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MIGHTY FINE BRINES

With a little pre-planning, it's easy to turn an everyday chicken dinner into a zesty dish or an ethnic feast. Food manufacturers provide plenty of options for bottled or premade marinades to use for jazzing up all kinds of meats. We sampled 16 brands for a taste test; after marinating chicken overnight in each sauce, we grilled the breast meat for the tasting. When given the option, we selected the teryaki or "original" flavors from each brand of marinade. We looked for taste, color and texture. Here are our favorites.

Market Pantry Teriyaki

Judges favored the flavor of Target's store brand because it didn't overwhelm the chicken. "The marinade is a nice color and the chicken is moist and tasty," said one panelist. "It's a great caramel color," said another. "This has the perfect blend of sweet, tart and smoky flavors." A couple of judges detected a hint of garlic in the sauce. "A good, all-around marinade," said one who liked the "tang" in the taste.

Buy it? Three of the four judges said yes.

Buy it! $1.39 for a 12.25-ounce bottle from Target.

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KC Masterpiece Honey Teriyaki

The grilled chicken looked especially appetizing after soaking in this sauce overnight. Judges appreciated the brownish color, smooth texture and sweet/salty flavor of the marinated meat. "It's very heavy on soy sauce in a good way," said one judge. "I like the smoky taste as well." Another said he enjoyed a "peppery aftertaste" after sampling chicken with KC's marinade. "This doesn't need any doctoring, I would serve this alongside rice or potatoes and veggies," said one. "No need for any more sauce."

Buy it?Three of the four judges said yes.

Buy it! $2.59 for a 16-ounce bottle from Target.

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Paula Deen Collection Savannah Marinade

Chef Paula Deen's reputation may be suffering lately, but her Southern-style marinade fared well among our panelists. "This has all the marinade must-haves: smoke, salt, sweet and garlic," said one judge. "It has the nice mild flavor of teriyaki and a good level of saltiness." One said she tasted Worcestershire sauce in the marinade. "It's got great teriyaki-ness," said another. Even though it has the name of a Southern city, judges said they would choose this marinade for an Asian stir-fry or a chicken and broccoli dish.

Buy it? Two of the four judges said yes.

Buy it! $2 for a 12-ounce bottle from Winn-Dixie.

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Maui Maid Teriyaki Marinade

Mild color and subdued taste made this marinade a top pick. Judges preferred the sauce because it didn't overpower the chicken. "This would be great with some garlic potatoes and maybe a slice of grilled pineapple," said one judge. "I love the nice, glossy color," said another. "It's gleaming and golden brown. It also has a great teriyaki flavor with soy balanced with minimum sweetness," she added. "Bring on the brown rice," said another.

Buy it? All four judges said yes.

Buy it! $6.99 for a 12-ounce bottle from the Fresh Market.

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West Indies Spice Co. Pirate's Gold Original

Salty, sweet and sassy were the words one judge used to describe this sauce. "It's got a nice color and a bold flavor," he said. "This brought out the good chicken flavor," said another judge. "It would be nice with some steamed vegetables." The salty flavor of the soy sauce in this marinade was a bit too heavy for a couple of panelists. They liked the color and thickness of the sauce, but not the strong taste. "I will be drinking all day after tasting this," one said.

Buy it? Three of the four judges said yes.

Buy it! $4.89 for a 16-ounce bottle from Publix.

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Lawry's Teriyaki with Pineapple Juice

Great shine gave this sauce an edge over some of the competition. "It's got a great gloss and I taste pineapple and some very good citrus flavors," said one judge. "It's got just the right amount of sweetness." Another panelist raved about the mild flavor. "This would be perfect with a side of slaw and some corn on the cob," she said.

Buy it? Two of the four judges said yes.

Buy it! $3.49 for a 12-ounce bottle from Winn-Dixie.

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