Marinades do more than impart delicious, deep flavor to grilled meats, fish, vegetables, or tofu—they also add moisture, which helps protect foods from char-based carcinogens. And they’re incredibly simple to whip up. Four tips and one recipe that guarantee marinating success.

Use the right container. Always soak food in nonreactive glass, ceramic, or stainless steel; aluminum can react with acidic foods, resulting in a metallic taste.

Be safe. Marinate meats in the fridge to avoid bacterial growth. If you plan to use some of the marinade as a sauce, set aside that amount before adding in meat. Likewise, if you find yourself with left-over marinade, bring it to a rolling boil, let cool, refrigerate, and reuse it within a day. (There’s no need to take these precaution with veggies.)

Don’t overdo it. Because marinades always contain an acid (such as vinegar, wine, citrus juice, yogurt, or enzymes like those found in papaya or pineapple), they break down connective tissues—sometimes too well. To prevent the mushiness that can result from overmarinating, marinate seafood and vegetables for a maximum of 45 minutes; chicken parts and small cuts of meat for up to two hours; and whole chickens or large cuts of meat for up to six hours.

Cook! Sugar, honey, and yogurt burn easily, so scrape off excess and watch carefully while cooking. Turn foods often so they don’t dry out. If basting while grilling, be sure each coating of marinade cooks thoroughly to avoid pathogens.

Marinade recipes

All-Purpose Balsamic Marinade

Simple Olive Oil–Herb Marinade

Mojo Marinade

Yogurt and Mint Marinade

Asian Marinade

Chipotle Marinade