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How-To

Go-To Marinades for Quick Summer Dinners

Fine Cooking editors share their favorite marinades perfect for the grill

August/September 2017 Issue
photos: Scott Phillips
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Like most home cooks, we love to grill in summer, and that often means a marinade is in order. A soak in these seasoned liquids imparts meat, fish, and vegetables with exciting, bold flavors. Each of us has a few favorite marinades in our repertoires, our go-tos for easy but really tasty midweek dinners, and we’re sharing four of them here. All include some acid to carry flavor, fat for moisture, and spices, herbs, and other fragrant ingredients for the yum factor. Each is paired with a protein or vegetable, but they’re all extremely versatile, so feel free to experiment with what you use them on. Happy marinating!

Masterful Marinating Tips

Turn the food to make sure it’s completely coated.
  • Make sure the food is coated with the marinade. If the food is not covered completely by the marinade, turn it occasionally to make sure all sides are coated while marinating.
  • Always marinate in a nonreactive vessel. Aluminum and copper react with acidic ingredients, which can change the color of the food and give it a metallic flavor, so choose stainless steel, glass, or plastic instead.
  • Cover and refrigerate for long soaks. Since most marinades penetrate only the outer ¼ inch of the food, a short marinating time is often sufficient, though longer can make food more flavorful. If soaking for more than 1 hour, cover and refrigerate the food in the marinade. If the food starts to turn whitish gray, it means acids or enzymes in the marinade are “cooking” the food; if you see this happening, remove the food from the marinade.
  • Never use a marinade as a sauce if it has come into contact with raw meat or fish. Either reserve some before soaking, or boil the marinade used for soaking for at least three consecutive minutes to kill any bacteria from the raw food.
Reserve some marinade for basting.
  • If you plan to baste as you grill, reserve some marinade before soaking raw meat, poultry, or seafood. Use the reserved marinade for basting; that way, you will avoid bacterial contamination.
  • Season grilled marinated foods with salt before serving. Because salt can dry out foods, there’s not a lot in these marinades, so salt to taste after grilling and before serving.

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