It turns out marinating meat isn’t always as easy as you’d hope! Just throwing a “secret blend” of sauces, spreads and condiments on your chicken likely isn’t going to yield a great flavor, and more marinade doesn’t always equal a better outcome. (But hang on a sec—does marinating really work? This is our honest answer.)
Here are the simple mistakes people make when marinating and our best ideas to fix ’em.
1. You don’t have enough flavor
When you take 15 minutes to make a marinade and let your protein chill, you want the end result to be delicious and worth your while. But what if the flavor just isn’t there? To bring out a flavor that’s anything but boring, go ahead and toast spices, bruise your herbs and smash your garlic!
2. The flavors are too bold
You can definitely have too much of a good thing–or too much going on. You don’t need to do anything that’s mad-scientist crazy, like combine sriracha and horseradish! Be mindful of the flavors of your ingredients and how they’ll interact when you’re cooking.
We like this Teriyaki Beef Marinade.
3. You don’t wait long enough
Your protein needs more than 5 minutes to properly absorb all the flavors. There’s no need to wait 24 hours, but you’ll want to let things rest for at least 30 minutes. You might even let your chicken, pork or beef marinate in the fridge overnight before you plan to cook. (That means you won’t have to do a thing in the kitchen until company’s on the way. Score!)
4. It’s too salty
The salt in your marinade is important, but overly salty meat can lead to a dry and tough finished product. Keep this in mind when you’re preparing your marinade and don’t go crazy with the salt, because it pulls the moisture out of your ingredients. You can always add more salt when you’re cooking, and keep some out at the dinner table, too.
For the most tender and flavorful result, ask your butcher for the right cuts of meat.
5. Things aren’t food safe
Salmonella is a risk when handling raw meat, so make sure that you avoid any contamination by tossing out the marinade the meat was resting in. It doesn’t hurt to have a little extra left over, so next time you’re making a marinade, keep a small container on the side for basting during the cooking process.
6. There’s not enough marinade
Make sure to whip up more than enough marinade, because this definitely isn’t the time to skimp! The results will be far better if you give your protein ample marinade to soak in, making sure all pieces of chicken or beef are covered in the dish or bag.
The super-easy chicken recipes below show off our most flavor-packed marinades. They’ll keep you cooking all season long!