Teriyaki is a sweet and tangy concoction inspired by the flavor profiles of Asian cooking. Popular in both sauce and marinade form, teriyaki has a sugary soy sauce base with prominent notes of ginger, sesame and garlic. Both teriyaki sauces and marinades add mouth-watering flavor to chicken, beef and fish, but in different ways. Learn about the differences between teriyaki sauces and marinades to choose the option most suitable to your specific meal selection, time allowance and taste preferences.
The biggest difference between teriyaki sauce and teriyaki marinade is the way in which each is used to flavor meat. A teriyaki marinade flavors chicken, beef and fish by slowly being absorbed into the meat. The meat, resting in a teriyaki bath, soaks up the marinade like a sponge, absorbing the teriyaki flavor. Two hours is the minimum amount of time that meat should soak in a teriyaki marinade, although some ready-made brands claim satisfactory flavor results in less. Chicken can marinate for up to two days, beef up to 24 hours, and for fish, no longer than 30 minutes, as the marinade can begin to break down the delicate flesh after that. Once time is up, any leftover marinade is discarded. Teriyaki sauce is the perfect solution to instant flavor gratification. Teriyaki sauce is used to immediately cook meat with, basted on grilled chicken or poured over stir fry steak strips sizzling in the wok. Sauce is also used as a table-side condiment for using atop chicken, steak or fish.
Because of the difference in their uses, the textures of teriyaki sauce and teriyaki marinade also contrast. Teriyaki marinade is usually thin, like the consistency of water. This allows the meat to absorb the liquid and the flavor. Sometimes, people will add fresh, roughly chopped ingredients to a teriyaki marinade to enhance its flavor. Hunks of scallions, garlic and ginger root will give a teriyaki marinade a chunky texture. Teriyaki sauce, by contrast, ranges in texture and consistency from water thin to thick as paste. Most sauces are the thickness of school glue -- thin enough to pour easily and evenly, but thick enough to coat a filet or to dip bite-size pieces in.
Though teriyaki sauces and marinades result in the same trademark taste, the intensity of their flavor profiles differs. Because marinades develop and infuse a meat with teriyaki flavor over time, they are usually more potent in flavor than sauces. Teriyaki sauces, on the other hand, are ready-to-serve, mild to full-bodied straight out of the bottle, with a fully developed, palette-pleasing taste.
When Two Become One
Though teriyaki sauces and marinades stand separate, in many ways they are equal. Both contribute a distinct, pleasing taste to a variety of meat and even noodle dishes, and the culinary world has found a harmony between the two. Some recipes call for a double-shot of flavor through the use of both a sauce and a marinade, whether meat marinades and is then topped with a finishing sauce or injected with a sauce and then slowly marinated. These processes ensure deep flavor throughout every bite.