Conventional wisdom says to toss your marinade as soon as you pull the raw meat from it; however, you can avoid wasting all of those flavorful ingredients with this simple, thrifty trick. 

By David McCann
July 20, 2020
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Using a marinade is a great way to get flavor into a piece of beef, chicken, pork, or shrimp. All you need to do is combine whatever wonderful ingredients you like in an oil base, add the protein, and wait. But if you’re a thrifty cook, like myself, it will drive you kind of crazy to pour out all of those great, flavor-packed (and certainly not free) ingredients after you remove the meat. We’ve been told endlessly that the marinade is now “contaminated” by the raw meat and must be disposed of immediately or all sorts of dire things will happen, right?

Well, yes and no.

Obviously, it would not be a good (or tasty) idea to drink it. It’s not going to work for a salad dressing either. And you shouldn’t use it to baste meat that has already finished cooking. It would also be foolish to use it as a sauce as is. After all, it DID just have raw meat sitting in it!

But…

If you pour the marinade into a saucepan, and boil it for a few minutes (at least 5), it will be safe to use.

Mediterranean Marinade image

Photo: Stephen Devries; Food Styling: Erin Merhar 

Now, when I say “safe to use,” I don’t mean it will be perfect as is. Remember, you probably used a lot of salt and other powerful flavors when you were marinating. And boiling will only reduce the marinade and intensify those flavors (as well as kill any bacteria introduced by the raw meat.) So, what you will have is a wonderful, strong, and highly concentrated base for whatever comes next. Taste it. Figure out what it needs. Maybe some stock or water to balance out the salt. Maybe some butter or cream to soften the edges. Maybe a handful of fresh herbs, to reinforce the herbs you included in it originally. Maybe even a little roux to give it lots of body. You’ll figure it out; just trust your palate. That is really the best guide you will ever have when it comes to cooking, so don’t be afraid to listen to it. Once you start listening, it will rarely steer you astray. You might even decide that the marinade is not something you want to use as a finishing sauce,  and that’s just fine. The point is to experiment. Try things.That’s the only way you can take your cooking skills to the next level. 

You can even use some stock or wine to deglaze your pan after you cook the meat in it, and then pour the “corrected” marinade into the pan. This brings in another level of flavor. And when everything works out right, you will have an extraordinarily deep and flavorful sauce that matches perfectly with whatever protein you’re serving, because it already contains some of the essence of that protein. 

This really can be a game changer. But only if you give it a try.