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How to Marinate Food Without Turning

Updated on March 7, 2016
Margaret Schindel profile image

Margaret has a passion for cooking, baking and creating recipes to satisfy her cravings for delicious, indulgent and sometimes healthy food.

Never babysit marinating food again! This quick and easy no-turn method lets you keep the food surrounded with marinade on all sides without making a vat of it.
Never babysit marinating food again! This quick and easy no-turn method lets you keep the food surrounded with marinade on all sides without making a vat of it. | Source

Marinate Without Turning by Using This Quick and Easy Cooking Hack

Most of us already know how to marinate food, and it's a wonderful technique to infuse delicious and even complex flavors into cooking ingredients like meat, poultry, tofu, tempeh, vegetables, etc. It can turn even bland ingredients into palate pleasing meals. A marinade prepared with an acid, such as citrus juice, vinegar or wine, also can tenderize meat, so that even tough, inexpensive cuts like skirt steak become desirable. Think fajitas.

Marinating food requires very little prep time and is basically hassle free - with one notable exception: unless you make enough marinade to completely submerge your food, which would be a waste of delicious ingredients, you have to stay near your kitchen for hours, turning the meat, poultry, tofu, tempeh or vegetables periodically so that all sides get their fair share of soaking time in the flavor bath. And if you're anything like me, you also need to set a timer repeatedly as a reminder so you don't forget when it's time to turn over your meat, chicken, tofu or veggies again.

Now you can stop babysitting your food as it marinates with one of my favorite cooking hacks that shows you how to marinate without turning. All you need is a large zipper freezer bag, the food to be marinated and the marinade of your choice. The step-by-step photos in this article show an organic pork tenderloin marinated in my Lime and Soy Herb Marinade with Cilantro and Basil - see recipe link under "Making Your Own Marinade," below.

You Don't Need Fancy Equipment for No-Turn Marinating

...just a zipper freezer bag

While I try not to use plastic food storage bags as often as I used to, there are some applications where nothing else will do. Marinating food without turning it over in the liquid periodically is one of them (unless you want to triple or quadruple the amount of homemade or ready-to-use marinade so there's enough to totally submerge the ingredient in the liquid, which would be a waste of good food).

gallon size zipper freezer bag with top folded back into a cuff
gallon size zipper freezer bag with top folded back into a cuff | Source

Get out a gallon or quart size zipper freezer bag, depending on the size of the food you're marinating, which will need to fit comfortably in the bottom of the bag with plenty of head room above it. Fold back the top 1/3 of the bag into a cuff, being careful not to split the the side seams next to the ends of the zipper closure. You definitely don't want the marinade liquid to leak all over your counter or refrigerator!

Be sure to use a zipper freezer bag and not a regular zipper food storage bag, which would be too thin and floppy to hold itself wide open at the top while you're pouring the flavoring liquid and putting the food in the bottom. Also, if you are working with raw chicken, pork, beef or anything else that could cause cross-contamination and needs to be refrigerated during this process, practice good food safety practice and place the filled and zipped freezer bag into a baking pan before putting it in the refrigerator.

Are You a Fan of Marinating Food? Or Do You Just Enjoy Eating Food That Has Been Marinated?

Oven roasted marinated pork tenderloin
Oven roasted marinated pork tenderloin | Source

What's your favorite food to soak in a liquid pool of delicious flavors?

See results

You'll Need a Flavorful Marinade, Of Course

Making your own flavorful liquid to infuse your food before cooking takes very little time and effort. In fact, most of the time I just invent one on the spot based on the ingredients I happen to have in my kitchen at the time, rather than using a recipe. Usually I'll cook a marinated pork tenderloin or marinated chicken breasts once a week or so and keep our meals from getting boring by steeping the meat in different flavors. So my pork tenderloin or boneless, skinless chicken breasts might have Greek flavors such as lemon, garlic and oregano one week and and Asian flavors such as ginger, garlic and soy sauce the next. Marinating big portobello mushroom caps and grilling or broiling them makes a fabulous, super delicious vegan / vegetarian mushroom burger, and threading marinated vegetables on water soaked bamboo skewers and then grilling them can be the highlight of a summer barbecue meal. And, of course, tofu and tempeh cry out to be infused with delicious flavor!

