Marinating is a great way to intensify the flavour of food with just a few basic ingredients. So, choose your favourite flavours and soak up the easy-to-follow tips in this guide.

The purpose of marinating is to add flavour and, in some cases, tenderise meat, chicken and fish. Marinades can even be used on some vegies, including eggplant, zucchini and artichoke. In this guide you'll discover the key to successful marinating. Part of the trick is to plan ahead so your food has time to absorb the flavours.

A marinade can be a paste, a liquid or a dry rub (such as a simple herb and spice mix). You can also mix and match flavours to create your own blends.


What you need:

For expert marinating, have the following utensils on hand.

  • A juicer for squeezing citrus fruit.
  • Tongs for turning the ingredients.
  • Skewers for threading pieces of food together for cooking (soak skewers in water before using them so they don't burn).
  • A pastry brush to brush the marinade over your food while it is cooking.
  • Shallow dishes for marinating the food in. These ensure an even coverage of your ingredients. If the food isn't completely covered in marinade, turn it every 30 minutes. Use glass or ceramic dishes if your marinade contains citrus juice, vinegar or garlic. The acid in these ingredients may react with a metal container and taint the food.

What to use in a marinade:

Marinades vary from recipe to recipe but they generally contain three basic components - oils, acids and seasonings.



The oil content in a marinade locks in the natural flavour of the food and prevents it drying out. Some oils can also add flavour. Good oils for marinating include olive, sesame, peanut and infused oils (such as chilli).



These ingredients tenderise meat by unravelling its proteins - this softens the surface and allows flavours to be absorbed. Acids include vinegar, wine, sherry, citrus juice, yoghurt and buttermilk.



These provide the unique flavours. Garlic, ginger and onion are great starting points but you can also use fresh herbs and chilli to spice things up, or honey and sugar to sweeten your food. Seasonings include citrus peel, soy sauce, mustard, salt and pepper, and herbs and spices.


Marinating basics

As a general rule, the longer food is left to marinate, the more flavoursome it will become. However, the ideal marinating time usually depends on what you're marinating, the size of the ingredients and the type of marinade you are using.

For best results, follow these general guidelines and see our chart below.

  • Small or tender cuts, such as lamb and beef fillets, chicken breasts and seafood, require shorter marinating times (usually two to four hours). Larger or tougher cuts such as leg, rump or shoulder will need longer (usually four to six hours).
  • Be careful when using acidic marinades. Foods left too long in these blends can change colour and texture. Fish fillets, for example, can change in a matter of minutes.

Guide to marinating times



Marinating time

Meats, such as lamb, beef & pork

Steaks, chops, diced

2-4 hours

Whole roast

4-6 hours (or overnight)


Fillets, cutlets, wings, drumsticks

2-4 hours

Whole roast

4-6 hours (or overnight)

Here's the rub

Not all marinades need to contain liquid ingredients - some consist of only dry ingredients, such as herbs and spices. These mixtures are often referred to as "rubs" (because they are literally rubbed onto the surface of your food). Once the rub is applied to your meat, chicken or fish, cover the dish with plastic wrap and place in the fridge to marinate.


Safety tips

  • Marinades used for raw meat or poultry can be used to baste ingredients as they cook, or for a sauce, but they need be boiled first. Place the marinade in a saucepan over high heat and boil for 5 minutes. This will kill any harmful bacteria.
  • Marinate meat, chicken and fish in the fridge to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. 


Simple Tips For Steak Marinade


1. Marinating should not go over 24-hours as it can cause the meat to be mushy when cooked.


2. Tender beef cuts should only be marinated for about 15 minutes to two hours since this type of meat is already tender and does not required further tenderizing.


3. Flank, round, skirt and chuck steak requires marinating for several hours or even overnight since they require tenderizing.


4. Marinate the meat on a food-safe plastic bag, glass dish or in a stainless steel.


5. In marinating, turn the steak occasionally to ensure even distribution of flavor.


6. Put the meat in the refrigerator when marinating to prevent bacterial formation on the meat.


7. Never use the same marinade meat where you put the meat on for basting, this may cause contamination. Set aside some of the marinade sauce if you want to use it for basting.


8. If you are marinating using marinade sauce that contains tenderizing enzymes, the marinating time should be lesser as this can cause the meat to be mushy.