Marinades are one of the simplest ways to add fast and easy flavor to your meals. Combine a few ingredients in a zip-close plastic bag, add your meat, seafood or veggies, then walk away for a while.
We've outlined some basic marinades below to help get you started, as well as some suggestions of what you can use them for. But the truth is, marinades are so versatile and easy to use, you can substitute whatever your favorite ingredients are or anything you happen to have on hand.
These marinades are enough to cover 1.5 pounds of food. Double up as needed, but keep in mind that you don't need the food to swim in the marinade, just be thoroughly coated. Once the food has soaked up the flavor, you can pan-fry it, grill it or broil it.
Citrus juices are fairly acidic, which means they permeate and tenderize food quickly. They work great as a base for marinades that you want to throw together just before dinner. These marinades work equally well for seafood as they do chicken or steak. For seafood, marinate for up to 30 minutes; chicken and steak can handle up to 2 hours.
Because vinegar is so aggressive, you'll want to temper it with oil. This helps carry the flavor into the food, as well as prevent the flavors from becoming too jarring. Adding oil to vinegar also gives you a bit of leeway in your timing. For fish, seafood and vegetables, marinate for 30 minutes and to up to two hours. For chicken, steak and pork, you can go for up to eight hours.
Maple-soy: Two tablespoons soy sauce, three tablespoons apple cider vinegar, two tablespoons maple syrup. Try with pork tenderloin medallions or cod.
Wine is a great base for subtle marinades. Because wine has a softer flavor than citrus or vinegar, you can use it to highlight other flavors. Like the vinaigrette marinades, use a little oil to help carry flavors, and prevent food from sticking to the cooking surface. These marinades work especially well for hearty vegetables and meats. Marinate from 30 minutes to overnight.