Concocting your own grilling marinades from scratch is a lot easier than you may think. Long before conventionally packaged marinades were available, oftentimes people would make them from leftover food scraps to make less-desirable cuts of meats tender, juicy and flavorful. When you make your own marinades, you also have the freedom to tailor them to your taste and dietary restrictions. So put those leftover herbs and aromatics, which you bought just for that one recipe, to work for you in a do-it yourself marinade that will add depth, moisture and flavor to whatever you grill.
All marinades, whether for fruit, meat, cheese or vegetables, contain the same elements: oil, acid, seasoning and aromatics. If you follow this basic formula, your marinade will have as few as four ingredients. Oil absorbs the aromatic elements and infuses whatever you are grilling with robust flavor as it soaks. Acid, whether it is vinegar, citrus juice or wine, starts the tenderizing process. The secret to a good marinade is balanced flavor—not too salty, sweet, vinegary or aromatic. End by balancing the flavor, season with something sweet and something salty to taste.
Have a little fun by thinking outside of the box and using ingredients other than table salt or granulated sugar. Instead consider using soy sauce, fresh squeezed orange juice, honey or Worcestershire. The go-to aromatics in this region typically include onion and garlic, but you can jazz up your marinade by experimenting with some herbs or by trying a new variety of onion or garlic like garlic scapes or leeks.