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Everyday Food, July/August 2003

An easy way to season grilled foods, marinating keeps meat and fish moist and tender. Our marinades use ginger, red pepper, and even coconut milk.

The Right Container

A shallow, nonreactive dish allows marinade to coat food evenly and is easy to transport to the grill. You can also use a large resealable plastic bag; if marinating meat in the refrigerator, rest the bag on a plate in case of leaks.

How Long?

Marinate meat and poultry for at least 30 minutes at room temperature; if marinating longer, refrigerate, turning meat occasionally. Let the meat come to room temperature before grilling. Seafood should be marinated for only 15 to 30 minutes; any longer, and the acid in the marinade will begin to "cook" the fish.

Safety Note

Because it's not safe to consume marinades used on raw fish or meat, set some aside before marinating (or make extra) if you plan to baste food during cooking. Use a clean brush to apply.

Six Marinades

Follow this formula for making marinades: In a small bowl, whisk together an acid (to tenderize); some oil or other liquid, such as buttermilk (to moisten); and assorted seasonings. These recipes make enough to marinate about 2 pounds of meat or fish.


Use this to marinate lamb chops; grill over medium heat until seared outside, pink inside. Let stand, covered, 5 minutes.
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup grainy mustard
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
2 teaspoons dried thyme


Besides chicken and fish, this marinade is good with steak, tofu, or vegetables. In place of the vinegar and sugar, try mirin, Japanese cooking wine.
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup rice-wine vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger or 1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons sugar


This spicy marinade might overwhelm delicate fish but is appropriate for just about everything else, including grilled turkey.
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon red or green Tabasco sauce
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper


Instead of dill, try finely chopped chives. Or substitute limes for the lemons. Use with chicken, fish, or other seafood.
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons chopped garlic (3 cloves)


This vibrant marinade goes well with shrimp, scallops, and firm-fleshed fish, such as red snapper.
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/4 cup coarsely grated shallot (1 shallot)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon chili paste


The yogurt helps keep chicken especially moist; add chopped fresh cilantro and ginger for deeper flavor.
1/2 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

Comments (5)

  • hashton 26 Jul, 2013

    My family is vegan and we used the japanese marinade on firm, pressed tofu cubes. We put them on satay sticks and grilled them, then served them with peanut satay sauce. They were fantastic!!! We will definitely use this marinade again. They're a new family favourite.

  • Racherach 8 Apr, 2009

    Does anyone have a recipe for a marinade to BBQ turkey to share with me?

  • mountainsara 14 Sep, 2008

    I didn't care for the Indian marinade, but made the Japanese marinade twice and loved it, and used the Deviled last week and it was also quite delicious. I am looking forward to trying the others soon. For the Japanese marinade I cooked a picnic pork roast in a crockpot and the sauce made it really outstanding.

  • Taracotta 18 Jul, 2008

    I make a marinade similar to the Japanese one, but with less oil and I also add about a tablespoon or more of wasabi and reduce or eliminate the sugar. The wasabi adds a nice punch!

  • memills 20 Jun, 2008

    I tried the Japanese marinade tonight and it was really good! I used sirloin steaks and marinated for 5 hours in the fridge, turning a few times and then grilled to med rare. The marinade worked wonders on my so-so cut of beef and made it amazingly tender. I will make it again for sure, but may try using 1/2 the recommended oil.