It’s ok to use bottled sauce, I promise:

Do you make your own marinades?

The reason why I ask this question is to spark the debate over bottled or store bought ingredients being used during the grilling process vs. home made. I do make plenty of my own marinades but have a lot of favorite bottled items, too.

What is a marinade?

Definition of MARINADE


noun \ˌmer-ə-ˈnād, ˌma-rə-\

: a savory usually acidic sauce in which meat, fish, or a vegetable is soaked to enrich its flavor or to tenderize it

That is how Merriam-Webster defines it, and I concur…for the most part. I like to think of a marinade as three parts;

  1. Fat (usually an oil)
  2. Acid (from citrus to vinegars)
  3. Spice (herbs, salts, peppers, etc…)

Now with that being said, those are the basic components of a lot of store bought items, like salad dressing, especially vinaigrettes. These are necessary time savers, and I have no problem using them or with anybody using them.

I have been known to be a label freak and for those of you whom suffer from this affliction, I feel your pain. Calories, fat, SODIUM, SUGAR or high fructose corn syrup…and the list goes on. Salad dressings, barbeque sauce, steak sauce, soy sauce are all part of my pantry and contribute to the marinating process quite a bit. Like with all good things in life, they require some moderation, but by no means are they detrimental if used occasionally.

I combat this by making my own marinades when I have the time and resources. Simple things to keep in your pantry can not only save you money, but time as well. If you can, try to take note of what you have in your pantry as far as stand alone items. Think of combining these items together to create you own marinades using the above. (1,2,3)

If you had to go out and repurchase everything to equip your pantry for this, it would cost a fortune. So use what you have and buy items when they are on sale to restock your pantry with marinade friendly items. Always have oil, whatever kind you like…may I suggest an olive oil and a vegetable oil? I would also suggest the following: Soy sauce (low sodium), Worcestershire sauce (also available in low sodium), your favorite hot sauce, your favorite barbeque sauce, ketchup, and mustard.

Then try out some new vinegars. I am sure you have red wine vinegar or white vinegar already. They work well with oil and garlic, salt and pepper. That’s all you need. What you may like is to add some balsamic or flavored vinegar to your arsenal. They make it all including rice wine, pear, peach and champagne vinegars, so experiment with your taste buds.

You can also substitute just about any vinegar with a citrus fruit. And don’t forget to use the zest. The outside colored skin (not the white pith) of lemons, limes and oranges are filled with flavor and aromatic oils that add incredible punch. You can buy a fancy zester, or just use your box cheese grater.

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil (1/4 cup)
  • Zest of one lime/lemon
  • Juice of ½-1 lime/lemon
  • 1-2 gloves garlic minced (fresh)
  • Hefty pinch kosher salt
  • Hefty pinch freshly ground peppercorns

You can use that on anything and everything, including vegetables and even as a salad dressing. Then, you start branching off and adding things according to your tastes and BAM, you are master of your grill!

As far as how to and how long, well that is dependent on the most important thing…your time. If you can’t marinade overnight, you can sneak in at least 30-45 minutes and still get the benefit of the flavor enhancement. The longer you can marinade, the more the food will become tender, but if you’re marinating fish or shellfish it need not be more than an hour. Oh yeah, have plenty of zip-top bags!

Now I would like to name drop a few store bought bottles I can’t live without:

Soy Vay: Veri Veri Teriyaki

Kikkoman: Less Sodium Soy Sauce

Kikkoman: Low Sodium Teriyaki Sauce

Dale’s seasoning: Low Sodium Blend

Lea & Perrins: Reduced Sodium Worcestershire Sauce

Sticky Fingers: Habanero Hot BBQ Sauce

Sticky Fingers: Memphis Original BBQ Sauce

Huy Fong: Sriracha Hot Sauce

Tabasco: Green Jalapeño Pepper Sauce

Franks: Red Hot Wings Buffalo

Lusty Monk: Original Ground Mustard (the Chipotle is also awesome and hot!)

Gulden’s: Spicy Brown Mustard

Alessi: White Balsamic Vinegar

Alessi: Pear Infused Balsamic Vinegar

Up next…your spice rack



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About 34BBQ

I am here to share my experiences in the culinary outdoors...and to get people grilling all year 'round! I am "culinary enthusiast" who studied the arts at Culinary and Wine Institute - University of South Carolina. I love food photography and BBQ and I like to cook using my outdoor grills as much as I can. -Jay

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