Learn how to make DIY marinades with just a few pantry items, what basics go into a marinade, and how long meat, chicken, and fish should marinate.
We love a good marinade. What we don't love is languishing in the marinade aisle at the grocery store, unsure of the ingredients and the flavors that will come out of the many multicolor bottles. Where do you begin? As it happens, at home. We found a solution to the marinade conundrum: Make it yourself. With just a few kitchen staples and the tiniest bit of elbow grease, you'll find it so easy to mix up a delicious marinade to complement your dinner dishes, from beef to pork to fish. But first, learn the main ingredients that go into a marinade, how long to marinate for, and why it's worth the time to make your meat extra flavorful and tender.
How To Make A DIY Marinade
Making a marinade at home is easy once you understand the three basic elements to create one: 3 parts fat, 1 part acid, and 1 part seasonings. Fats help transfer the marinade flavors and keep protein moist, dairy and citrus tenderizes protein while seasonings infuse flavor.
Here’s common examples of ingredients that go into a marinade:
- Fats: Olive, sesame, avocado, and other vegetable oils, dairy like buttermilk and yogurt, and coconut milk.
- Acids: Vinegar, citrus juices, beer, and wine.
- Seasonings: Garlic, spices, and herbs and condiments like hot sauce, mustard, ketchup, and barbecue sauce.
To add even more layers of flavor, add sweet, salty, and savory ingredients:
- Sugars: Honey, brown sugar, maple syrup, and granulated sugar.
- Salt: Soy sauce, fish sauce, and Worcestershire sauce.
- Aromatics: Onions, shallots, ginger, and lemon grass.
How Long Should I Marinate Protein?
How long you marinate a protein depends on the type and cut, and longer isn’t necessarily better – highly acidic marinades can turn proteins tough, mealy, or mushy if left too long.
Here are marinating time guidelines for fish, chicken, pork, and beef:
- Fish: 30 minutes to 1 hour; up 2 hours for large or thick pieces.
- Chicken: For many recipes, 2 to 6 hours is a common amount of time, but chicken can marinate as long as 24 hours, or if short on time, 30 minutes can still make a difference.
- Pork: One hour to 3 days, according to the USDA.
- Beef: Tender steaks, like porterhouse, T-bone, and ribeye, can marinate for 15 minutes to an 1 hour to add flavor without breaking down the texture, explains Southern Living food writer Elizabeth Brownfield. Tough cuts like chuck roast can benefit from marinating for 6 to 24 hours to help with tenderizing.
Can I Reuse My Marinade?
It may seem wasteful to discard a marinade after it’s been used, but it’s not safe to reuse since raw meat can contaminate the mixture with harmful bacteria unless you boil it for 5 minutes at 212 Fahrenheit, according to the USDA.
If you want to use your marinade as a sauce for serving with your meal, we recommend dividing your marinade into two portions and use them separately. Reserve a portion only for marinating the raw meat, and use the other portion to serve as a sauce.
What Does Marinating Do?
Marinating meat, poultry, and fish tenderizes, flavors, and adds moisture to protein.
Easy 2-Ingredient Pantry Staple Marinades
Our easy recipes for kitchen-made marinades use minimal ingredients (just two!) to great effect. All you need to do is add a splash of a neutral cooking oil (like canola oil or olive oil) to equal parts of the kitchen stalwarts described below, and you will have yourself a few show-stopping 2-ingredient marinades. These are great to have in your culinary arsenal for upgrading busy weeknight dinners.
Perfect on Pork
One part soy sauce plus one part sesame oil, this marinade adds a savory and toasty flavor to fish. It's the perfect complement to any fish dish. Soy sauce adds a satisfying tanginess, while the sesame oil offers the delicate, toasty touch. The flavor is so complex that you won't believe it only uses two ingredients.
Spiced Up Beef
One part Dijon mustard plus Sriracha chili sauce gives spicy flavor to a lean cut of beef, like flank steak. A hearty beef dish demands simple but stunning spices. The Dijon elevates the flavor to somewhere near fancy, while the Sriracha chili sauce adds the kick that every dinner guest craves.
Tangy Both Ways
One part apple cider vinegar plus one part honey, this tangy marinade will add loads of flavor to salmon or pork tenderloin. This is arguably the easiest marinade of the bunch, and you'll find yourself mixing it up constantly. It's that good.
This article was written by Southern Living Editors from Southern Living and was legally licensed through the DiveMarketplace by Industry Dive. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.