Marinade, marinate, and macerate are three similar sounding culinary terms, with three very different definitions.
These three terms are often confused. I’m going to explain the differences to you. (Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links for your convenience at no additional cost to you.) Note; This was one of the first posts I published on my website, on June 3, 2011.
Essentially, marinade is a noun and marinate is a verb. You marinate the meat in a marinade.
The basic idea of a marinade is to tenderize a tough cut of meat, or just give it flavor. Depending on what “country” you want to travel to, you can add herbs and spices. Cumin is found in both Mexican and Indian cuisines, add cinnamon and allspice for a Middle Eastern twist. My favorite marinade is Greek inspired; with lots of garlic, oregano or rosemary, lemon juice and olive oil. I use it on Greek Chicken, lamb, beef, pork or shrimp. It’s also my go-to recipe when I’m doing a round of Whole30, as it’s compliant with the diet. It’s also gluten free and low-carb, making it perfect for just about everyone!
How long should I marinate meat?
The amount of time you marinate meat generally depends on what you’re marinating. Shrimp or fish need the shortest marination time; anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. Chicken can be marinated for several hours, and beef does best if marinated overnight .
What can I use in a marinade?
As long as you have something acidic, like wine, citrus juice, or vinegar you can make a marinade out of just about anything. I use this lemon juicer when I’m juicing just a lemon or two.
Can I freeze marinated meat?
I often do meal prep and prepare a double batch of marinade. I pour the marinade over my shrimp, chicken, beef or pork and then freeze in zip lock bags. As the meat defrosts, it will continue to marinade.
What does Macerate mean?
The term macerate is applied more to fruit, and the term infused gives a good idea of what macerating does.
You can macerate fruit in alcohol and sugar, herbs (lavender, mint), to infuse the fruit with flavor and throw it on top of ice cream for an elegant dinner party dessert. Try Strawberry Fool or Lemon Posset for desserts using macerated fruit.
Whenever possible, I give measurements for the ingredients in my recipes, but what I like about cooking, as opposed to baking, is the lack of precision needed. I just add the ingredients until it “tastes right”. What’s tasty to my palate, might not be to yours. If my cheeks pucker, I add more olive oil.
Here’s my favorite Lemon-Garlic Marinade recipe:
- Olive oil 1/4 to 1/2 c. depending on how much meat you're marinating
- Juice of a lemon
- 1 or 2 cloves garlic crushed (more if you're not planning on kissing anyone),
- 1-2 Tablespoons finely chopped oregano thyme and rosemary, preferably fresh, but if you're using fresh, remember with rosemary, a little goes a long way!)
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- Whisk it all together. Taste and adjust seasoning. It should be flavorful like salad dressing.
- Marinate chicken 20 minutes to several hours. Shrimp marinates for up to 1/2 hour. Beef, lamb and pork can be marinated overnight.
- Timesaving tip: pour marinade into a zip-lock bag with meat. Freeze. While meat defrosts overnight, it will also soak up the marinade and be ready to cook.
- Bake, broil or BBQ meat as desired.
Note about kosher salt. Buy some, it’s cheap. Use the Morton’s for baking! Keep it in a little ramekin next to your stove.
Here are some tools I find indispensable in my kitchen! (Affiliate link)