Nail the right combination of acidic, sweet, salty, and seasoning components-balanced with the perfect amount of marinating time-and you'll fall in love with the results. The food will be richly browned, with a tender (not mealy) texture and a hint of marinade flavor that doesn't overpower. Tune up your skills with the "practice" recipes here, and before you know it you'll be mastering your own tasty concoctions.
Related: Sizzling Flank Steak Recipes
"Our recipes are a starting point to help you make your own easy marinades," says Test Kitchens food chemist Kristi Michele Crowe. Every marinade should have one or more ingredients from each of the four categories below. You also need a small amount of olive or vegetable oil to carry these flavors into the meat. "One suggestion," Kristi adds, "is to taste the marinade before adding the meat. Taste for a balance of flavors much as you would a salad dressing."
- Examples: buttermilk; lemon, lime, and orange juices; wine; beer; soft drinks; vinegar
- Role: Breaks down proteins, allowing tenderization and penetration of flavors.
- Examples: sugar, honey, ketchup, molasses, maple syrup
- Role: Promotes browning when searing meat in a skillet, cooking in the oven at a high temperature, or grilling.
- Examples: salt, soy sauce, chicken broth, teriyaki sauce, Worcestershire sauce
- Role: Tenderizes meat by dissolving proteins. Keeps meat juicy during cooking by reducing amount of moisture lost during cooking; enhances flavor.
Spices and seasonings
- Examples: fresh herbs, spices, garlic, mustard, shallots
- Role: Pumps up the flavor.
- marinade (MEHR-ih-nayd)-A seasoned liquid in which such foods as meat, fish, and vegetables are soaked in order to absorb flavor and . . . be tenderized. (from The New Food Lover's Companion)
- marinate (MEHR-ih-nayt)-To soak a food . . . in a seasoned liquid mixture. (from The New Food Lover's Companion)