Choose a Delicious, Ready-to-Use Bottled Marinade

Whether you're pressed for time, short on ingredients or just don't feel like making one from scratch, you can choose from a wide variety of ready-to-use bottled marinades, many of which are excellent. Personally, I find most of the well known supermarket brands to be too salty for my and my husband's taste (being able to control the ingredients and the sodium content is one of the reasons I usually make my own), but there are some delicious brands and flavors that definitely are worth trying.

Here are a few bottled marinades I recommend that you probably won't find in your local supermarket. All are available on Amazon if you can't find them locally.

Note: If you're an Amazon Prime member you can order even just one bottle and have it delivered straight to your door with FREE 2-day shipping. (Free shipping on Amazon normally requires a $35 minimum purchase, and that's for just slow standard shipping.) Getting free 2-day shipping on all our last-minute holiday gift purchases last Christmas was worth the membership fee all by itself, not to mention all the free music, free instant video movies, free Kindle lending library, and other exclusive free benefits that only Amazon Prime members get!

Get a 30-day free trial of Amazon Prime and try out all these benefits for yourself before you decide whether or not to invest in Prime membership.

Recommended Ready-to-Use Marinades

Chiavetta's Barbecue Marinade

I always check the ingredients in any prepared foods I buy, and unfortunately a lot of bottled marinade brands have unhealthy high fructose corn syrup listed as their first ingredient.

The main ingredient in Chiavetta's Barbecue Marinade is vinegar (an acid that tenderizes meat and poultry), seasoned with salt, spices and fresh garlic with a touch of xanthan gum to thicken it so that it clings to the surface of the food after you remove it from the marinating liquid.

Fischer & Wieser Razzpootie Sauce

Fischer & Wieser Razzpootie Sauce

I love adding raspberry flavor to my marinades. Same goes for chipotle. Scrumptious Fischer & Wieser Razzpootie Sauce brings both these flavors together in a versatile raspberry chipotle sauce that can be thinned with a little wine or vinegar to use as a marinade (raspberry vinegar is perfect for this), used as is as a barbecue sauce or a zesty sandwich spread, or even warmed and drizzled lightly over vanilla ice cream (divine!).

I live in Boston and I've never found it in any of our local stores. Fortunately, it's available on Amazon in a generous 40-ounce bottle.

Claude's BBQ Brisket Marinade Sauce

Claude's sauce is a cult favorite among meat lovers. It's perfect for marinating beef brisket, but its smoky flavor is also delicious on chicken. It does double duty as a sauce to serve on the side.

Moore's Original Marinade

This award winning marinade is made from an original family recipe has been around for four decades, so you know it tastes great. The hickory flavor works well on vegetables and fish as well as on beef, pork or poultry. It can also be used as a dipping sauce, and it's lower in sodium than most store-bought marinades.

Fresh Lime and Soy Herb Marinade with Cilantro and Basil - fresh herbs make all the difference in this easy and delicious recipe!
Fresh Lime and Soy Herb Marinade with Cilantro and Basil - fresh herbs make all the difference in this easy and delicious recipe! | Source

Make Your Own Marinade

I appreciate the convenience of a really well prepared bottled marinade, like the ones I've recommended. But when I have fresh herbs and citrus on hand I love to concoct my own.

I tend to approach making marinades the same way I do salad dressings: by mixing some combination of an acidic liquid (usually orange, lime or lemon juice, vinegar or wine), some oil (usually canola oil, olive oil, or a combination of the two, depending on how high heat the cooking technique will be), some herbs (almost always fresh herbs), some salt (or something salty, like soy sauce), some pepper and some garlic. I frequently add in additional ingredients - mustard, fruit puree, jam, whatever strikes my fancy at the time - to build a more complex flavor profile. (Sorry if I sound like one of my favorite Food Network shows!)

More often than not I make it up as I go along - which is a lot of fun - but when I hit on a particularly yummy combination I try to recreate it from memory and write it down. I now have a collection of my own marinade recipes, including the delicious, versatile Lime and Soy Herb Marinade Recipe with Cilantro and Basil shown in these photos.

A Great, Easy Steak Marinade Recipe

Okay, Everybody Into the Pool ... er, Marinade!

Hold your cuffed freezer bag upright on your kitchen counter with your left hand (if you're right-handed, otherwise use your left hand). Widen the cuffed opening as much as as possible.

