The Pioneer Woman Tasty Kitchen
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Let’s Talk Marinades

Posted by in Kitchen Talk

Tasty Kitchen Blog: Kitchen Talk (Marinades)

If you finally broke out the grill last weekend, then you’re probably eager to start putting it to regular use for as long as the weather permits. We’re with you on that! After all, what’s not to love about cooking outdoors, enjoying late evenings, and sitting down to a dinner that’s typically fuss-free? Grilling is all about letting the meat—or veggies—shine, and usually, you don’t need much more than a simple sprinkling of salt and pepper. But sometimes, you want to add a bit more flavor without necessarily serving it with a sauce. And that’s where a good marinade can help.

Marinades are, at their most basic, built like a basic salad dressing. (In fact, in a pinch, a bottle of vinaigrette-style salad dressing can double as a great impromptu marinade.) There’s oil, which helps distribute the flavors evenly. There’s an acid component, like vinegar, citrus juice, or wine. Then you need a bit of salt, and any other herbs, spices, or flavors you want to incorporate into your dish. And that’s pretty much it. I always taste the marinade first before using it—if it tastes good right off the bat, then I know I’ll enjoy the flavor it imparts to whatever we’re grilling. If I particularly like the taste of the marinade, I’ll set aside a portion of it so I have a “clean” batch (untainted by raw meat) to brush on the grilled meat or to reduce and serve on the side for dipping. I might even use some of it to dress some simple veggies or flavor rice, to help tie the whole meal together.

The tricky part is usually deciding how much acid to add, and how long to marinate. Typically, the more delicate the meat, the less time you want to marinate, and the less acid you use. Fish, for example, shouldn’t sit in an acidic marinade for too long, lest you wind up with ceviche. (In fact, I usually skip the acid when working with fish.) The same goes for really tender cuts of meat, which will turn mushy on you. That said, in most other cases, I do like adding something acidic to my marinades because I enjoy the brightness it adds, and it also means I can use less salt without sacrificing flavor.

Tasty Kitchen Blog: Kitchen Talk (Marinades)

I quite enjoy building my own marinades, and I like changing up the flavors based on the theme of the meal, like the Thai-style satay marinade used in the photo above. If I’m whipping up a Greek-inspired meal, I’ll use olive oil, lemon juice or lemon zest, salt, pepper, and oregano. When I want to add a smoky, spicy kick, I throw in some pureed chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. If I’m going for something herbaceous yet meaty, adding pesto to the marinade is usually a good move. For an Asian-style grilled beef, I like using sesame oil, tamarind (or lime juice) as the acid, fish sauce (or soy sauce), and flavor it with ginger, garlic, lemongrass, and a touch of sugar. I do enjoy using sugar in marinades, and I find it helps with browning. But I use it sparingly, just enough to flavor the marinade but not too much that it burns on the grill.

If you use your grill or roaster regularly, you probably already have your go-to marinade formula or even store-bought brand. We’d like to hear all about it! Tell us:

Do you have any favorite marinating tips and tricks? Favorite marinade flavors?

Or maybe you have a marinating mishap to relate, like that time someone I know dumped in half a bottle’s worth of cayenne powder, mistaking it for chili powder. (Yes. That happened.) Share with us below!



Comments are closed for this recipe.

Sandra mabry on 5.31.2015

play out side……..

vickie on 5.29.2015

I’m trying to start using some dry rubs, so am still experimenting.
Getting to like my own home made concoctions vs. store bought!!

cici on 5.29.2015

I use a dry rub that my hubby named Tulsa Rub, since we are both Tulsans!! I got it from a friend of mine to use with a Pork Tenderloin using Apple Cider & apples also, but my hubby liked the dry rub for everything. It is just a mixture of peppers & other seasonings.

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Mamma K (The Broke Kitchen) on 5.29.2015

One of my favs and its on my page here is a dr pepper marinade. I use it for tri tips, steaks everything except fish. so versatile and can be changed up too with different spices.

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Shawna C on 5.29.2015

I do the same thing Patty Paulsen does: add marinades to meat going into the freezer. My two faves are:
Pork – minced fresh ginger, minced garlic, soy sauce, hoisin, salt and pepper
Chicken – lime juice, minced garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper

Meme on 5.28.2015

For steaks, I put steaks in zip lock bag, add soy sauce, liquid smoke and worschestire sauce and marinade all day or at least an hour before grilling. Now I have the craving for them.

