A marinade is a combination of ingredients that are used to soak items such as meat, poultry, vegetables, or seafood, in order to add extra flavor and to increase the tenderness of the item’s texture. Marinade recipes can vary greatly depending on the preferred flavor, but a basic marinade often consists of an acidic ingredient, such as citrus juice, vinegar, or wine, and other preferred flavoring agents, such as onions, garlic, sugar, or hot peppers. Oil is also often used in order to bind the other marinade ingredients together and make them adhere to the item that is being soaked. Making a shrimp marinade may require more caution and less soaking time than meat or poultry due to the delicate nature of shrimp’s texture.
Many basic shrimp marinade recipes tend to use citrus juice, such as lemon or lime in particular, because the flavor is often thought to pair well with shrimp without overwhelming the seafood's flavor. If wine is being used, white wines are often preferred over red varieties. Raw shrimp is translucent, and it is generally recommended to only cook shrimp until it just becomes opaque in order to prevent overcooking and making it rubbery. Using marinades containing ingredients such as red wine that add color to the shrimp may mask the translucency and make it difficult to see when the shrimp is done cooking.
Choosing the ingredients for a shrimp marinade may be done according to the type of flavor or cuisine a cook is striving for. Using lemon juice, oil and garlic in a marinade may give the shrimp a Mediterranean-inspired flavor, while lime juice, oil, and chopped chili peppers are often used for Mexican shrimp recipes. For Asian recipes, shrimp is often marinated in soy sauce, oil, and ginger.
Meat and poultry tend to benefit from long marinating times because the acid that is in many marinade recipes helps to break down any tough connective tissues and make the item more tender. Shrimp has a more delicate texture and generally cannot withstand a long marinating time, particularly if an acidic ingredient is being used. One commonly recommended marinating time for shrimp is approximately 30 minutes, which allows the marinade to flavor the shrimp without making it tough.
Due to safety issues, it is usually advised to marinate shrimp in the refrigerator. Refrigerating shrimp while marinating it cuts down on the risk of foodborne bacteria caused by leaving the shrimp at room temperature. Any leftover shrimp marinade is typically recommended to be discarded, or if being used as a sauce, boiled to kill any bacteria that the raw shrimp may have.