Because I don’t know about you, but I always tend to think that “the other white meat” is begging for an extra kick of flavor. So whether you’re craving a nice dijon grilled pork chop, or maybe juicy pork carnitas tacos, or some zesty moo shu pork, or just some classic BBQ spare ribs…these five marinades are sure to hit the spot. And better yet? They’re all 100% freezer friendly (perfect for meal prep!), naturally gluten-free, easy to make, and ultra-delicious. Plus, they work well with various cooking methods and nearly any cut of pork you may be craving (chops, tenderloin, shoulder, spare ribs and more).
So let’s get to it!
When it comes specifically to pork, these are 5 of the marinades I use most often:
Moo Shu Pork Marinade: a yummy hoisin-based marinade
BBQ Pork Marinade: my favorite KC-style homemade bbq sauce is always a winner
Pineapple Ginger Pork Marinade: sweet and savory with a kick
Maple Dijon Pork Marinade: mustard and pork were made for each other
Pork Carnitas Marinade: a freezer-friendly version (no alcohol!) of this zesty Mexi marinade
To make each marinade, simply whisk the ingredients together in a small bowl until combined. Then combine the marinade and pork together in a freezer ziplock bag, seal, and refrigerate or freeze according to the directions below until ready to use. So simple!
That said, here are a few tips to keep in mind with marinating pork…
Marinade to Pork Ratio:
You’re welcome to use however much marinade you would like per pound of pork, but in general, I recommend 1/2 cup marinade per 1 pound of pork.
Fridge marinade time: I recommend marinating your pork packs in the refrigerator for anywhere from 30 minutes up to 1 day (24 hours).
Freezer marinade time: I recommend marinating your pork packs in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Always thaw pork properly: As tempting as it may be to try and “quick-thaw” frozen pork, food safety guidelines recommend that you always thaw pork slowly in the refrigerator. Ideally, you can plan ahead and pop your frozen pork pack in the fridge and let it rest for 24 hours or so, or until it has completely thawed. But to speed the process up, you can place the pork pack in a bowl of cold water, then refrigerate until the pork pack has completely thawed.
Don’t try to cook partially-frozen pork: Probably goes without saying, but if you jump the gun, the pork will cook unevenly. So thaw completely.
Basting with marinades: There are a variety of opinions in the food safety world about how safe/unsafe it is to baste your pork with its marinade. Some say it’s ok to use the marinade as a baste in the beginning stages of cooking, but many strongly disagree. To err on the side of caution, if you would like to use the marinade as a baste while cooking, I recommend using extra marinade that you have reserved ahead of time. (Basically, marinade that hasn’t touched the raw pork.)
Freezer bags: I recommend using the designated freezer ziplock bags (vs. the thinner/cheaper sandwich plastic bags) for these pork packs. They are stronger and (obvs) freezer friendly, and will help prevent leaks. And I also love using freezer bags because you can note the expiration date on the front. Here is an eco-friendly reusable freezer bag option too!
Meal prep containers: We also regularly use meal prep containers for quick marinades in our house. I don’t recommend them for freezing, since there’s no way to eliminate all of the excess air inside. But for a quick (1 to 24 hour) marinade, they work well.
Everyday bowls: Another simple option for quick (1 to 24 hour) marinade would be to use any small mixing or serving bowls that fit your amount of pork. Just mix, cover with a sheet of foil or plastic wrap, and refrigerate.
Instant-Read Thermometer: However you choose to cook your pork, I always recommend having an instant-read thermometer on hand to ensure that your pork is cooked through…and not overcooked. (The FDA recommends cooking your pork to 145°F.) I love and recommend this $10 thermometer from Amazon. (<– affiliate link)
Baking/Grilling/Sautéing/Slow Cooking: I’ve included general instructions for each of these methods below. They will each vary (especially with cook time) according to the cut and size of your pork, so again, I recommend using a thermometer to guarantee accurate doneness.
Truly, between these five marinades, all of the various cuts of pork, plus all of the various ways to cook pork…there are a zillion potential options here for a delicious meal. So have fun with them, and happy marinating!
Whisk together the ingredients for (one) marinade in a small bowl until combined.
Combine marinade with pork in a ziplock freezer bag, and toss until the pork is evenly coated in the marinade. Carefully press out any extra air that might be in the bag, then seal. (You will need 1/2 cup marinade per 1 pound of pork.)
If Using Immediately: Refrigerate the pork pack(s) for anywhere from 30 minutes to up to 1 day.
If Freezing: Immediately transfer the pork pack(s) to the freezer, and freeze for up to 3 months. Then when you’re ready to cook the pork, transfer the pork pack back to the refrigerator for 24 hours, or until it has thawed completely. Or to speed up the process, you can submerge the sealed pork pack in a bowl of cold water in the refrigerator until it has thawed completely.
When ready to cook, remove the pork from the marinade, discard the remaining marinade, and cook however you prefer. (See recommendations below.)
Cooking times will vary depending on the cut of pork that you use. (So many options!) I always recommend using an instant-read cooking thermometer to test your pork as it cooks, to be sure that it reaches a safe (and not overcooked) 145°F. For 8-ounce pork chops (about 3/4-inch thick), here are some general recommendations.
Baked: Heat oven to 375°F. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large oven-proof cast iron pan** over medium- heat. Add pork and sear on each side for 3 minutes until golden. Transfer pan to the oven and bake for 4-6 minutes, or until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 145°F. Remove from the oven, transfer the pork to a clean plate, and loosely cover the plate with aluminum foil. Let the pork rest for at least 5-10 minutes. Serve warm.
Grilled: Heat grill to medium-high. Grill pork for 4 minutes, then flip until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 145°F. Transfer the pork to a clean plate, and loosely cover with aluminum foil. Let the pork rest for at least 5-10 minutes. Serve warm.
Slow Cooker: Add pork and marinade to the bowl of a slow cooker. Cover and cook for 3-4 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low, until the pork is cooked through and tender. Serve warm. (I recommend a batch size of at least 1 pound of pork in the slow cooker.)
Instant Pot: (Pressure cooking times will vary majorly depending on the cut and amount of pork that you use. These instructions are for 1.5 pounds of boneless pork chops or pork tenderloin.) Add pork and marinade to the bowl of Instant Pot. Close lid securely and set vent to “Sealing”. Press “Manual”, then press “Pressure” until the light on “High Pressure” lights up, then adjust the +/- buttons until time reads 10 minutes. Cook. Then let the pressure release naturally for 5 minutes. Then very carefully, turn the vent to “Venting” for quick release, and wait until all of the steam has released and the valve has dropped. Remove the lid, and check to be sure that the pork is cooked through and tender. (If not, repeat this process and cook the pork for 2 more minutes on high pressure, until cooked through.) Shred the pork if you’d like. Serve immediately.
*As always, if making these recipes gluten-free, be sure to use certified gluten-free ingredients.
**If you don’t have a cast-iron (or oven-proof) pan, you can sear the pork in any sauté pan on the stovetop. Then transfer the pork to a baking sheet to broil.