Pork tenderloin and marinade in cuffed plastic zipper freezer bag
Pork tenderloin and marinade in cuffed plastic zipper freezer bag | Source

With your right hand (or left hand, if you're a leftie), carefully pour your marinade into the bottom of the bag. Do your best to keep the liquid away from the sides as much as possible. Then lower your meat, poultry, vegetables, tofu, etc. into the liquid. Depending on the type of flavoring liquid you're using, you may want to reserve some of the liquid for a sauce, as I did for the marinated pork tenderloin recipe shown in photos (you can see the reserved marinade in the measuring cup).

Note: Assuming that you centered the liquid and the food in the bottom of the bag, at this point their weight should allow the filled bag to remain upright on its own as shown in the photo, leaving both your hands free for the next step. If not, continue to hold it upright for now with your non-dominant hand temporarily so that both the food and the liquid stay in the bottom of the bag, away from the sides and the zipper closure.

The Zip 'n' Flip Maneuver

Undo the cuff and straighten out the top of the freezer bag. (Again, try to avoid splitting the seams next to the ends of the zipper.) Starting at the right hand edge of the zipper, close it most of the way, leaving just the last inch unsealed. (Leaving a small opening in the zipper will allow the air to be forced out as the bag and its contents are rolled up.)

Hold the top of the bag securely with one hand as you grab the food (through the plastic) at the bottom. Keeping the top portion of the bag lifted, turn the bag on its side with the zipper edge facing you and set the bottom back down on the counter. Keeping the upper portion of the bag lifted somewhat helps the marinade stay down in the bottom with the food.

Meat and marinade in freezer bag
Meat and marinade in freezer bag | Source

Note: When I took the photos for this article my tripod had gone on walkabout and I needed both hands to hold my camera (AKA iPhone) steady. As you can see in the photo above, only seconds after I let go of the top of the bag, even the somewhat thick marinade I used already had started to spread out away from the meat. Make sure it's all forced back against the food before you start rolling it for the first turn.

Roll Up the Freezer Bag Tightly From the Bottom

Roll the bottom of the bag toward you as tightly as possible, keeping the loose part of the bag lifted with your left hand and lowering j using the outer edge of your right hand in a squeegee motion after each full turn to force the liquid as far back against the bottom of the bag.

Continue to force the food and liquid as far as possible against the bag with the edge of your hand, maintain the pressure with the edge of your hand as you use the other hand to start rolling the food and liquid tightly toward the zippered edge of the bag (which should be facing you).

By continuing to push the contents against the bottom of the bag as you roll it up tightly, you force the marinade to surround the food on all sides rather than having only the lower portion of the food immersed in the liquid.

The rolled up meat and marinade after 1 roll / turn
The rolled up meat and marinade after 1 roll / turn | Source

After Rolling the Bag Tightly, Close the Last Inch of Zipper

Rolling up the bag tightly not only helps keep the liquid down at the far end where it belongs, it also helps force the air out through the 1" opening at the left edge of the zipper, creating almost (but not quite) a vacuum so that the marinade stays right up against the food. After the bag is rolled up all the way to the zipper, finish zipping the last inch to seal it tightly. Arrange the rolled up bag so that the last few inches form a flap over the top, with the zipper at the far edge (see photo above). Ideally the weight of the zipper will keep the flap from unrolling. If not, no worries - just slide a rubber band around the roll to keep the bag tightly rolled (just make sure that the flap and the zipper edge remain on top so the liquid stays down in the bottom where it belongs).

Now you can just leave your food to marinate either in the refrigerator or on the counter (depending on the contents and the length of time) for as long as you wish - or as long as the recipe calls for - without having to turn the food over in the marinade periodically. Easy peasy!

The Food is Marinating on All Sides at the Same Time - No Need to Turn It!

The marinated pork loin is surrounded by the marinade on all sides, so no turning is required.
The marinated pork loin is surrounded by the marinade on all sides, so no turning is required. | Source

Want to Marinate Faster and Infuse Flavors Deeper Into the Food?

Use a vacuum sealing system with a food marinating attachment accessory.

Save Time and Infuse Your Marinated Food with Even More Flavor with a FoodSaver 4840 Vacuum Sealing System

All the convenience of marinating without turning plus the negative pressure of a vacuum that forces the marinade deep into the food.

