We've outlined some basic marinades below to help get you started, as well as some suggestions of what you can use them for. But the truth is, marinades are so versatile and easy to use, you can substitute whatever your favorite ingredients are or anything you happen to have on hand.
These marinades are enough to cover 1 1/2 pounds of food. Double up as needed, but keep in mind that you don't need the food to swim in the marinade, just be thoroughly coated. Once the food has soaked up the flavor, you can pan-fry it, grill it or broil it.
Citrus juices are fairly acidic, which means they permeate and tenderize food quickly. They work great as a base for marinades that you want to throw together just before dinner.
These marinades work equally well for seafood as they do chicken or steak. For seafood, marinate for up to 30 minutes; chicken and steak can handle up to 2 hours.
Chipotle-lime: Juice and zest of 2 limes, 2 tablespoons adobo sauce and 1 minced chipotle chili from a can of chipotles in adobo sauce, 2 cloves minced garlic, a hefty pinch of salt. Great on flank steak or shrimp.
Orange-cumin: Juice and zest of 1 orange, 1 tablespoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, a hefty pinch of salt. Try with haddock or chicken breasts.
Lemon-herb: Juice and zest of 1 lemon, 1 tablespoon Italian herb blend, 1 teaspoon ground black pepper, hefty pinch of salt. Good on salmon or chicken.
Wine is a great base for subtle marinades. Because they have a softer flavor than citrus or vinegar, you can use them to highlight other flavors. Use a little oil to help carry flavors, and prevent food from sticking to the cooking surface.
These marinades work especially well for hearty vegetables and meats. Marinate 30 minutes to overnight.
Red wine-rosemary: 1/4 cup red wine, 1 tablespoon olive oil, hefty pinch each of salt and black pepper, 1 large stem rosemary, chopped. Try with sirloin steak or mushrooms.
White wine mustard: 1/4 cup dry white wine, 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, hefty pinch each salt and black pepper. Great with chicken thighs or eggplant.
Raspberry ginger: 1/4 cup sweet red wine, 1/4 cup seedless raspberry jam, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger, hefty pinch each salt and black pepper. Try on pork chops or chicken breasts.
Because vinegar is so aggressive, you'll want to temper it with oil.
Adding oil to vinegar also gives you a bit of leeway in your timing. For fish, seafood and vegetables, marinate for 30 minutes and up to 2 hours. For chicken, steak and pork, you can go for up to 8 hours.
Garlic-balsamic: 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 4 cloves minced garlic, hefty pinch salt. Try with pork loin or steak tips.
Spicy hoisin: 2 tablespoons rice vinegar, 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon five-spice powder. Try on chicken tenders.
Maple-soy: 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons maple syrup. Try with pork tenderloin medallions or cod.
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