Marinading food has two purposes: first, to flavor, and second, to tenderize. It could be argued that you should marinate everything to add flavor, but that would hide natural flavors or clash with other marinades. When properly used, they can make a tough steak more tender and something without flavor memorable. I will go through some simple ideas to use them.
My first and favorite use for marinade is red meats. One thing I see is beef not being aged like in years past. This is where a marinade comes in; it makes the meat more tender. It can also add flavor to a bland cut of meat. A marinade can be as simple as Italian dressing, but red wine works best for beef. Here is a simple formula:
3 parts acid (juice, red wine, or red wine vinegar , but not a fruity vinegar- it will burn in cooking)
1 part oil
1 teaspoon onion, garlic, or shallot
1/2 teaspoon fresh herbs or 1 teaspoon of dry herbs
Chili powder and/or cocoa as a rub
Salt and pepper to taste
Now, time is an important item here; 15 minutes if broiling and longer if baking, roasting, or sous vide.
Poultry is a completely different animal (of course it is). I like to work with chicken thighs because they are naturally juicier. It works better with injections or short marinades. Asian and south-of-the-border marinades bring flavor and keep the meat juicy. I like teriyaki and soy-based and south-of-the- border flavors work well. I do soak my chicken in buttermilk which is nature’s marinade. Below is my favorite chicken marinade.
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup melted butter
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon basil
Veggies can be elevated with a marinade which can raise a simple zucchini or asparagus to a star. It can be as simple as an Italian dressing or vinaigrette. Ten minutes can be transformative to a veggie, so give it a try.
3 parts vinegar
1 part oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt and pepper