While my rolled up freezer bag method pushes out as much air as possible out of the bag, it doesn't create an actual vacuum. Vacuum sealing creates a negative pressure that can literally pull marinade liquid into the food, infusing it with more flavor and also significantly reducing the marinating time.

Using a vacuum sealer that includes a Marinate Mode, like the FoodSaver 4840 model, and a Quick Marinating Canister accessory with a vacuum sealing lid, will let you marinate food in just minutes instead of hours. So you can make a flavor-infused meal on the spur of the moment (or after you get home from work, errands, etc.) instead of having to plan your meal ahead of time and do all the food preparation hours in advance of the cooking time.

The FoodSaver 4840 2-in-1 Automatic Vacuum Sealing System Starter Kit includes not only a Marinade Mode but also a convenient retractable, handheld sealer that works with zipper bags, settings for both moist and dry foods, adjustable speed settings, a pull-out drawer with a dishwasher-safe drip tray, and many other features. It comes with both Heat-Seal and zipper bags.

If you want to use the FoodSaver 4840 vacuum sealer to marinate food, you'll also need a FoodSaver Quick Marinating Canister accessory. This BPA-free, non-staining canister has a vacuum sealing lid and does double duty as a handy food storage container for the refrigerator or the pantry, so consider ordering more than one.

Even whole-grain flours and specialty seeds and grains will stay fresh (and pest-free) for a very long time if they are stored in these airtight, vacuum sealed canisters! Baking enthusiasts may want to buy extras.

© 2014 Margaret Schindel

Do You Plan to Try My Freezer Back Trick for Marinating Without Turning? What's Your Favorite Marinade?

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    • Margaret Schindel profile image

      Margaret Schindel 23 months ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks so much for your wonderful feedback, Susan! It was one of those "light bulb" moments for me, too. :) I always used to forget to turn my food in the marinade before I started doing this. Works like a charm!

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 23 months ago from Arkansas USA

      I want to say "duh" about this, "duh" in that "why didn't I think of it myself, a long time ago?" I use zipper bags for marinade, but usually I leave them flat and turn them over every now and then, if I think about it, which usually I don't until it's almost time to cook. This is such a simple and so much better solution! Great photo demonstration, too, even without a tripod! :)

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 23 months ago from San Francisco

      Thanks, Margaret. I will give it a try.

    • Margaret Schindel profile image

      Margaret Schindel 24 months ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Kathryn! I don't know whether the cheesecloth idea would work, but it's certainly worth a try, especially if you marinade in a container that isn't much larger than the food you're marinating, which will help keep the marinade level high and cover as much of the "marinee" as possible. Please let me know if it works for you!

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 24 months ago from San Francisco

      I love this idea! Now if I can just figure out a way to do it without the plastic bag. We are trying to eliminate sources of plastic-leach contamination in our food. I wonder if wrapping the food in unbleached cheesecloth and placing it in a tightly closed container would keep the marinade next to the marinee (Is that a word?) long enough to absorb the flavors.

    • Margaret Schindel profile image

      Margaret Schindel 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks for your visit and your comment, Virginia, and for sharing my marinating method with your husband. Marinating is a wonderful way to add extra flavor and moistness to grilled meat, poultry or vegetables, and my no-turn method is set-it-and-forget-it easy! :)

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 2 years ago from Central Florida

      I'll pass this along to my husband. He's always looking for ways to give meat extra flavor and moistness for his grilling.

    • Margaret Schindel profile image

      Margaret Schindel 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      @Besarien, thanks very much for your lovely comment! I use this marinade and my no-turn method to make marinated pork tenderloin very frequently. It's one of my husband's favorite meals. I look forward to hearing your feedback once you have had a chance to try making it.

    • Besarien profile image

      Besarien 2 years ago

      Awesome tips and your marinade recipe sounds delicious. I will try it soon and let you know what I think! Great hub!

    • Margaret Schindel profile image

      Margaret Schindel 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      Nancy, I'm so glad you like this way of marinating food without turning it and my yummy lime-soy marinade recipe. I try to watch my sodium intake, too, which is why I always use low sodium soy sauce when I make that marinade. And this easy no-turn method works with any marinade you prefer.

