BBQ Marinades

What's the real purpose of BBQ marinades? Does marinating meat make it more tender? And what should you NEVER do with a marinade? Read on and learn of the secret life of marinades...



A marinade is a mixture of various liquids, herbs, spices and other flavorings that's used to improve the flavor and texture of meats, poultry and seafood. Common ingredients include:

  • Vinegar, citrus juice, or some other acidic liquid
  • Oil, either neutral or something with flavor like extra-virgin olive oil, hazelnut oil or sesame oil
  • Prepared condiments...various mustards or sauces
  • Alcoholic beverages, from beers to wines to spirits
  • Fresh herbs, fresh veggies, garlic, fresh fruit
  • Dried herbs, spices and seasonings; salt of some kind - sea salt, flavored salt, kosher salt, pickling salt...just about any salt but iodized table salt
  • Sweeteners, including cane sugars and various syrups
Just about anything with flavor is fair game as a marinade ingredient.


Marinade Basics

How does a marinade work? The acidic portion helps to soften the proteins to some extent. A common misconception is that bbq marinades tenderize meat. They don't, but they will break down some of the proteins at the surface. When this happens, flavorings and oil are more easily absorbed, adding taste and increasing moistness.

For a marinade to do its job, the oil has to be well incorporated with the other liquids, and that's where a wire whisk or your handy dandy blender come into play. Always add the oil last, pouring it in slowly while whisking or blending. The ingredients will emulsify. Otherwise, the oil will float on top, and the marinade won't work as it should.


How Long To Marinate Fish, Beef, Pork, Chicken

In a nutshell, fish requires less marinating time than other meats. Beef can handle more marinating than pork and chicken.

  • Red meats - beef, pork, lamb: 2 to 4 hours per inch of thickness

  • Poultry - 2 to 4 hours for pieces, 4 hours to overnight for whole or half birds

  • Fish - about 1 hour per inch of thickness

Less marinating time means less flavor. But marinate for too long, and the proteins at the meat's surface will break down, negatively affecting the taste and texture.


Most marinades can be used as basting liquids, brushed on as the food's cooking. Some would even make good sauces to use with the food when served. But if you plan to use marinade as a baste or sauce, don't use used marinade. To prevent the spread of bacteria, reserve part of the marinade for basting or sauce before the meat goes in.


BBQ Marinades - Marinade Recipes

  • BBQ Shrimp Marinade - This shrimp marinade is made with fresh lemon juice and herb, and it doubles nicely as a general seafood marinade.

  • BBQ Steak Marinade - Flavors of onion, herbs and other seasonings make this steak marinade recipe a winner. Good for flank steaks and flat iron steaks.

  • BBQ Chicken Marinade - Spicy with a hint of smoked chipotle peppers, this chicken marinade recipe can be used for pieces or whole chickens, grilled or smoked.

More BBQ Marinades

  • Tri Tip Marinade - How appropriate! A trio of tri tip marinades, one with garlic, one with wine, and another one, straight from Tonk!

  • Grilled Steak Marinade - A recipe so rich it's naughty. Naughty, naughty naughty! I feel guilty every time I use this marinade.

  • London Broil Marinade - Marinated flank steak is cooked to medium rare, and sliced thinly for a tasty beef experience. Are you experienced?!

  • Chardonnay Salmon Marinade - Smoked salmon is nice, especially when marinated in a simple mix of wine, dill and oil. The subtle flavors of the marinade let the salmon shine through.

  • Brisket Marinade Recipes - A pair of bbq marinades for smoked brisket...one with orange juice, another with hearty imported Beck's Lager.

  • London Broil Marinade - Marinated flank steak is cooked to medium rare, and sliced thinly for a tasty beef experience. Are you experienced?!

  • Guinness Brisket Marinade - Made with Guinness Extra Stout, this recipe for brisket marinade is paired up with a tasty dipping sauce recipe.

  • Jalapeno Marinade - If you like jalapeno peppers, and if you like pork spare ribs, this marinade recipe just might get you all excited!




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