Marinating Dos and Don'ts

Hand brushing on marinade for chicken wings

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Marinades can be used to add flavor to meat, poultry, fish, and vegetables. In addition to flavor, marinades are often used to tenderize tougher cuts of meat. There is a science to marinating and each ingredient plays an important role. Use this quick list of "do's" and "don'ts" to help make your marinade flavorful, effective, and safe!


Follow these tips:

  • Make sure your marinade includes an acidic component to tenderize the meat and help the flavor infuse deeper. Acidic ingredients can include wine, vinegar, citrus juice, yogurt, or buttermilk.
  • Include high smoke point oils in your marinade. Oils help the flavors absorb into fatty tissue and high smoke point oils are flame and grill friendly. High smoke point oils include peanut, canola, safflower, or soy.
  • Always marinate in the refrigerator. Marinating at room temperature can allow dangerous bacteria to grow and lead to foodborne illnesses.
  • Marinate vegetables for 15 to 30 minutes, fish and seafood for 15 minutes to one hour, poultry for 30 minutes to 3 hours, and other meat for 30 minutes to overnight.
  • Prepare approximately half a cup of marinade per pound of meat, seafood, or vegetables.
  • Turn your meat a few times during marination to make sure all surfaces have adequate contact and flavor is maximized.


Avoid these common cooking mistakes:

  • Don't use too much salt. Salt will draw moisture out of your meat causing it to dry out and prevent flavor from absorbing in. Salt can be added later, after cooking to taste.
  • Don't reuse marinades or use marinades as a sauce after cooking. Marinades are in contact with raw ingredients, which may contain harmful bacteria. Always discard your marinade after use.
  • Don't marinate in metal containers. Metal can react chemically with the acids in the marinade and cause a change in flavor. Try glass, food-grade plastic containers, or heavy-duty zip-top plastic storage bags.
  • Don't over marinate fish. Fish is naturally quite tender and can become mushy if marinated too long. Keep marinating times for seafood between 15 minutes to one hour.
  • Don't freeze meats in their marinade. Prolonged exposure to the acids in the marinade combined with damage from ice crystals can cause the meat to become mushy.
  • Don't be afraid to experiment with new flavors and ingredients. Marinades offer endless opportunities for flavor.