A basic marinade ratio is one part acid, one part oil, one part aromatics, and salt and sugar to taste.
A well-stocked pantry and refrigerator serve as inspiration for homemade marinades. Here are a few suggestions for a versatile marinade pantry:
- Sherry vinegar: Considered the creme de la creme of vinegars, it is highly acidic and loaded with flavor. A chef favorite.
- Balsamic vinegar: A highly distilled vinegar flavored with caramel syrup.
- Red wine vinegar: The most common acid in vinaigrette. Opt for the most expensive you can afford; inexpensive varieties tend to be forgettable.
- White wine or champagne vinegar: These range from bland to grand. Sample a few brands and stick with the one that tastes best.
- Cider vinegar: A fruity vinegar with a bold kick.
- Raspberry vinegar: Light, bright, fruity and sweet, it’s a great choice for chicken and fish.
- Rice vinegar: A low-acid mild vinegar that blends with just about any flavor. Best in Asian-flavored marinades.
- Juices: The most common are lemon, lime and orange, but enzyme-rich pineapple and papaya work as well.
- Wine: Reds, whites and blends all work. Use inexpensive wines, but those you would be willing to drink.
- Extra-virgin olive: The monounsaturated, heart-healthy oil’s flavors run from light and fruity to bold and peppery. For added flavor, opt for oils infused with garlic, chiles or citrus.
- Walnut: A nutty-tasting oil that pairs well with fish and chicken.
- Avocado: The natural fat extracted from the fruit, this oil is similar in texture and taste to olive oil. Use for Southwestern-style marinades.
- Canola: This mild-tasting oil allows other ingredients to shine. And it has the least saturated fat of any common cooking oil. In fact, this heart-healthy oil has less than half the saturated fat of olive oil.
Kosher or sea salt.
Fresh or dried herbs, including tarragon, basil, dill, thyme and sage.
Pesto, including basil or sun-dried tomatoes.
Mustard of any kind, from Dijon to hot Chinese.
Chile sauces, salsa or hot-pepper sauce.
Honey, agave nectar or brown sugar.
Raw or roasted garlic, minced.
Ginger, minced or grated.
Chives, shallots, scallions or leeks, finely chopped.
Soy sauce or mirin.