Marinating Tricks and Tips

What to use in a marinade

Marinades vary from recipe to recipe but they usually contain  – acids, oils and seasonings.


Acids tenderize meat by unravels its proteins by softening the surface and allowing flavours to be absorbed. Acids to choose from are vinegar, wine, sherry, citrus juice, yoghurt and buttermilk.

Yoghurt and buttermilk keep foods moist,  but a citrus-based marinade can “cook” raw fish.


The oil locks in the flavour of the food and helps prevent drying out. Some oils add flavour.  Some good oils to use for marinating are olive, sesame, peanut and infused oils (such as chilli).


Seasonings add unique flavours. Garlic, ginger and onion are some to name, but you can also use fresh herbs and chilli to spice things up, or honey and sugar to sweeten it up. Seasonings also include soy sauce, sriracha, citrus peel, mustard, salt and pepper, and herbs and spices.

Marinating basics

According to

The longer food is left to marinate, the more flavoursome it will be. That is the general rule. You need to know that the ideal marinating time usually depends on what you’re marinating, the size of the ingredients and the type of marinade you are using.

For best results, follow these general guidelines and see our chart below.

  • Small or tender cuts, such as lamb and beef fillets, chicken breasts and seafood, require shorter marinating times (usually two to four hours). Larger or tougher cuts such as leg, rump or shoulder will need longer (usually four to six hours).
  • Be careful when using acidic marinades. Foods left too long in these blends can change colour and texture. Fish fillets, for example, can change in a matter of minutes.

Guide to marinating times

Ingredient Examples Marinating time
Meats, such as lamb, beef & pork Steaks, chops, diced 2-4 hours
Whole roast 4-6 hours (or overnight)
Poultry Fillets, cutlets, wings, drumsticks 2-4 hours
Whole roast 4-6 hours (or overnight)
Seafood Prawns, octopus and squid 1-2 hours
Fish Whole fish, steaks, fillets 2-4 hours

Dry Rubs

Not all marinades need to contain liquid ingredients – some consist of only dry ingredients, such as herbs and spices. These mixtures are often referred to as “rubs” (because they are literally rubbed onto the surface of your food). Once the rub is applied to your meat, chicken or fish, cover the dish with plastic wrap and place in the fridge to marinate.

Safety tips

  • Marinades used for raw meat or poultry can be used to baste ingredients as they cook, or for a sauce, but they need to be boiled first. Place the marinade in a saucepan over high heat and boil for 5 minutes. This will kill any harmful bacteria.
  • Marinate meat, chicken and fish in the fridge to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.

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