PatW on 5.28.2015

I tend to throw things together to make a marinade– oil, citrus or vinegar, salt, seasonings, a touch of sweet. I just taste and make sure the flavors balance. While I’m not fond of REALLY hot seasoning, I’ve learned that marinades for chicken can contain a lot of hot sauce (tablespoon or so) and the meat will just be pleasantly warm.

Favorites around here are garlic-lime and honey-lemon– both with chicken.

janmaus on 5.28.2015

As others have said, those zip lock bags are the bomb! While I see some really attractive ideas below, I prefer simple marinades that don’t muddy the tastes–my faves are always based on olive oil, lime juice, minced garlic and an herb or flavoring or two–not piles of stuff: a minced chipotle, OR julienned basil, OR grated ginger, a dash of cayenne & chopped cilantro, OR … well, you get the idea. Another acid can be used, but we like lime best. Kim below had a wonderful suggestion–save the acid to the end if you plan to marinate over a long period of time. The reason for this is because the acid “cooks” the protein and changes the texture of the meat, so it shouldn’t be in contact with the meat for more than several hours. I also don’t add salt to a marinade because it toughens the meat–I save the salt until I’m ready to grill.

Kris on 5.27.2015

My favorite chicken or beef marinade is this: in a food processor, put 1/2 cup olive oil, 3/4 cup low sodium soy sauce, 1/2 cup white vinegar, 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce, 2 cloves garlic, 3 Tbsp. brown sugar, and 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard. I pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts just a bit, and then put them in a zipper freezer bag. I pour enough marinade to coat 4-6 pieces (depending on size). This either goes right into the freezer or in the fridge overnight. I grill them over indirect heat, and they are juicy and tender every time.

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Erika (TK) on 5.27.2015

I think the freezer tip is brilliant too!

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Patricia @ ButterYum on 5.27.2015

I’m loving Patty Ps freezer tip. Can’t wait to try it!

Rie on 5.27.2015

Patricia already posted what I was going to share about the zip lock bags. I half marinade recipes or double the protein all the time and like Patty P, stick them in the freezer. Also I have to agree with her again…the photo of the marinades is beautiful. I would put that up in my kitchen (if I had the wall space). Stunning!

Beth on 5.27.2015

We love marinades to mix up flavors of a simply-grilled chicken breast. Our favorite is a commercial marinade, Lawry’s Sesame Ginger. Yum! Also, I agree with Patricia, we always marinade in a Ziploc baggie–uses less!

Patty Paulsen on 5.27.2015

P.S.–Dry rubs work wondefully with this method as well!

Patty Paulsen on 5.27.2015

I regularly buy meat from the warehoue store and vacuum-freeze portion sizes. Sometimes, I whip up my favorite marinade and add to the pouch before I seal. The packet gets frozen, then thawed in the fridge as usual. When I am ready to grill, the marinade has done its job and I saved a step! I have used this trick on flank steak and chicken pieces with wonderful results.

kim on 5.27.2015

I like marinades that are heavy on fresh herbs, because I grow them in pots on the front porch, so, aside from the $2 I spend for a seed packet, they’re pretty much free all summer long.

My favorite go-to is a simple mix of olive oil, chopped fresh oregano and parsley, salt and pepper that I throw thin sliced chicken breasts in before work. When I get home, while the grill heats, I add lemon juice. (Adding the juice to the marinade in the AM would leave me with mealy “cooked” breast meat by the time I was ready to grill.

I grill the chicken, along with red peppers, red onion and slices of zucchini, then chop all up and serve over a big bowl of romaine with tomatoes, greek olives and cucumbers and sprinkle some feta on top. Add a nice vinaigrette or some reserved (clean) marinade, some pita and hummus and dinner’s on the table.

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Patricia @ ButterYum on 5.27.2015

PS – the photo of all the marinades is awesome!

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Patricia @ ButterYum on 5.27.2015

Marinades are wonderful, but they can be expensive to make. I’ve found I can usually cut the marinade ingredients in half without compromising any flavor. The key is this, instead of marinading in a bowl or container, place everything in a zip-top bag and squeeze out as much air as possible, knead the bag to be sure the marinade touches all surfaces of whatever is being marinated. You’ll be amazed how much less marinade you actually need.

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C. L. ( Cheryl ) "Cheffie Cooks" Wiser on 5.27.2015

We love all sorts of sauces and marinades! I create new ones all the time for Seafood, Beef, Chicken, Pork, etc. A lot are in my recipe box in fact I am working on a new one this week! I do enjoy using Citrus (I grow lemon, limes) and use them in a multitude of sauces, marinades. Have not had any disasters to share! Have a great week everyone!