In the Pantry: 3 Easy Marinades to Dress Up Your Meal

Marinades may seem like a mystery, but they're made with a basic formula. Once you learn the secret to creating an easy marinade, you'll never buy a bottle of it at the store again. On this week's episode of "In the Pantry," Aida Mollenkamp shares three basic marinades you can make in a pinch.

"You need a tenderizer, which is an alcohol or an acid mixed together with an oil because that will carry the flavor throughout the marinade," explains Mollenkamp. "And then [add] any seasonings you want. At the very least you want something that has a little bit of salt, like salt or soy. You could even add in things all the way from chilies to herbs."

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As a guideline, Mollenkamp recommends marinating seafood and fish for an hour. Red meat, poultry, and pork can marinate for four to eight hours.

Balsamic Marinade

If you want to take this marinade up a notch, Mollenkamp says you can add some sliced garlic or herbs.

2 teaspoons brown sugar
2-3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 cup balsamic, vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced (optional)
1 tablespoon chopped herbs, such as rosemary, thyme, or marjoram (optional)

Mix all ingredients in a glass bowl. Pour marinade over meat, chicken, or pork; refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 8 hours.

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Coffee Marinade

"This is actually a really great way to use up any leftover coffee that you have on hand," says Mollenkamp. "Because this is such a robust marinade, I would use this on something that really is a robust flavor. Think pork shoulder or a really big piece of steak ... something that can put up to the flavors of coffee and molasses."

1 cup brewed coffee
1/4-1/2 cup molasses
1 tablespoon of soy or Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
Marmalade (optional)

Mix all ingredients in a glass bowl. Mollenkamp recommends adding orange marmalade or sliced onions to the marinade for an extra layer of flavor. Pour marinade over meat and refrigerate for one to four hours.

Beer Marinade

"This what I use for everything from flank steak to fish to chicken," says Mollenkamp. "And it's because it's made with beer, honey or agave, and lime, and I usually have those three things on hand. It's my party marinade, if you will."

3 cups Corona or any pale lager
1/4 cup canola oil
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons agave or honey
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
4-6 pieces of thinly sliced fresh ginger (optional)
1 garlic clove, grated (optional)

Mix ingredients in order. Pour over meat. Mollenkamp recommends using this marinade on chicken, steak or fish. If you use it with shrimp or fish, which are both more delicate than poultry and meat, you'll want to let the seafood marinate for less time.

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