Marinade Must-Haves | Cook's Illustrated
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Marinade Must-Haves

By Cook's Illustrated Published June 2009

With these ingredients in the mix, marinating can enhance juiciness and add complexity to steak, chicken, and pork.

Both salt and oil are critical to a successful marinade; soy, sugar, and honey are great flavor boosters.

Salt:

Not Just Seasoning To increase the meat's juiciness, our marinades usually include a high concentration of salt (typically about 1 1/2 teaspoons per 3 tablespoons of liquid), and thus serve as "brinerades" that combine the benefits of both marinating and brining.

Oil:

Flavor Facilitator Most of the herbs and spices we add to marinades are oil-soluble, which means they only release their full flavor when mixed in oil. So, to get the most out of a marinade, always include oil. But note: These flavors will merely coat, not penetrate, the meat. Meat proteins are saturated with water, so they won't absorb the oil or its flavors.

Soy:

Flavor Enhancer For more complex flavor, use soy sauce instead of salt—besides being salty, it contains glutamic acid, which boosts meaty flavor.

Sugar/Honey:

Browning Boosters Sweeteners like sugar and honey not only add complexity, they also help foods brown during cooking, further developing flavor.

Salt adds more than flavor, it also amps up the juiciness of the meat.

Oil helps to release the flavor of herbs and other seasonings in the marinade.

Soy sauce adds complexity to the flavor of the marinade.

Brown Sugar adds flavor and boosts browning.