What’s the best way to marinate meat?

Just what is a marinade?

Marinades are seasoned solutions, often with a water, wine or soy-sauce base. They add flavor to meats and can also help tenderize cuts of beef, pork, chicken or other meats.

the best way to marinate meat

According to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, tender beef cuts can be marinated for 15 minutes to 2 hours for flavor. If your goal is to tenderize (rather than just season), your marinade needs to have an acidic ingredient, such as lemon or lime juice, tomato juice or salsa, wine, sherry, vinegar or yogurt, or a natural tenderizing enzyme found in fresh papaya, ginger, pineapple and figs. (They also note that a tenderizing marinade reaches about 1/4 inch into the surface of meat, so it works best for steaks and kabobs rather than roasts.)

Marination how-to: The best way to marinate meat

Marinate meats in a covered bowl in the refrigerator. Don’t marinate at room temperature, because bacteria will grow rapidly. While it’s true that the acid in marinade can slow or stop the growth of bacteria, it won’t kill the bad bugs. By the same token, don’t reuse your marinade, or use it as an on-the-side seasoning dip, because the used marinade will have raw meat juices that could cause food poisoning. (If it hasn’t been sitting out for very long, you can boil it, and then use it au jus style.)

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And while marinade can be fabulous, there really is too much of a good thing. As the San Francisco Exploratorium’s Science of Cooking site notes that if the liquids are left on too long, the acids in the marinade can “cook” the surface, causing the meat to dry out, and might become sort of mealy. Another reason to go easy on the marination: You want to be able to taste the meat, and not just the added flavoring.

Some meats, such as thick cuts of pork and steak, can typically marinate for hours, while other less dense cuts of meat — such as chicken breast and most fish — only need to stay in a marinade for a short time.

The NCBA offers the following tips:

  • Figure about 1 /4 to 1 /2 cup of marinade for each 1 to 2 pounds of meat.
  • Always marinate in the refrigerator, never at room temperature.
  • Use a nonreactive container for marinating, such as a glass dish or heavy-duty plastic food-safe bag, rather than a metal pan.
  • Turn the meat occasionally so all sides are exposed to the marinade.
  • If a marinade is to be used later for basting or as a sauce, make a larger batch and reserve a portion before adding the meat. Never reuse marinade that has been in contact with uncooked meat.
Teriyaki Marinade recipe

Here is a favorite Teriyaki marinade recipe:

1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup water (or try orange juice or pineapple juice)
2 tablespoons wine vinegar
1 cloves of garlic, crushed (or 1 teaspoon garlic powder)
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon ginger, freshly-crushed (or 1/2 teaspoon powdered)
2 tablespoons brown sugar



Simply combine all ingredients for a tasty marinade that’s perfect for beef or chicken.

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