Marinating fish is a very quick and easy way to add extra flavor and moisture before cooking it.
A fish marinade only requires a few simple ingredients, in a very short amount of time, in order to get the necessary results for a great tasting fish dish.
There are three main base ingredients used for marinating fish. They are usually a combination of acids, oils, and herbs and spices.
We'll also go over tips and advice for best marination practices, as well as a link to a couple of our favorite universal marinades.
The acid can be lemon, vinegar, fruit juices, wine, cider, milk, or yogurt. Orange, pineapple, and lemon are the most popular fruit juices used.
White wines are good to use because they won't discolor the fish like red wines would. With that said, wines such as port, sherry, or claret are some of the better choices.
The oil, or fat, can be olive oil, vegetable oil, or peanut oil. You don't want to use fat ingredients like butter or grease because they coagulate when chilled. The oil helps to add moisture to the fish and aides in the penetration of the seasonings. But too much oil won't allow much of the seasonings to apply themselves.
The seasonings make up the flavors obtained from herbs and spices. Salt and pepper are the obvious. Others include garlic, basil, thyme, or bay leaves.
Dry Ingredients: allspice, brown sugar, crushed red pepper flakes, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, mace, mustard, paprika, cayenne pepper.
Herbs: cilantro, dill, oregano, caraway, parsley, rosemary, sage, savory, tarragon, celery.
Acids: soy sauce, fish oil, mango, lime juice, jalapeno peppers.
The idea for marinating fish is to keep it simple and balanced throughout. Each ingredient should play off of the other ingredients, including the recipe in which it will be cooked. You want them to compliment each other instead of one ingredient overpowering the entire dish. Your recipe can also be influenced from the marinade.
So a marinade should not be complicated. A little olive oil
and citrus can be a superb fish marinade, with a squirt of lemon after
the fish has been cooked. Or a touch of mustard to add a bit of a
It doesn't take very long to marinate fish, as it should be brief. It only requires 15-20 minutes, 30 minutes max. Some richer flesh of fish such as salmon can marinate up to an hour. The idea is to allow the fish to infuse with a specific flavor, giving it a little edge, without over-marinating it.
It depends on the strength of the marinade, the size and type
of fish, and what the fish
call for, to determine if you need to marinate it for much longer. Fish
is far more sensitive than meat, so you want to be sure not to
over-marinade it. Leave it too long, then the acids will begin to
chemically cook the fish, causing it to become mushy, like a ceviche.
So the extra time doesn't help the flavoring process.
Marinate the fish in a glass, plastic, or stainless steel container, preferably a shallow type of dish. Don't use aluminum because it will react with the acids in the marinade.
It may be best to use a plastic zip lock bag. This way you don't necessarily need to have much marinade to cover the fish with - a little marinade will go a long way in a plastic zip lock bag.
You can figure a ratio of one cup of marinade to one pound of fish. And be sure to flip the fish at least once during the marination.
You can use the leftover marinade to baste the fish while cooking it. But before you do, the marinade should be brought to a boil to kill off any harmful bacteria left behind. You can also incorporate the marinade as the base for a sauce or gravy.
So there you go... marinating fish should be simple and brief. Experiment with different ingredients and have fun. Enjoy!
Check out some of these easy fish marinades that we have put together.
See some of our other Top Picks for Seafood Recipe Cookbooks here.
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