What's Cooking? Marinade Basics

Add a flavor-packed punch to your favorite foods by soaking them in seasoned liquid.

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Marinade Basics

Peter Ardito

Marinade Basics

One of the best ways to punch up your favorite foods is marinating -- soaking them in seasoned liquid to add flavor, and in some instances, to help tenderize. Just follow a few simple guidelines and this practically foolproof method will take your everyday dishes to a whole new level. We'll show you three steps for flavorful marinades and five easy recipes that put your new skills to delicious use.

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Step 1: Choose an Acid and an Aromatic

Peter Ardito

Step 1: Choose an Acid and an Aromatic

Every marinade needs an acid (such as vinegar, citrus juice, or wine) and aromatics (such as herbs, spices, garlic, and onion). The acid breaks down the protein in food while the aromatics add flavor.

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Step 2: Pour, Stir, and Soak

Peter Ardito

Step 2: Pour, Stir, and Soak

Place the food in a shallow dish and pour the marinade over the top. Stir or turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit (refrigerate if instructed) according to time specified in recipe. When marinating for an hour or more, stir or turn your food item several times during the process to keep all parts coated.

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Step 3: Use Your Leftovers

Peter Ardito

Step 3: Use Your Leftovers

Don't just discard your marinade once your item is ready to be cooked. Often times it can be used as a flavorful sauce. If raw meats were in contact with the marinade, it is important to boil it for 5 minutes first to kill any bacteria.

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BBQ Pulled Pork

Peter Ardito

BBQ Pulled Pork

Don't be scared off by the time it takes to make this dish. The majority of it is hands-off (marinating and cooking) with only a few minutes necessary for prep.

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Buttermilk Ranch Oven-Fried Chicken Tenders

Peter Ardito

Buttermilk Ranch Oven-Fried Chicken Tenders

Seasoned buttermilk adds incredible flavor to this kid-friendly dish.

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Balsamic Strawberries

Peter Ardito

Balsamic Strawberries

The tangy vinegar brings out the sweetness of ripe berries in this simple, 4-ingredient dessert.

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Marinated Carrots

Peter Ardito

Marinated Carrots

Lime juice and honey create a delicious balance of tangy and sweet in this fresh take on the classic steamed carrots.

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Grilled Greek Flank Steak

Peter Ardito

Grilled Greek Flank Steak

Slicing the steak against the grain keeps it from being too chewy.

Originally published in the April 2012 issue of Parents magazine.

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