Although we usually think of marinades as liquids, they can be any mixture that imparts flavor to food before you cook it. And they do most of the work while you wait.

grilled chicken with lemon wedge

Cool it: Always cover and refrigerate meat, poultry and fish as it marinates. Bacteria grow quickly at room temperature.

Bag it: Marinate food in glass bowls or, better yet, resealable plastic bags: They're nonreactive and save room in the refrigerator. Plus, there's no cleanup!

Stretch it: Before adding raw meat, poultry or fish to a liquid marinade, set some of the marinade aside for dipping or drizzling on top of the finished dish.

Watch the clock: Food will turn mushy if left too long in an acidic marinade. As a general rule, marinate seafood for no more than 45 minutes; small pieces of meat and poultry for no more than 2 hours; and whole chicken, large whole fish and large cuts of meat for no longer than overnight.


tips + how-tos

marinating liquids


Liquid Marinade: This mixture usually contains three components: an acid, such as vinegar, wine or citrus juice; an oil, which protects the meat from drying out; and flavorings, such as herbs, spices and vegetables. Almost any food can be marinated: meat, poultry, fish and vegetables.

Brine: This solution of salt and water -- often mixed with sugar, spices and herbs -- delivers seasoning and moisture to meat. Brining takes longer than marinating but often yields more flavorful, juicier food. Brining works best with pork, poultry and shrimp.

Spice Rub: This mixture of salt, spices and herbs is rubbed onto the surface of meat, poultry or fish before cooking. Spice rubs can be dry or mixed with oil; the latter are easier to apply.

1. Choose an acid, an oil and seasonings for your marinade.

2. Whisk together the ingredients until combined.

3. Pour the marinade over the food, toss well, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.