A marinade is a seasoned liquid mixture that both adds flavor
and tenderizes meat. Marinades are a fast, easy way to
create delicious meat dishes — especially with less
expensive cuts of meat.
A marinade must contain an ingredient to break down the meat
fibers and let the flavors penetrate. This can be an
acidic substance (vinegar, wine, spirits, lemon juice, etc.)
or a natural tenderizing enzyme such as those found in fresh
papaya, ginger, pineapple and figs.
A small amount of oil is added to the marinade mixture to help
ingredients adhere better to the meat and to aid in browning
Although there are lots of complex marinade recipes available,
you really only need 3 things to make a great marinade: a good
olive oil, a good vinegar or spirit and a good blend of seasonings.
1/4 cup of oil, 1/4 cup of vinegar or spirit and 1 tbsp of
seasoning will give you enough marinade for about a pound of
meat. Don't be fooled by the small amount. Put it
in a heavy resealable plastic bag to make it easy to distribute
the marinade over the meat.
You can marinate for as little as 20 minutes. Seafood should
generally not be marinated more than an hour. Other meats can
be marinated as much as 2 days in the refrigerator. An easy
way to marinate is to put meats directly from the freezer into the
marinade and refrigerate overnight.
Just remember: the more tender the meat, the
less time it needs to marinate.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the only oil you need to make great
marinades. It has a rich, satisfying flavor and is also
good for you. The phrase "extra virgin" indicates oil
from the first pressing of the olives.
There are a wide variety of vinegars available in most supermarkets
today. While white or distilled vinegar will work in any marinade,
some of the specialty vinegars are worth stocking. The following
are two that always have a place in my kitchen:
Balsamic Vinegar - a traditional farm vinegar from Modena,
Italy. This vinegar is a sweet, dark brown made from white
wine grapes and then aged for at least 5 years in wood
barrels. It is highly flavorful and works well with a
variety of meats and vegetables.
wines & spirits
Apple Cider Vinegar - Made from freshly crushed, whole apples and
stored in wooden vats, this fruity vinegar has a distinctive
taste of cider that perfectly complements pork, chicken and
The basic rule for cooking with wine or other alcohol beverages
is this: If you like to drink it, then enjoy cooking with it.
If you won't drink it then don't cook with it.
A perfect way to include wine in your marinade is simply to add
a little of the wine that you plan to drink with dinner into the
mixture. Try using cognac, single malt scotch or bourbon to
infuse your meat dishes with their rich flavors.
Although you can combine individual herbs, salts and spices in
any marinade, using our seasoning blends make it so easy to create
delicious marinades that I feel like I'm somehow cheating.
I have listed four very easy marinades below using our seasoning
blends along with links to other marinade recipes.
How do you know what seasonings go best with a particular vinegar
or spirit? This is where I just follow my nose. I
smell the seasoning blend or herb and then smell the vinegar or
spirit. If the aromas complement each other, I go with
it. As with choosing a wine or picking an ice cream flavor,
the most important consideration is what you like.
Do keep in mind that the stronger flavors of balsamic vinegar or a
hearty burgundy can overpower some of the milder herbs such as basil
or sage. Likewise, the full flavors of rosemary and oregano
can overwhelm a delicate rice wine vinegar or white zinfandel.