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Easy Healthy Recipes: How to Marinate Anything

Learn how to marinate meat, seafood, vegetables, and tofu. You'll be a master at marinating in no time!

By: Molly Hall, Editor, FaveHealthyRecipes.com
Easy Healthy Recipes How to Marinate Anything

While it is possible to also broil or pan-fry food after it has been marinated, the best ways of cooking marinated food is grilling or baking. The grill sears the marinade to lock in flavor, while baking allows the marinade to become a sauce for the dish. Both methods leave you with a very flavorful dish. 

The time needed to marinate varies quite a bit based on the item. Just like cooking times vary for different foods, so do marinating times. For each of these marinating times, be sure that the meat, seafood, or vegetables are marinating in the refrigerator to avoid bacteria growth. Nothing ruins an amazing summer meal like an upset stomach! Follow these tips and tricks to have perfectly marinated food all summer long

How Long Should You Marinate?

It makes sense that a large steak would take longer to marinate than a piece of shrimp, but did you know that you can over-marinate and reverse the effects of the marinade? If you're preparing several different types of meat, seafood, or vegetables, be sure to note their individual marinating times so that each item is as delicious as it can be. 

Keep an eye on the ratio of acidic liquid to oil and other spices: an overly acidic marinade can actually make your food extremely tough, or even break down too many of the proteins and turn it into mush. No one wants that! 

Steak

Depending on how acidic your marinade is, steak should be marinated for a minimum of two (2) hours and a maximum of twenty-four (24) hours. However, do still take into account the quality of the cut of meat that you plan to marinate. A larger and tougher piece of steak will likely need more marinating time than a smaller or generally more tender piece of meat. 

Try out your steak marinating skills with this recipe for Mom's Easy Marinated Flank Steak!

Pork

Pork is usually more dense than other meats, so it can be marinated for several hours to overnight. This goes for most cuts of pork, including pork tenderloin and pork chops.

However, if you're looking for flavor and tenderness, try brining your pork tenderloin. In the refrigerator, place your pork tenderloin in a solution of water, salt, and sugar. This will infuse the meat with water so that it doesn't dry out while cooking. 

This Balsamic Roasted Pork Loin looks fancy, but it also makes a great weeknight meal.

Chicken

Since chicken is a lighter meat, it can't be marinated as long as some other meats. Unless you're using a dry rub marinade, chicken should be marinated for a maximum of 12 hours.

For acidic marinades, thirty minutes to an hour is plenty of time to tenderize and flavor the chicken. Same goes for marinades containing enzymes found in pineapples, melons, figs, or papaya. 

This Lemon Rosemary Grilled Chicken is a great marinated chicken recipe!

Seafood

Seafood can be very delicate, so it is often difficult to marinate. For all seafood, 20-30 minutes is usually sufficient. However, use judgement for this as well; several shrimp do not need as long to marinate as a few salmon fillets. Salmon could be marinated up to an hour in the fridge.

If you would like to use a lot of citrus juice for your marinade, cut the marinating time down. The point of marinating is to break down some fibers, but if the seafood marinates for too long in citrus, it will break down too much and your food will not be appetizing. 

This recipe for Baked Salmon is easy and delicious!
 

Vegetables

Although usually left plain, vegetables are great for marinating, especially on the grill! Be sure to pick vegetables that will stand up to being marinated, such as bell peppers, zucchini, grape tomatoes, or mushrooms.

Simply chop each vegetable into small or bite-sized pieces, place them in a bowl, and toss to coat with the marinade. Let the veggies marinate for at least thirty minutes, but you could let them marinate overnight in the fridge, too. 

This Savory Grilled Vegetable Salad recipe uses a simple marinade of minced garlic, salt, pepper, and olive oil. 

Tofu

Since tofu doesn't have much of a flavor, marinating it in an acidic marinade is a great way to tenderize and add a ton of flavor. 

Whether you choose to use silken, firm, or extra firm tofu, be sure to follow normal drying instructions. The drier the tofu, the more of the marinade that it will absorb.

Add your dry tofu to a container or zip-top bag and add the marinade. Allow the tofu to marinate for at least one hour, but it can be left in the refrigerator overnight. 

Put your marinating skills to the test with this recipe for Barbeque Tofu with Pineapple and Mango!

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This is super helpful! I'm pretty terrible at cooking so I've always wondered how long you're supposed to marinate meat!

This is a great resource to have! I generally don't account for marinating time when I cook, so I just end up skipping it...These tips will definitely be helpful!

I never thought about marinating vegetables! I always thought that it was just a thing you did with meat. I'm going to try and marinate my vegetables this weekend!

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