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Homemade Rubs & Marinades


Rubs are blends of herbs, spices, salt, sugar, and other ingredients that are worked into meats before grilling to add additional flavor, color, and texture. They're classified as either dry or wet.

Dry rubs are combinations of herbs and spices that are either sprinkled on or rubbed into the meat. Wet rubs (or pastes) feature the addition of oil, molasses or another liquid ingredient to the herbs and spices; they're rubbed into the meat and also used to coat the surface.

Wet rubs generally adhere to the meat better than dry rubs and also help seal in juices to keep meats moist. No matter which type of rub you use, the most important thing to remember is that rubs are intended to enhance the flavor of the meat, not overpower it.

Here are some tips for using rubs in your grilling:

• Rubs should be worked into meats completely. For poultry, this means getting the rub under the skin.
• Apply rubs well in advance, and let the rub-coated meats absorb the flavors for at least an hour before placing them on the grill. For larger cuts of meat, such as roasts, or for whole chickens or turkeys, allow several hours (overnight is even better!) for the flavors to blend with the meat's juices. (Reminder: keep meat refrigerated until ready to grill.)
• When concocting your own rubs, be sure to make only what you'll use over the course of a couple of months, to ensure peak flavor and freshness.
• Combine ingredients a little at a time. You can always add more, but you can rarely fix a recipe in which too much of an herb or spice has been added.

Try our recipe for Rub it In! grilling rub for meats and poultry or robust vegetables.

Add a little pizazz to your grilled fare with this snappy homemade Lemon-Rosemary Rub.


Marinades, a mix of ingredients that creates a soaking solution for meat, poultry and vegetables, are yet another popular way to enhance the flavor of grilled foods. Some marinades can also double as tenderizers for less expensive cuts of meat. There are three basic types of marinades: acidic (made with citrus, vinegar, or wine), enzymatic (made with pineapple, papaya, ginger, kiwi or other foods that contain a certain type of protein enzyme), and dairy (made with buttermilk or yogurt).

Choose your marinades carefully, as their chemical reaction with the meat protein can impact meat texture. Acidic marinades can sometimes toughen foods, while enzymatic marinades can break down the surface proteins so effectively that the meat actually becomes mushy. To prepare an acidic marinade that won't result in toughness, start with one part juice, vinegar or wine, and four parts oil. When using enzymatic marinades, avoid marinating for long periods of time. And if it's tenderizing you're after, use a dairy-based marinade. The calcium activates enzymes in the meat that help break down proteins and make the meat more tender.

Be creative with your marinades! Add herbs and spices, vegetables, fruits, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, or whatever ingredients sound appealing. Marinating times should be based on the type of food you're preparing -- fish fillets need to marinate only for a few minutes, while chicken, lamb and other meats can soak for several hours.

This citrusy Lemon Marinade is great for getting vegetables, tofu, chicken or fish ready for the grill.

Wood Smoke

Part of what makes grilling so appealing is the delicious, sultry, smoky flavor it imparts in the food. Many enthusiasts use wood chips to enhance and control this flavor.

Wood chips must be pre-soaked in water for about an hour before being added to the grill. They can then either be placed in a smoker box inside your grill or tossed directly onto hot coals. (Wood chips can also be used in gas grills, but you should refer to your user's manual for instructions.) Start with about 1/4 cup of wood chips, and work up from there to achieve results that match your personal tastes and preferences. Here are some guidelines to get you started -- but be adventurous and experiment with other woods as well:

•  Alder: light-flavored smoke that complements salmon, fish, and poultry
•  Almond: nutty, sweet flavor that goes well with all meats
•  Hickory: strong flavor, good with beef and lamb
•  Maple: sweet flavor, a great choice for poultry and ham
•  Mesquite: strong smoky flavor, good with most meats
•  Oak: especially good with beef or lamb


Sauces & Glazes

Any of your favorite sauces or glazes can be applied to foods on the grill. Be sure to apply these only during the last 10 minutes of grill time, as the sugar and fat in sauces and glazes can cause flare-ups and burned food. Try Sassy Grill Sauce, a spiced-up version of traditional barbecue sauce for meat, poultry, tofu or tempeh:

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Quick Links

» Grilling Guide
» Grilling Meats, Vegetables & Fruit
» Seasoning Grilled Food
» Homemade Rubs & Marinades
» Sizzling Grilling Recipes

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