Summer is upon us and that means grilling season is in high gear!  Whether you’re hosting a BBQ for this upcoming Father’s Day or just looking for a quick and easy weeknight dinner, I’ve got the right marinade for you. Using the principles listed below will help you to achieve a flavorful meal and help you to make your own marinades with no recipe!    

  1. Using fresh and high-quality ingredients is key: Pre-made dressings and sauces are convenient but often come with high amounts of sugar and sodium. I tend to use fresh herbs from the garden with a lot of citrus-both the zest and juice.

  2. Amount of time to marinate: Generally, the thinner the food the less time that it needs to marinate. Marinades will not fully penetrate most foods but only the surface layer. Fish generally needs 15-30 minutes while chicken needs at least 4 hours depending on the thickness. Also, marinades that are higher in acids require less time because the acid will break down the tissue.

  3. The ratio of fat, acid, and seasoning: Once you understand the function of each of these components you can make up your own marinades with whatever you have on hand. The fat in a marinade (such as olive oil, yogurt,mustard, coconut milk) helps to retain the moisture in your meat while an acid (citrus, wine, buttermilk, etc.) balances out the fat as it tenderizes. I personally, eyeball these amounts but try to stick with a 3:1 ratio of fat to acid. You can also make ½ cup of marinade for every pound of meat or fish.

Finally, the seasonings bring the meat to life. Properly seasoning is a must because it brings out the flavors that you use. I season each piece individually with salt and pepper right before grilling in addition to the small amounts that are in the marinade.. Aromatics  such as garlic, herbs, spices, and chile peppers are a great way to maximize flavor and make your marinade stand out. Adding a bit of sugar (honey, maple syrup, etc.) helps to round out the sharp acidic flavors and brings another dimension to your marinade. Be careful to not add too much sugar when grilling or your meat may burn instead of caramelizing!  When I have the time, I blend all of the ingredients to emulsify the oil and acid.

Here is a quick marinade that is great for chicken breast:


  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil


  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves



  1. Blend garlic, olive oil, rosemary, mustard, lemon juice, ground black pepper, and salt together in food processor or blender.

  2. Place chicken breasts in a resealable plastic bag. Pour garlic mixture over chicken, reserving 1/8 cup. Seal bag and massage marinade into chicken. Place in refrigerator for a minimum of four hours and max of twelve.

  3. Before grilling, take chicken out for thirty minutes to allow to come to room temperature. Grill and enjoy!



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