A plain piece of chicken, pork, or beef might taste good, but marinating before you cook it brings out the flavor of the meat and lets you try out different tastes to keep things fresh at the dinner table. Many bottled marinades are available on the condiment aisle at the grocery store, but making your own is economical and allows you to control the ingredients so it’s healthy and delicious.
The base of your marinade should be something that you can add other ingredients to and that will adhere to the meat so they can infuse their flavor before and during the cooking process. In general, your base should contain one part oil to one part acid. Vinegar and olive oil is an easy combination, but canola oil, sesame oil, lemon, lime, or orange juice, and yogurt also work well. To create the base of a marinade, whisk together your oil and your acid until well combined.
Once your have your base ready, it’s time to flavor the marinade with other ingredients. A simple mix of herbs and spices is ideal for most marinades. Try thyme, rosemary, cilantro, or basil. Seasoned salt, onion powder, Italian seasoning, chili powder, cumin, salt, fresh ground black pepper, and crushed red pepper work well in the spice department. You can also toss in some minced garlic, ginger, or green onions. Soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, honey, mustard, and sugar work well for enhancing the taste of your marinade.
How to marinate
Marinating meat is simple to do, even when time is short. Place your chicken, beef, or pork into a glass baking dish. Pour the marinade over the top of the meat and cover it with plastic wrap. Place the dish in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Many marinades continue to flavor and tenderize meat, so you can leave them in the marinade for several hours to a day. Turn the meat occasionally to allow both sides to sit in the marinade.
Remove the meat from the marinade and place on a hot grill until cooked through, turning several times to ensure even cooking. Discard the marinade because it can make you sick since it contained raw meat. If you’d like to use it for basting or dipping, reserve a small amount before putting the meat into it. Or, prepare a small batch separately just before serving.
Pair marinated meat with grilled vegetables, such as squash, bell peppers, corn on the cob, or mushrooms. It also works well with baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, a tossed vegetable salad, rice pilaf, or pasta.