Marinating 101

Ready, set marinate


Grilling season is here, which means it’s a great time of year to try marinating meats for the BBQ. Marinating is not hard and it’s pretty much a foolproof guarantee for flavorful results. Marinades not only help to make meat more flavorful, they can make it more tender, too.

To start:

  • Basic marinades are typically made with a combination of oil, acid, flavorings and salt. For meats that aren’t tough, use more oil than acid, for instance 3/4 oil to 1/4 acid. Too much salt or acid can actually make meat more tough, which is the reverse of what you’re trying to do. So be sure to let the oil be the lead ingredient.


  • When choosing oil consider how much flavor you want it to contribute. Olive oil for instance is a bit stronger than grapeseed oil, which tends to be light in flavor. Then choose an acid. Consider vinegars such as balsamic vinegar, lemon or orange juice, wine or even beer or yogurt.
  • Next, add your choice of flavoring including herbs and garlic. Worcestershire, soy or sriracha sauce also count as flavorings, and then add salt. The type of acid you choose will help determine how long you marinade meat.
  • Stronger acids such as wine and vinegar run the risk of causing meat to toughen if left too long, whereas yogurt and buttermilk are milder acids that will not run the risk of making meat too tough.

Timing and ratios:

  • Although meat can marinate refrigerated for several days and chicken for up to two days, for freshness, we recommend soaking meat for 2 to 4 hours before cooking.
  • Tougher pieces of meat and lamb can handle longer periods of time, but two hours is plenty of time to gain the flavors of a marinade.
  • Chicken can marinate for up to two days. You can, however, freeze meat in a marinade until you’re ready to cook it.
  • Marinades for fish filets should only be added close to cooking time. Salt in seasoning will draw out moisture, which will dry out the fish before you start cooking, if you put it on too far ahead of time.  Aim for half a cup of marinade per pound of meat.


  • For food safety reasons, if you want to baste meat or chicken using the marinade, make extra marinade to baste meat and chicken as opposed to basting with the used marinade the meat has been sitting in.