Hack: Freezer Marinades

It can be hard to plan ahead and stay organized for preparing family meals. On top of other responsibilities, it may feel daunting and even impossible at times. Something I like to keep in my arsenal (read: freezer) is marinated meat. It is super easy to prepare, throw into the freezer and forget about until a rainy day.

Photo credit:  The Kitchn

Photo credit: The Kitchn

We tend to use chicken (dark meat) at my house - either all thighs (my favorite) or a combination of thighs, drumsticks and/or breasts. We prefer the taste and moisture of dark meat over white meat. The chicken can be skin-on (bone in or out) or boneless and skinless. Beef or pork would also work well; while we don't really eat pork, we have done marinated beef in the freezer a few times. Use whatever you prefer!

A secret my aunt Rosie taught me is to use store-bought dressing as a marinade. My favorites to use are Italian and balsamic dressings. It is so simple - I throw the meat in a gallon Ziploc bag (labeled with the contents and date) and add enough dressing to cover it. I shake the bag around to coat the meat well with the dressing and then I toss it in the freezer!

When I want to cook the meat, I either leave it in the fridge overnight (the night before) or leave it in the sink in the morning (on the day of intended cooking). It thaws well both ways - and marinates as it defrosts! - and by dinnertime, it is ready for cooking! Normally, Ben grills it, but baking or sautéing are also good options. Remove the meat from the marinade, letting excess liquid drip off, and dispose of the Ziploc bag and leftover marinade. For baking, put the meat on a baking sheet (covered with a baking mat or aluminum foil) and cook it for 30-40 minutes at 400F. The internal temperature of the chicken should read 165F (minimum) when it is done (which applies for all chicken no matter the preparation). For grilling, it depends on your grill. For sautéing, put some olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté the chicken for 4 to 5 minutes per side or until cooked through and juices run clear. 

If you want to do a more complex marinade than simple store-bought dressings, the Internet has so many wonderful options. These are a few of my favorites.

  • Recently, my most preferred marinades (pictured above) come from the The Kitchn, one of my favorite food websites ever. These marinades are designed to be freezer marinades. We haven't even used them as such yet - I have just marinated chicken in them (lemon pesto and chili garlic so far) for part of a day or overnight in the fridge and then Ben has grilled the meat for dinner. They were beyond delicious. We have tried and LOVED the lemon pesto (my favorite so far) and chili garlic marinades. For the latter, I used only a small amount of chili garlic sauce. The Kitchn: 5 Freezer Marinades for Chicken or Pork 
  • Everyday chicken marinade from one of my favorite blogs, A Beautiful Plate
  • These two marinades from All Recipes are described as for steak, but could be used with any meat. (1) Best steak marinade in existence and (2) Best steak marinade 

What kind of regular marinades or freezer marinades do you use and love? Please share with us in the comments!