Marinades are one of the simplest ways to add fast and easy flavor to your meals.
Combine a few ingredients in a zip-close plastic bag, add your meat, seafood or veggies, then walk away for a while.
I’ve outlined some basic marinades below to help get you started, as well as some suggestions of what you can use them for. But the truth is, marinades are so versatile and easy to use, you can substitute whatever your favorite ingredients are or anything you happen to have on hand.
These marinades are enough to cover 1 1/2 pounds of food. Double up as needed, but keep in mind that you don’t need the food to swim in the marinade, just be thoroughly coated. Once the food has soaked up the flavor, you can pan-fry, grill or broil it.
Because vinegar is so aggressive, you’ll want to temper it with oil. This helps carry the flavor into the food, as well as prevent the flavors from becoming too jarring. Adding oil to vinegar also gives you a bit of leeway in your timing. For fish, seafood and vegetables, marinate for 30 minutes and to up to 2 hours. For chicken, steak and pork, you can go for up to 8 hours.
- Garlic-balsamic: 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 4 cloves minced garlic, hefty pinch salt. Try with pork loin or steak tips.
- Spicy hoisin: 2 tablespoons rice vinegar, 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon five-spice powder. Try on chicken tenders or scallops.
- Maple-soy: 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons maple syrup. Try with pork tenderloin medallions or cod.
Citrus juices are fairly acidic, which means they quickly permeate and tenderize food. These marinades work equally well for seafood, chicken or steak. For seafood, marinate for up to 30 minutes; chicken and steak, up to 2 hours.
- Chipotle-lime: Juice and zest of 2 limes, 2 tablespoons adobo sauce and 1 minced chipotle chili from a can of chipotles in adobo sauce, 2 cloves minced garlic, a hefty pinch of salt. Great on flank steak or shrimp.
- Orange-cumin: Juice and zest of 1 orange, 1 tablespoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, a hefty pinch of salt. Try with haddock or chicken breasts.
- Lemon-herb: Juice and zest of 1 lemon, 1 tablespoon Italian herb blend, 1 teaspoon ground black pepper, hefty pinch of salt. Good on salmon or chicken thighs.
Because wine marinades have a softer flavor than citrus or vinegar, you can use them to highlight other flavors. These marinades work especially well for hearty vegetables and meats. Marinate from 30 minutes to overnight.
- Red wine-rosemary: 1/4 cup red wine, 1 tablespoon olive oil, hefty pinch each of salt and black pepper, 1 large stem rosemary, chopped. Try with sirloin steak or portobello mushrooms.
- White wine-mustard: 1/4 cup dry white wine, 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, hefty pinch each salt and black pepper. Great with chicken thighs or eggplant.
- Raspberry-ginger: 1/4 cup sweet red wine, 1/4 cup seedless raspberry jam, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger, hefty pinch each salt and black pepper. Try on pork chops or chicken breasts.