5 Marinades for Grilling

Grilling Season is JUST around the corner!  So I was thrilled with Jodi from Never Pay Retail Again offered to share her favorite marinade recipes with us!!!  Fire up the grill!

Is your chicken boring?  How ’bout your pork– snoring?

Sometimes your protein needs a little extra ooomph– and a marinade is *definitely* the way to do it.  Depending on which ingredients you choose, you can completely change the flavor of your main course.


Overview of marinades

Originally intended to tenderize tough meats, marinades are more often used to infuse flavor.

Marinades contain the following three components:

  • acid (such as vinegar, fruit juice, wine, or yogurt)
  • aromatics (herbs and spices and other flavoring)
  • oil

Acids change the texture of food– generally making foods more tender as the acid breaks down the connective tissue.  Acids can also make some foods, like fish, firmer– like when lime or lemon juice is used in ceviche to “cook” the fish.  Aromatics add flavor and oil both protects and preserves food.

You can have only one or two of the above components in a marinade, such as:

  • oil and acid
  • oil and aromatic
  • acid and aromatic
  • dry rubs (aromatics only)

By changing the ingredients slightly you can completely alter the flavor profile of the food. Certain flavor combinations work particularly well together, consider the following:

  • lime and garlic
  • ginger, garlic, soy sauce, and sesame oil
  • yogurt, lemon, garlic and cumin

A few food safety tips:

Always marinade in the refrigerator to prevent bacterial growth.  And once the marinade has come in contact with raw food, don’t serve it as a sauce nor use it to baste the food within the last 3 minutes of cooking or grilling.  If you’d like to use the marinade as a sauce, either reserve some for that purpose or boil the liquid for at least 10 minutes.

How Much Marinade is Needed?

You’ll need approximately 1/2 cup of marinade per pound of protein.  Mix the marinade ingredients well by either whisking or blending the ingredients prior to applying it to the meat.  Use a non-reactive bowl– glass works well– or use a zipper topped bag (i.e. Ziploc.)  Be sure to turn the meat and ensure that the marinade has made contact with all sides of the meat.

How Long Do You Need to Marinade?

Timing is important (isn’t it always?) If the marinade isn’t on long enough, the meat won’t be flavorful enough.  If you marinate too long, the acids can leave the meat mushy.  Heavier meats, like steak and pork can marinate a day or even longer– chicken should marinate no longer than 2 to 4 hours– and seafood and fish, can do with as little as 15 minutes.

Okay, being all geeky and Alton Brown-ish was fun, but let’s get to some recipes!

5 Marinade Recipes

Simple Vinaigrette

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup white wine, red wine or sherry vinegar
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

This vinaigrette is more a guide than a recipe– feel free to add minced garlic, dried herbs, and/or ground pepper– change the mustard type to Chinese hot mustard or wasabi or honey mustard– change the vinegar to rice vinegar or balsamic– and the oil to sesame, peanut, or canola oil– whatever makes you happy (and hungry)

Ginger-Honey Marinade

Best for fish or shellfish– excellent with salmon

  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp minced ginger
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil

Hong Kong Marinade

Use on flank steak, skirt steak, or other similar cuts of beef– I also use it with beef skewers or kabobs

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 1 tbs minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tbs finely minced garlic
  • 1 tbs sesame oil
  • 1 tbs peanut oil
  • 1 tbs honey
  • 1 tbs rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp chili oil, optional
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Cuban Mojo

Perfect for beef, pork, chicken and fish

  • 1 bulb (not clove, bulb!) garlic
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup lime juice
  • 1 tsp cumin

BBQ Dry Rub

For ribs or chicken— I mix this up ahead of time and keep it ready to go!

  • 6 tbs paprika
  • 1 tbs brown sugar
  • 1 tbs granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp kosher or sea salt
  • 1 tsp celery salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tsp chili powder (or to taste)
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder

By the way, if you’re feeling lazy– a bottle of viniagrette will work as a marinade in a pinch– the flavors won’t be as intense, but it will get the job done!

We’d LOVE to hear your favorite marinade or grill recipes!!!  Leave a comment sharing your favorites for the grill!

Happy Marinading!

Jodi Furman is a married and working mom of 3 great kids– and the Ivy League educated, MBA-wielding frugalista in charge of all of the fabuLESSness at neverpayretailagain.net, one of the internet’s fasting growing frugal living websites.  Recently profiled in an Associated Press article and a contributor to CNN, Jodi will teach you how to live the champagne life on a tap water budget– and how you can not only survive but also thrive(!) in this economy. 

See more $5 Dinners Cooking Tutorials here


  1. Jamie says

    Hey Erin- Just wanted to let you know that I am not getting your posts via Google Reader? Not sure if it something with the site transition or something? I missed you! The last one that I got was Cream Cheese Stuffed French Toast.



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