How to Marinate Food Without Turning
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).
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?
What's your favorite food to soak in a liquid pool of delicious flavors?
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 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!). Fischer & Wieser Razzpootie Sauce
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 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. FoodSaver 4840 2-in-1 Automatic Vacuum Sealing System Starter Kit
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