It's something of a culinary godsend: The mere act of throwing together a few ingredients and then setting them aside, untended, unfailingly enhances the taste and improves the texture of almost anything. Yet despite the relative ease of marinating, or perhaps because of it, many home cooks don't realize its full potential. These inspired marinades, perfectly matched to different cuts of meat or fish, yield complex flavors from basic ingredients -- elevating even your most familiar summer fare.
Steps to Success
Even tossing a few ingredients together and hoping for the best can be transformative, but with a little attention to technique, your results will be exponentially better.
The Right Dish
Most marinades contain an acidic component that helps tenderize the protein. Opt for a nonreactive container, such as a glass or ceramic baking dish.
Arrange the main ingredient in a single layer in the dish, and turn to coat. Flip once or twice while marinating.
Marinate fish and seafood up to a few hours and meat up to overnight. (Any longer and the acids will adversely affect the proteins.)
Removing and Reusing Marinades
Wipe off any herbs, garlic, or other ingredients that cling to the meat or fish, otherwise the bits may burn and become bitter. Do not use the marinade as a finishing sauce without boiling first.
Season to Taste
To accentuate the flavor, season the marinated meat or fish with salt and pepper just before cooking.
Marinades that contain sugar char quickly when exposed to high heat. To prevent burning, either lower the cooking temperature or frequently adjust the position of the food.