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Make Your Own Kosher Marinade

Marinades are a wonderful way to add flavor a main course. Kosher marinades are easy to make at home, using spices and approved ingredients.

Marinades tenderize meats, make them juicier, and decrease cooking time. They can also prevent HCAs (heterocyclic amines) chemicals from forming when cooking meat. HCAs cause cancer in animals and possibly in humans, too, according to cancer researchers.

What Makes a Marinade?

Since most of us use marinades to enhance flavor, it’s a little ironic that the base for many is vinegar and/or olive oil, items we don’t exactly crave.

Olive oil is experiencing something of a foodie explosion if the number of specialty stores for it and marinades are anything to go by. A friend recently told me about visiting one in Prescott, Arizona, where she purchased a black cherry balsamic. “It’s not bad as a dressing,” she says, but also made for an excellent marinade for steak and, in very small amounts, on fish before grilling.

Other marinade staples include:

  • Kosher salt
  • Ground pepper
  • Garlic
  • Lemon juice
  • Spices

Spices define a marinade’s undertone. Oregano, basil, and parsley are good for a nice, basic marinade for tenderizing and maybe just adding a hint of flavor. If you like bolder flavors, you can add cinnamon, cayenne, paprika, cumin, or hot pepper flakes. Many people also throw in sautéed onion or flakes as well.

Of course, marinades are essentially pareve with the important exception of yogurt, a staple for Indian cooking. You can marinade fish in yogurt, but of course not meat and chicken. (Fish are not slaughtered and are therefore not considered meat.)

Mitzuyan Kosher Catering in Toronto has an East Indian kosher station which does not include yogurt-based dishes. Instead, we offer curried chicken, aloo gobi, samosas, naan, and other crowd favorites!

Why So Many Categories for Olive Oil?

There’s pure olive oil, virgin, extra-virigin…sometimes, olive oil reminds me of the Billy Joel song Only the Good Die Young, in which Billy sings to a girl (Virginia) who’s “much too straight.”

Extra-virgin and virgin olive oil come from the first “cold press” of olives to extract oil. The different tastes and quality depend on the olives used. You’ll find that they can range from almost no taste to bitter, and their antioxidant qualities vary. In general, though, anything labeled extra virgin is usually high quality and tastes good. They also have short shelf lives, so keep this in mind. They are best to use directly on food like salads, vegetables, breads, pasta, etc. Anything labeled simply “olive oil” isn’t first-press.

Olive oil is kind of expensive. It’s not ideal to use for cooking because gets smoky since it tolerates high heat. COR Canada Has certified Canola Harvest vegetable cooking and salad oil, which are less expensive options and less likely set off your smoke detector.

How Long Should I Marinade?

Most chefs recommend marinating meats for at least two hours, although many can marinade for up to a day. Martha Stewart cautions that lemon juice should be left out of overnight marinades and added the last two hours before cooking.

Of course, all marinating that goes on for more then a few minutes should be done in a refrigerator, covered, and in a ceramic or glass bowl. Plastic and metal containers aren’t good for marinating, says The Stone Soup. Zip-Loc freezer bags are also OK to use.

Never serve marinade as a sauce unless you have boiled it for at least five minutes to kill off any microbes. Even then, it’s still advisable to toss out leftover marinade.

Try These Basic and Spicy Marinades!

The bullet list above gives a pretty good idea of what you need for a basic marinade. Here are recommendations from Martha Stewart and Food.com, which offers a spicier option.



Note that Martha leaves out the vinegar. (I know, there are many ways to take this statement.)


* COR has certified four Worcestershire sauces—Safeway’s, Sobeys, Horton, and Heinz

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