How to Make Your Own Marinade

Man pouring marinade over Korean beef in heatproof dish prior to grilling
David Murray and Jules Selmes/Getty Images 

Looking for a cheap way to marinate meats? Then, cruise right past the bottled marinades at the store, and make your own instead. Sure, you probably know that the enzymes in marinades break down fibers and tenderize meats. They also enhance the flavor of meats. But that doesn't mean you have to pay high grocery store prices for marinades. Your homemade marinade will serve these two functions just as well as commercial varieties, and you'll save money. Here's what you can do to make your own marinade.

Gather the Ingredients

To make a marinade, you will need:

  • An acid to tenderize: Vinegar works well, but you can also use lemon juice, orange juice, or wine.
  • Flavoring: Whatever seasonings or spices you happen to have on hand will suffice.
  • Oil: This will hold everything together and add moisture to the meat.
  • Salt: This basic seasoning will make the meat juicier and more flavorful.

Preparation

To prepare your marinade, follow these simple steps:

  1. Mix three parts of oil for every one part acid used.
  2. Add in your choice of flavorings and salt to taste.

That's all there is to it. Your marinade is now ready to use.

Tips and Warnings

Always marinate in a nonreactive container like glass, stainless steel, or plastic. Aluminum containers are not suitable for marinating. And before you marinate, pierce the meat with a fork to allow the marinade to penetrate. Do not reuse any marinade that has come into contact with raw meat, unless it has been boiled for at least five minutes.

Store foods in the refrigerator while they marinate. Fish should not be marinated for more than 30 minutes because the acid will start to cook it. To tenderize meats, allow them to soak in the marinade for up to 24 hours prior to cooking.

Benefits of Making Your Own Marinade

Making your own marinade is, of course, much less expensive than buying a commercial brand at the grocery store, but there are other benefits. Homemade marinade:

  • Is preservative-free
  • Allows you to control the amount of sodium and sugar
  • Can be customized to your own tastes
  • Provides a great way to use up/experiment with those seldom-used spices in your collection

Alternative Marinades

Using just a few more ingredients, you can make any number of fancier marinades that will cost a little bit more to create than the basic marinade described above—though still far less than commercial products—and will add intense flavor to a variety of dishes at just a pennies serving. Some options include:

  • Teriyaki marinade: Made from soy sauce, water, brown sugar, white vinegar, vegetable oil, green onions, and garlic
  • Lemon and rosemary marinade: Made from these two ingredients, as well as olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper
  • Pineapple marinade: Made from this fruit, as well as soy sauce, honey, cider vinegar, minced garlic, ginger powder, and powdered cloves
  • Greek lamb marinade: Made from lemons, olive oil, minced garlic, oregano, thyme, bay leaf, sea salt, and black pepper