Marinades do more than impart delicious, deep flavor to grilled meats, fish, vegetables, or tofu — they also add moisture, which helps protect meats from char-based carcinogens. And they're incredibly simple to make.
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.
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. It's safe to reuse leftover vegetable marinade; refrigerate and use within a day.
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 tissues — sometimes too well. To prevent the mushiness that can result from overmarinating, marinate seafood, tofu, or vegetables for a maximum of 45 minutes; chicken parts or small cuts of meat for up to two hours; and whole chickens or large cuts of meat for up to six hours.
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.
For more marinade recipes from organic and sustainable chef John Ash, go to deliciousliving.com and type marinades into the search box.