The key to really tasty pork is soaking it in a marinade before cooking. This simple technique doesn’t require any special equipment or a big investment of time or money, but it goes a long way in boosting the flavor of lean meats like pork. Marinades are particularly useful for smaller cuts that will be grilled or pan-seared.

Before we share our favorite marinade recipes, here are a few things every home cook should know about marinades:

  • Marinades permeate the surface of the meat to add flavor; the process isn’t designed to tenderize. If you’re cooking a thicker cut of pork, you’ll want to score the meat with a knife before marinating to allow the juices to seep inside.
  • For safety’s sake, always marinate pork in the refrigerator and never reuse a marinade for basting.
  • Typically, you’ll want to marinate pork for at least 30 minutes and as long as two days. If the recipe is citrus heavy, err on the shorter end of the spectrum to prevent the marinade from breaking down the meat and creating mushy results.
  • After your marinated pork has cooked, you’ll still want to season with salt and pepper, but perhaps slightly less than usual if those spices were used in the marinade.

The basic makeup of any marinade is a combination of spices, acid (lemon juice, vinegar, yogurt, or wine), and oil. Once you’re a marinating pro, you’ll want to play around with creating your own unique recipes. Until then, however, these are our four favorite types of marinades.

1. Mild Mannered: Marinades add flavor to pork, but that doesn’t mean they have to set your mouth on fire. If you prefer a mellow taste profile, stick to marinades that use simple seasonings like turmeric or garlic, and avoid those that include most types of pepper.

2. Hot & Spicy: Are you the type of person who likes to break a sweat while eating? Marinades are the perfect way to inject some serious kick into your pork. Skip the pleasant pantry favorites and instead load up your recipe with things like cayenne and jalapeno peppers.

3. Eastern Inspiration: From India to China, the Eastern half of our globe is known for its rich and flavorful foods. Recipes often feature soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, cumin, and cinnamon and can range from mild and sweet to hot and spicy.

4. Beachy Keen: Life is relaxed for the people of the Caribbean, Hawaii, and South Pacific, and so is their approach to food. Island-inspired marinades feature a fusion of fresh and diverse flavors like ginger, garlic, sugar, cloves, cinnamon, and just about any type of pepper.