marinades are a mix of oil, herbs and spices and an acidic ingredient
such as citrus juice, vinegar or wine. Go for the convenience of
store-bought, or improvise and make your own, using ingredients you
already have on-hand.
A marinade is a seasoned liquid mixture used to impart flavor and
tenderize meats, fish and vegetables through soaking (marinating). Most
marinades contain oil, herbs and spices and an acidic ingredient such
as vinegar, citrus juice or wine. The oil carries the flavor of the
herbs and spices, creating a natural seal on the food. The acid imparts
bright flavor and also breaks down tough flesh fibers.
When fruits are similarly soaked (usually in a spirit or liqueur), the term used is "macerate."
The term "marinate" originally only applied to fish. The word originates from the Latin mare
, meaning "the sea." Today marinades are still used with fish, but more frequently with meats.
Varieties and Buying Tips
At the supermarket you'll find a wide variety of marinades pre-made for
convenience. Some come in dry seasoning packets that you mix with your
. Ready-to-use liquid marinades are also available
in plastic squeeze bottles or glass jars. The flavors range from basic
" or "garlic and herb" to more gourmet offerings like "Thai
ginger" or "roasted pineapple and habanero." Look for them in your
supermarket's condiment aisle.
It's also quite simple to make your own marinade
at home (usually with
ingredients that you already have on-hand). You can always use the
salad dressing in your fridge, too. Italian dressing
makes a great,
versatile marinade for poultry, shrimp
, vegetables and just about
• Because most marinades contain acidic ingredients, they should be
prepared and used in nonreactive
containers made of glass, ceramic or
stainless steel. Aluminum containers may react with the acid,
causing your food to take on an unpleasant, metallic taste.
• The easiest way to marinate is to seal the food and the marinade in a
large, plastic, zipper bag. Squeeze out as much air as possible and
turn the bag several times to coat.
• Always keep marinating foods covered and refrigerated. Letting them stand at room temperature invites bacteria.
• Larger cuts of meat benefit from longer marinating. A whole chicken
can take up to 12 hours, and large roasts up to 24 hours or two days.
Smaller fish fillets and steaks require the least amount of marinating
time–usually 30 to 60 minutes.
• Before adding food, reserve some of your marinade to use as a basting
sauce while cooking.
• Instead of discarding your used marinade, make it into a delicious
sauce. Just be sure to boil it for at least five minutes to kill any
harmful bacteria that may have been transferred fr