Skip to content
Home / The ABCs of Marinades and Grilling

The ABCs of Marinades and Grilling

There’s nothing like taking a summer neighborhood walk surrounded by the scents of barbecue and grilling. The leading reason grills are popular as a cooking technique is for the flavor and caramelization.

There’s a reason complex flavors develop and that grilled foods are texturally pleasing. Marinades start the breakdown of food by including an acidic or enzymatic component, allowing for flavor and the juices of the marinade to seep into the food. Oil coats the food and absorbs seasoning, making for a flavorful coating.

For the perfect marinade ratio, try 1-part acid to 3-parts oil and add seasoning such as a salty component like soy sauce and aromatics such as herbs or garlic. Don’t forget a sweet element – juice, honey or another sugary component facilitates caramelization for an unbeatable coating. Keep reading for an delicious Asian-inspired marinade recipe. Short for time? Use your favorite vinaigrette.

As components of marinades facilitates chemical reactions, it’s important to use the right vessel to marinate foods. Except for stainless steel, avoid metal containers or covering as the metal can react with the acid in the marinade and result in a metallic, bitter taste. Use glass bowls covered with plastic wrap or a sealable plastic bag.

More time soaking in a marinade doesn’t necessarily mean better. Meats that have soaked too long in an acidic marinade can make food tough and dry – follow these foolproof marination times:

  • Poultry – 2 hours
  • Fish and seafood 15-30 minutes
  • Tofu – 1 up to 24 hours
  • Beef and pork – up to 12 hours
  • Soft vegetables such as mushrooms and zucchini – 30 minutes
  • Root vegetables such as carrots and potatoes – 2 hours

Most Americans own a gas grill, followed by charcoal grills and electric grills. Proper cleaning inside and out maximizes the lifetime of the summer staple. Keep these tips in mind:

  • Always cover the grill after it cools down.
  • Clean using a wire brush or grill stone after every use. It is best done when heating up for the next grill session to avoid food particles getting stuck in a wire brush.
  • Every 10 or so uses, remove grates for cleaning, clean or replace drip pan and clean the inside of the grill.
  • Cast iron grates need some extra love – after brushing the grates clean, brush with oil to season.
  • At the end of the grill season, disconnect the gas supply and close it. Store propane tank in a ventilated area.

Grilling vegetables is best done by cutting them into uniform texture. Grill soft and dense vegetables separately as they have different cooking times.

Did you know lettuce can also be grilled? Grilled Caesar salads don’t have to be limited to fancy restaurant menus. Here’s a recipe that uses fewer dishes, less dressing and is more succulent than its raw counterpart:

Grilled Caesar Salad, serves 4


  • 3 heads of Romaine lettuce, base trimmed
  • ¼ cup Caesar dressing
  • 4 oz parmesan cheese, shaved
  • 1/ cup croutons, lightly crushed
  • Spray olive oil


  1. Start grill and heat to 400-500 degrees F.
  2. Wash and dry romaine lettuce leaves. Spray lightly with oil
  3. Spray grill grates lightly with oil and apply romaine leaves. Grill for 1-3 minutes on each side, or until grill marks have lightly formed.
  4. Transfer leaves to a plate and drizzle with 1 tbsp Caesar dressing, 2 tbsp crushed croutons and 1 oz shaved parmesan.

Shanthi’s Go-to Marinade


  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp lime
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp grated ginger
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 Green onion, chopped

Shanthi Appelö is a registered dietitian and health and wellness spokesperson for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. For more tips, visit

A Healthier Michigan
Author: A Healthier Michigan

Our mission is to help everyone in Michigan get healthier from the inside out. This means everything from giving you resources to help you make better decisions about diet and exercise, as well as information on creating and sustaining nurturing communities and successful businesses — everything you need to help create a healthier Michigan.