Pump Up Your Grill Game: Marinating Dos and Don'ts

Pump Up Your Grill Game: Marinating Dos and Don'ts
Photo by adactio

Summer's here and it's time to grill.

Step up your grill game by checking out our list of dos and don'ts for marinating meats, poultry, seafood and veggies.

Do: Think ahead. Start marinades for tougher cuts the night before or in the morning.

Don't: Marinate items at room temperature. Placing items in the fridge prevents the growth of dangerous bacteria that can lead to food-borne illnesses.

Do: Know your times. Marinate vegetables for 15 to 30 minutes; fish and seafood for 15 minutes to 1 hour; poultry for 30 minutes to eight hours; and meat for 30 minutes to overnight.

Don't: Cross-contaminate. Make sure to marinate meat, poultry, seafood and vegetables in separate containers. Each will have different cooking times and marinating together can lead to cross-contamination.

Do: Use proper containers. Heavy-duty storage bags or glass, ceramic, stainless steel and plastic containers work best.

Don't: Marinate in aluminum, foil, cast-iron or copper containers. The metal can react chemically with the acids, changing the flavor of the marinade and discoloring or even spoiling the food.

Do: Include acid in your marinades. Acidic components like vinegar, citrus, yogurt, buttermilk, wine, beer or liquor help to penetrate to the meat, tenderizing and infusing flavor.

Don't: Forget the oil. Use oils with high smoke points like peanut, canola, safflower or soy.

Do: Impart flavor. Include flavored oils, fresh herbs and spices.


Don't: Use too much salt. It draws out moisture, causing meat to dry out and preventing it from absorbing flavor. Add more salt later if needed.

Do: Use about 1/2 cup of marinade per pound of meat.

Don't: Pour excess marinade directly onto cooked meats and poultry. Discard your marinade after use or make sure to heat it up safely. It needs to be kept in the fridge and brought to the proper temperature before use to prevent growth of harmful bacteria.

Do: Use tongs to remove items from marinade. Draining the items of excess oil prevents burning.

Don't: Place cooked items back into the original containers with the marinade.

Do: Use thicker, sweeter sauces for basting only. Sauce containing honey, molasses, sugar or ketchup can burn easily.

Don't: Brush them on until the last 15 minutes of cooking. This will prevent charring.

Do: Know which cuts of beef and pork to marinate. Marinating tough cuts of steak like flank, skirt, sirloin, round and hanger before grilling will tenderize the cuts and add flavor.

Don't: Ruin the quality of better cuts. High-quality cuts like porterhouse, filet mignon or rib eye can be destroyed by over-marinating.

Do: Pay attention to your fish. Marinate tuna steaks and firmer cuts of fish for a bit longer than you would tender fillets or shellfish.

Don't: Over-marinate it. Fish is naturally tender, so it can become mushy if marinated for longer than one hour.

Do: Try removing skins from chicken or cutting slices into tough meats to allow the marinade to further penetrate.

Don't: Think marinades will penetrate everything. Sometimes, the best way to ensure juiciness and flavor is with a salt-heavy brine.

Do: Experiment. Natural tenderizers like pineapple, mango, beer and ginger can add unexpected depth to your dishes.

Don't: Be afraid to have fun with it. Especially with your trusty BFF, the Internet, by your side.

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