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How to Make a Marinade

The art of marinating can take a steak, fish or other protein from subpar to sublime.

Marinating is the process of soaking foods - usually meats - in a seasoned liquid before you cook them.

Why choose to marinate? Because the acids in marinades can tenderize a cheaper cut of meat and impart a lot of extra flavor as a bonus. While you're not going to turn a skirt-steak into prime rib, when done properly, you can recreate a delicious fine-dining experience at home. Check out these tips that will help you to learn how to marinate like a pro.

Make It Your Own

What's the best liquid for marinating? Marinades require at least one of the liquids to be acidic or enzymatic. This includes vinegar, wine, citrus juice, or pineapple or papaya juice. Use a light hand with pineapple or papaya, though, as the enzymes within these are likely to take your food from fab to flat pretty quickly. Other flavors that can be used in addition to the acid or enzymes are soy sauce, fruit juices, salts, fresh or dry herbs, and garlic cloves. Use what you think sounds good!

Marination Tips

Don't over-marinate. The worst thing you can do to a piece of meat is to over-marinate it. The acids in a marinade can easily make a delicate piece of protein, such as fish, mushy and textureless if left too long. So, the more acidic the marinade or the more delicate the protein, the shorter the marinade time. Don't worry, these sorts of marinades will impart flavor in as little as ten minutes.

Never use marinades while hot. Sure, you sometimes have to cook a marinade to make sure the flavors meld together, but unless you like the flavor of partially boiled meat (and no one does!) make sure your marinades are room temperature, or colder, before adding them to your meat. This means that you should make them in advance and then chill them, or add ice cubes to the marinade and allow the temperature to come down considerably.

Marination Safety

By adding raw meat to a liquid, you impart a lot of flavor, but you're still adding raw meat to liquid. Here are some key tips you should follow to avoid anything going awry.

Never save and reuse any marinade that has touched raw meat. Even though there might be a lot of flavor left over in the liquid, don't think you can reduce it for a sauce or even reuse it on a similar cut of meat. Discard any used marinade as soon as you are done with it – unless you’re a fan of food poisoning.

Always marinate in a zip-top bag that has been placed in a sturdy plastic or metal container—preferably with a lid. This double layer of protection will help make sure that you don't have to pitch the contents of your fridge if something should happen.

Location, location, location! A big part of marinating is knowing where to store the concoction. Stash your marinating meat on the lowest shelf in your refrigerator. That way you nip any potential cross-contamination in the bud.

Now that you know the tips and tricks for marination, go soak yourself a juicy steak or a fine filet of fish and treat your taste buds right. And don't forget to tell us your marination tips and tricks in the comments!