Common Marinade Mistakes

Making a yummy marinade is easy. But it’s just as easy to fall into some traps. Here’s how to prevent mistakes before they happen.

Common Marinade Mistakes

Mixing your marinade is fun. You get to be a crazy chef that combines seemingly random ingredients into something delicious. But it’s really not too random. There are guidelines and pitfalls to avoid. Here’s how to sidestep mistakes that can ruin a perfectly good marinade.

Understand what you’re putting into your marinade.

Repeat after me, “A good marinade isn’t everything you have in your pantry.” Don’t use your marinade as an excuse to use up every spice or leftover ingredient. Pay attention to flavors. Have a plan. That dollop of leftover horseradish might not pair well with swig of apple cider vinegar. But it might. Hmmm. I think it would work actually. But you know what I mean.

Watch the salt.

It is way too easy to over-salt marinades. Watch what you put in. And taste as you go along. Remember, it’s easier to add salt instead of taking away.

Take advantage of herbs and spices.

There are so many great flavors out there, have fun combining them. If you really want to go gourmet, toast some spices and crush herbs to bring out even more pronounced flavors. And don’t be afraid to go big. Love garlic? Add lots. It will mellow on a steak, for example.

Add some fat.

A basic oil (olive, canola) will help bring all those yummy spices into your meat. A chicken breast or a nice steak has lot of grooves, so the oil helps find those areas. Oh, but stay away from using your artisan oils. A nice truffle oil might seem like it will make a marinade even better, but in reality all the flavor will be lost in the cooking. Stay basic.

Give it time.

We’ve already told you how long to marinate your meat (two hours for smaller pieces, eight for big pieces).

Don’t go too short. You want all that flavor to sink in.

And don’t go too long either. Remember that a marinade can turn your meat to mush. Set yourself a timer on your phone. You’ll be happy you did.

Don’t forget food safety.

Never ever reuse a marinade that meat has been in. It’s a recipe for food poisoning. Some people say you can boil a marinade after and then use it in a sauce. However, if you want to use some of your marinade later in your cooking, it’s best to reserve part of it before your start marinating. Then you know for sure that the mixture is safe.

Christine Pittman

Christine is the Senior Editor and Owner of The Cookful, COOKtheSTORY and IsThisThatFood. Her sites reach over 1.5 million readers per month, which means that things can get a bit crazy. She's constantly writing, taking pictures, editing, managing contributors, and, oh yeah, cooking. To say that she wears many hats is an understatement - there are many hats, and also many shirts, shoes, pants, and even the odd cape!