How to marinate seafood

Food can be marinated with seasoned liquid before, after or instead of cooking. Marinating can be used to add flavour and moisture to the seafood or to tenderise or "cook" it.
This "cooking" process is achieved by the acid in the marinade coagulating the protein in the flesh.
For seafood, the marinating liquid usually consists of an acidic base such as lime or lemon juice, plus wine or a mild vinegar. Vegetable oil and a selection of herbs or mild spices, onions or soy sauce can also be added for flavour.
A marinade used prior to grilling usually contains a larger amount of oil—for example, a marinade used on prawns.

If a marinade is used to preserve the seafood, the process is called pickling.


Equipment required

A glass, enamel, glazed ceramic or stainless steel container (never aluminium, iron or copper)


Prepare the marinade. A large variety of marinades can be used for seafood. A base may include:
- 1/4 cup of vegetable oil;
- 1/2 cup of citrus juice, vinegar or wine;
- herbs and spices for added flavour.

For an Asian-style marinade add ginger, soy, barbecue or teriyaki sauce.

place the seafood in the container and pour on the prepared marinade, ensuring that all surfaces are coated, and preferably covered, with marinade.
cover and put in a cool place, preferably in the chiller. Flavours may mature faster at room temperature, but so does bacterial growth.
before cooking or serving, drain well and dry with disposable paper towels. The marinade can be used in a moist-heat cooking method or in an accompanying sauce.
Marinating times
Seafood "cooked" in marinade is ready when the flesh becomes opaque all the way through and the texture has firmed, especially in the middle of the flesh. The time required will vary depending on the acidity of the marinade, the size and quantity of seafood, and the desired intensity of the flavour.


Approximate times for marinating

G & G finfish

12–36 hours

Finfish fillets

1–3 hours


24 hours


Marinating tips

The seafood must be of high quality.
Pieces of seafood should be quite small, or sliced very thinly.
Marinades are usually based on citrus juices.
Take care, as lengthy marinating will reduce the seafood's fresh flavour. If left too long, a salty marinade will tend to leach out the seafood juices and increase the salt content of the flesh. Lengthy marinating (longer than four hours) will firm the flesh.
Seafood marinated for longer than four hours must be stored in the chiller during the marinating process.