How Do I Choose the Best Orange Marinade?

Cynde Gregory

Orange marinade is a terrific way to tenderize and flavor beef, pork, or chicken for the barbeque or oven. Fish benefits from a quick dip in this type of marinade as well. You can also use it to add zip to fibrous veggies like carrots or beets. The best orange marinade depends upon the food the marinade is intended for as well as on the preferences of the cook and diners.

Orange skin, one of the ingredients in orange marinade.
Orange skin, one of the ingredients in orange marinade.

The orange flavor in orange marinade can come from orange juice concentrate, orange juice, or the zest obtained from an orange skin. Beyond the flavor of orange, there are dozens of variations that are possible. Some cooks like their marinades on the hot side, while others prefer them a little sweet. A couple of additions to the marinade can produce one with Asian depth or Caribbean style.

Oranges.
Oranges.

To be effective, a marinade must include something that will help break down the tough connective tissue in meats or veggies. That can be achieved by adding acidic elements, such as vinegar, lemon, or lime juice. Wine, tequila, and bourbon are options with alcohol. Perhaps surprisingly, yogurt works too. Orange marinades can include one or more of these.

Cara cara oranges, which can be used to make a marinade.
Cara cara oranges, which can be used to make a marinade.

Good orange marinade also includes a little oil to coat and protect the foods as they cook. This is especially important for fish and skinless chicken. Lightly flavored oil, such as safflower or canola, is best for delicately flavored foods. Beef and pork can handle a little olive oil without being overwhelmed.

Orange marinade pairs nicely with chicken breast.
Orange marinade pairs nicely with chicken breast.

Beyond orange juice or zest and oil, the wise cook knows that almost anything goes. A yogurt-based marinade for chicken breasts, thighs, or legs or for fish steaks or fillets requires orange zest instead of juice to keep the marinade from curdling. This orange marinade can be sweetened with a little honey or brown sugar, and ginger adds snap and a high note.

For an Asian twist, marinate chicken in orange juice and five-spice powder.
For an Asian twist, marinate chicken in orange juice and five-spice powder.

For an Asian flair, soy sauce and rice wine vinegar added to the orange and oil base does the trick. A few drops of high-quality sesame oil and some finely minced ginger and garlic deepen the marinade’s flavors. Five-spice powder brings the flavors to perfection.

Caribbean style begins with the same orange and oil base and also includes minced ginger. A splash of rum adds both flavor and sweetening. Cooks may chop other fruit, such as peaches or raspberries, and add them to mingle their juices as well. This type of orange marinade is usually hot; a few drops of hot sauce, some hot pepper flakes, or a chopped hot pepper are all options.

Some of the best orange marinades can be made using tequila.
Some of the best orange marinades can be made using tequila.

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