    • Nancy Hardin profile image

      Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 2 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Terrific idea Margaret! I love to marinate pork tenderloin and chicken breasts, in particular. It helps them to be more moist and flavorful. I find the store bought marinades too salty as well, and since I try to watch my sodium intake, I'd rather make my own. Love this recipe, and I'm bookmarking it for my next pork tenderloin.

    • Margaret Schindel profile image

      Margaret Schindel 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      @caseymel, I agree! I try to use eco-friendly reusable containers as much as possible, but for certain things like this no-turn marinating method, Ziploc-type bags are the only way to go. :)

    • caseymel profile image

      caseymel 2 years ago from Indiana

      I have found so many great ways to use ziploc bags in the kitchen. They really are handy!

    • Margaret Schindel profile image

      Margaret Schindel 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      I'm so glad you like my no-turn marinating trick, Lorelei. When I finally thought of it it was like a "light bulb moment" and all I could think of was, "Why didn't I think of this years ago?" Enjoy!

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 2 years ago from Canada

      I cannot believe that I have never thought of this method for marinating meat. Thank you for the tip because I will certainly be using this method for soon.

    • Margaret Schindel profile image

      Margaret Schindel 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      @DawnRae64: Thanks very much, Dawn! I'm so glad to have helped you solve your marinating challenges and I really appreciate your visit. :)

    • DawnRae64 profile image

      Dawn 2 years ago from Maryland, USA

      Great lens! I have used baggies to marinate for a long time. But oh how I fuss and cuss because I mess up the zippers and drip stuff down the outside. Then I try to figure out how to clean it up without contaminating things; inside or out of the bag.

      Oh my gosh... what a simple solution, to turn down the top of the bag. And that's not the only thing I learned, but it's the one I'll use the most. Thank you!

    • Margaret Schindel profile image

      Margaret Schindel 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      @Merrci: Thanks for your wonderful compliment, Merry! I really appreciate it. :)

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 2 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      This is such a great how to. Love how you've done it. Magnificent.

    • Margaret Schindel profile image

      Margaret Schindel 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      @Brite-Ideas: Thanks so much, Barbara! Once you try this no-turn marinating method, there'll be no, er, "turning" back. ;)

    • Margaret Schindel profile image

      Margaret Schindel 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      @Merrci: Thanks very much, Merry! I know you're going to love both my new marinade recipe and my no-turn marinating method, which is especially good for raw meat, fish or poultry because you can just zip the bag up again after removing the marinated food and toss the marinade with the raw meat/fish/poultry juices to avoid cross-contamination. Thanks again for your lovely comment! :)

    • Brite-Ideas profile image

      Barbara Tremblay Cipak 2 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      fabulous tips, and the recipe sounds fantastic - what a terrific page!

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 2 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      Great idea, Margaret! No mess (hopefully), and such easy clean up! Can't wait to try your marinade. Soy, lime, cilantro...what's not to like.

    • Margaret Schindel profile image

      Margaret Schindel 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      @John Dyhouse: Thanks, John. Marinating in plastic food storage bags is nothing new - one of the advantages is that if you're marinating raw animal protein, after you remove it from the marinade with tongs and place it on the pan, rack or grill on which you want to cook it, you can simply re-zip the bag and throw it in the trash without risk of cross-contamination from the used marinade. But even with plastic bags you still have to flip the bag and its contents over at least once during the marinating period so that all sides of the food spend some soaking time in direct contact with the marinade. My trick of continuing to "squeegee" the liquid back down against the food in the bottom of the bag while rolling it up tightly and forcing out the air allows all of the food to remain in contact with the flavor bath throughout the marinating period. Thanks again for your comment and your visit!

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 2 years ago from UK

      A novel idea, I have seen som TV cooks using ordunary plastic bags but wondered if they were shaking up the bag regularly during the marinating period

    • Margaret Schindel profile image

      Margaret Schindel 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      @David Stone1: Thanks very much, Dave. It's so quick and easy to do, and as a bonus there's barely any clean-up - just remove the marinated food from the bag, zip it up again and toss it. I invite you to check out my new recipe for Soy-Lime Herb Marinade with Fresh Cilantro and Basil, too - it's the one I used when photographing the demonstration shots for this article and it's awesome on raw or grilled veggies.

    • David Stone1 profile image

      David Stone 2 years ago from New York City

      Clever stuff, here, Margaret. May be worth a try for an amateur like me.

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