Start with an acid, such as citrus or vinegar, or tenderizing components like tomatoes or yogurt to break down tough fibers and brighten flavors. A quarter to half of the marinade should be acid.
Oil helps keep your protein from sticking to the grill and allows the seasonings to soak in. Choose an oil, or mix of oils, that complements the flavors in the other components. High-heat-tolerant oils like avocado and peanut or neutral options like grapeseed and canola can be substituted based on preference. The marinade should be half oil.
Salt enhances flavors, whether in the form of sea salt, fish sauce, or soy sauce. Seasonings like hot chile, garlic, spices, or fresh herbs are the building blocks of flavor in your customized marinades.
Keep in mind you'll need half a cup of marinade per pound of meat or vegetables. Whisk well, taste, and adjust seasonings until flavors are balanced.
Marinate seafood, soft vegetables, and chicken for at least 30 minutes. Root vegetables, beef, lamb, and pork benefit from an overnight soak, but should hang out for a minimum of an hour.