Marinades generally consist of cooking oil; an acidic liquid, such as vinegar, wine, tomato, or citrus juice (or a natural enzyme, such as ginger or pineapple); and variety of flavorings, including garlic, molasses, honey, fresh or dried herbs, and spices. The acids help the marinade soften tough cuts of meat; the oils moisten the meat and add flavor. Salt can also be used to both flavor and tenderize the meat.
Marinades should be thin in consistency so they can penetrate the meat to reach the desired flavor. The marinade penetrates about 1/4 inch into the surface of meat, so it will not reach the meat's interior, but the surface will be flavorful.
1. Place the food to be marinated in a resealable plastic bag. Set the bag in a bowl or shallow dish in case the bag leaks. Pour the marinade over the food; seal the bag and place it in the refrigerator.
2. Turn the bag occasionally so the marinade is distributed evenly over all sides of the food. Do not marinate in a metal container because the acidic mixture can react with the metal.
3. Use tongs to remove food from the marinade. Some of the marinade will stick to the food. Discard remaining marinade.
Tender cuts of meat need up to 2 hours of soaking time. Less tender cuts of meat require 4 to 24 hours, but don't overdo it. Meats and poultry marinated for more than 24 hours can turn mushy. Marinate fish for just a few hours; if left any longer, the acidic ingredients will begin to "cook" it and make it tough. Food should be cooked immediately after marinating. Marinating does not extend the shelf life of food, which includes the day of purchase and thawing time.
These tips will help you marinate your food safely: