it for 3 minutes first (this kills any bacterial contamination from the raw meat).
Three Basic Marinades:
1. Tangy Lemon Marinade
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon hot sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, pressed
1/4 teaspoon salt
Combine all ingredients. Add up to 2 lb chicken or fish.
2. Asian Marinade
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon Sriracha
1 garlic clove, pressed
Combine all ingredients; mix well. Add up to 2 lb beef, pork or chicken.
3. Instant Marinade
For an instant marinade use your favorite bottled salad dressing, such as vinaigrettes, Italian or Asian dressings.