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Fish in marinade with vinegar - how long?

Every week, SO and I usually enjoy a nice seared tuna with scallops. It seems that the texture of the finished product varies somewhat each week and sometimes feels tough as if it's been denatured too much prior to searing (quick 45-1 minute each side). My marinade usually includes garlic, ginger, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and I only marinate for 10-15 minutes on each side for both the scallops and the tuna. I'm not really looking for a new marinade as we love this mixture but of the ingredients it seems to me that the likely offenders might be the ginger or vinegar. Any other ideas? Should I just add them after it marinates as we use the remaining liquid as a sauce?

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  1. Vinegar, being an acid, will begin to cook the fish ala cheviche. I'd dilute it especially with tuna, as it's usually preped as a sear served rare.

    1 Reply
    1. re: treb

      Yea, it's usually only 2-3 tbsps (with an equal or slightly less amount of soy sauce) I imagine that would still have an effect?

    2. I'm curious why you marinate it at all. I can see what you use as a sauce, cooked or not.

      5 Replies
      1. re: c oliver

        I have no clue we have made the same dish for years now and have always marinated it. I think actually once we didn't and simply sprinkled pepper and served with the sauce and didn't find it to be the same and prefer the marinade method. I guess it must have some effect?

        1. re: fldhkybnva

          I think one marinates for tenderizing or for flavor. So I could see your doing it for flavor but omitting the vinegar because, as posted above, it's definitely going to effect the texture.

          1. re: c oliver

            Yea, will definitely give that a try. We plan to have it tomorrow night so we'll see then. Should I add vinegar after for the sauce?

            1. re: fldhkybnva

              Hey, that's a thought. Since you like the vinegar flavor, I'd give that a solid "like" :)

      2. Leave the vinegar out of your marinade and replace it with an equal amount of neutral tasting oil. Proceed with the recipe, and compare with the original. The flavor of the soy, garlic and ginger should be stronger.

        1 Reply
        1. re: knucklesandwich

          Oops, I did forget to mention that we also add sesame oil.

        2. It seems like you are making something very close to a teriyaki sauce, but using a different technique. Traditional teriyaki adds the sauce midway through the cooking to produce a glaze. Ginger is added to reduce the fishiness. The real difference is teriyaki uses mirin and sake instead of vinegar.

          I recommend that you learn to make your own teriyaki sauce. it keeps indefinitely and is far better than what you can buy. If you learn to cook with it you will get a better result than marinating with vinegar.

          5 Replies
          1. re: ChrisOfStumptown

            I'm actually not really a fan of teriyaki and given that this recipe has pretty low sugar which I think is a prominent feature of teriyaki or at least the versions I've had it doesn't really taste like any teriyaki that I've ever eaten. I am not averse to learning to make teriyaki sauce and have done so in the past and not against it as a separate dish, but the post was not intended to say we don't like our current prep and to ask for different ingredients. We highly enjoy this dish and I was asking more so if there is a different way to incorporate the ingredients that we currently use to alter the texture of the meat slightly.

            I think perhaps the best at least thing to try before moving on is to add the vinegar afterwards.

            1. re: fldhkybnva

              Fair enough, although traditional teriyaki has little or no sugar, and is only slightly sweet, which comes from the mirin.

            2. re: ChrisOfStumptown

              This actually sounds like kilawin to me, a Filipino dish of fish cured in vinegar with ginger and seasonings.

              1. re: JungMann

                I'd suggest 15 minutes marinating in all the ingredients except the rice vinegar. Add it a couple of minutes before searing, but no more. The texture of the fish and scallops should remain intact this way.

            3. I use the following marinade with both tuna & swordfish steaks (beef, lamb, etc., overnight), marinating for about 30 minutes. Turns out fine after searing without any texture problems.

              BACARDI1 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 MARINADE

              In a plastic ziplock bag, bowl, or dish large enough to hold the meat/fish & marinade, combine:

              1 tablespoon of soy sauce
              2 tablespoons of dry sherry
              3 tablespoons of oil (any type of your choosing)
              4 garlic cloves, peeled, smashed, & roughly chopped

              Add meat/fish & marinate for a minimum of one hour to overnight (one hour maximum for fish). Grill, broil, or pan sauté meat as desired.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Bacardi1

                Perfect. A real less-is-more approach.

              2. Like the others said, the acid in the vinegar is cooking the fish, so the texture changes.

                I've never put vinegar in a seafood marinade, but I'd add a few drops to the finished sauce instead of in the marinade.

                1. Hi to OP! Any report back on this? Let us know.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: c oliver

                    My schedule has been unusual the past few weeks as I had the privilege to fulfill my civic duty and serve as a juror for a fairly lengthy trial. I am sure that this meal will be back on the rotation in the next few weeks and will let you know how it goes.

                      1. re: fldhkybnva

                        Thanks Chowhounders! SO and I prepped our usual tuna and scallops with soy sauce, ginger, garlic, sesame oil without vinegar, removed from the marinade and seared, added a few tbsp of rice wine vinegar and green onions to the marinade and served with a squeeze of lime (great addition). The texture of the fish seemed to be less affected. I know it's a heartier fish and could probably stand a longer time in vinegar before deteriorating too much but also used this marinade with swordfish tonight.

                        1. re: fldhkybnva

                          Glad to hear! I've gotten this exact kind of guidance for a few years here on CH and am a better cook because of it. Onward and upward :)

                    1. Definitely delete the vinegar - that's the problem and it is cooking the fish & scallops.

                      I'd drop it totally and just squeeze some fresh lemon or lime slices on top of the seafood after cooking.