Rubs, Marinades, and Sauces

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Barbecuing and Grilling with Flair

by Nancy Gerlach, Food Editor Emeritus


Recipe Index:

Texas-Style Beef Brisket

Grilled Artichokes with Chile Dipping Sauce

Fourth of July Barbecue Baked Beans

Spit Roasted Chicken with Spicy Wild Rice Stuffing

Blackened Red Snapper

Barbecue cooks have individual preferences about the proper meats and sauces to use, which differ from region to region. The various seasoning methods produce different results, and can be divided into three main categories: rubs–wet and dry, marinades, and sauces. Following are descriptions of each, along with cooking suggestions and recipes. Although barbecuing is one of the oldest cooking methods on earth, remember that the rules are not set in stone. Use these guidelines as a base, then create some classics of your own.


Rubs come in two forms, either dry or wet. A dry rub, sometimes called barbecue spice, is a combination of ground spices and herbs. To use a dry rub, spread thickly over the meat and rub into the surface. Wet rubs or pastes are literally dry rubs that are bound by a liquid, usually oil. Because they cannot be applied as thickly, they are milder in flavor than the dry versions, which makes them good on delicate fish or poultry. The exceptions are the Jamaican jerk pastes which are fiery and strongly flavored even when thinly spread. Besides adding flavor, wet rubs also help keep the meat moist during long cooking periods. Meat is also usually treated with a rub, paste or marinade before it is smoked. These all add flavor, and, in some cases, assist in tenderizing the meat. When using a rub on chicken, be sure to rub it on and under the skin. Allow the rub to soak into the meat, almost forming a crust, before cooking.

Rub ingredients vary depending on the meats for which they are intended. Most rubs contain paprika, black pepper, ground chile, and garlic powder. Salt and sugar are common, although some feel that salt dries the meat by drawing out moisture, and that sugar can burn during cooking. Bruce Pinnell of Big Bruce’s Gunpowder Foods is experimenting with different wood flavors in his blends. His Cactus Trail Fajita Seasoning uses applewood smoke to produce a slightly sweet taste.


A marinade is a seasoned liquid that contains a tenderizing acidic ingredient such as vinegar, wine, soy sauce, or citrus juice. Marinade seasonings can be a combination of herbs, spices, and even vegetables, but they generally reflect the tastes of the region in which they were made. For example, Bubba Brand Back Bay Marinade from South Carolina contains bourbon and peaches, while Chuck Evans’ Mayan Magic (Montezuma Foods) uses exotic annato seed and sour orange juice to duplicate the taste of a pit barbecue, or pib, in Yucatán.

Regardless of the ingredient combination, all marinades are used by soaking meat in them to add flavor and to tenderize before cooking. Always follow the directions carefully since some foods, especially fish and shrimp, can become mushy if left in too long. Always be sure to marinate in a non-reactive pan or a plastic bag.


There are regional differences and preferences regarding types of sauces and sauce bases. Southern sauces are typically vinegar and pepper-based, while South Carolinians prefer mustard. In the Midwest and Texas as well as farther west, the sauces are most often tomato-based and spicy. In the far West, fresh herbs and citrus fruits are used.

Additionally, there are Asian barbecue sauces, and some that use alcohol like Jim Beam bourbon or Zinfandel wine for flavoring. Specialty sauces include one designed specifically for game, and another white barbecue sauce for fish and poultry. The chiles in some of these sauces vary from mild jalapeños to fiery habaneros and African bird peppers, as found in Mad Dog BBQ Sauce. However, the tomato and ketchup-based types still outsell all others.

One thing almost all these sauces have in common is a sweetener, which can be sugar (white or brown,) honey, molasses, or even maple syrup. Because sugars tend to burn easily, sauces should only be used during the last hour of cooking. This is especially true with tomato-based sauces which will blacken long before the meat is done.

All of these sauces provide an easy way to prepare tasty dishes in a relatively short period of time. While it’s difficult to find the time to prepare and simmer your own sauces these days, you can quickly turn a commercial product into your own signature sauce by adding ingredients such as chiles, hot pepper sauces, ginger, or even fruits.

Other Uses

Versatility is key to increased sales, so manufacturers and retailers should point out that many of these products can be used outside of the grill. For instance, some of the marinades can substitute for salad dressings. Jeff Campbell of the Stonewall Chili Pepper Company makes a killer coleslaw with his BBQ Baste & Marinade. Or try replacing the sauce on your next pizza with a barbecue sauce and then top it with an unconventional meat, such as chorizo. Some barbecue sauces are delicious on pasta. The folks at Gator Hammock make a terrific burrito by stuffing a flour tortilla with pulled pork that has been mixed with their Gator Que and then adding a little onion and cheese. Dry rubs are also good in place of garlic on toast, on baked potatoes, and even sprinkled on french fries.

So, even if customers are not barbecue lovers or cannot barbecue, they can enjoy many of these fine products in a variety of other ways. The following recipes show just some of the possibilities.



Texas-Style Beef Brisket

This easy, basic recipe uses the combination of a rub and a sauce to create the taste of a traditional barbecue for those who don’t have a pit or a smoker.

1 4 to 6-pound beef brisket
1 jar barbecue rub
2 to 3 cups barbecue sauce

Trim the fat on the brisket to 1/4-inch. Rub the barbecue rub evenly and thickly over the brisket. After coating, wrap in plastic or seal in a plastic bag and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.

Light the grill.

Place the brisket, fat side up, in a disposable aluminum pan or on a large piece of foil. Add ½ cup of water and cover tightly with another piece of foil. Place the pan in the center of the grill over a very slow fire of briquettes.

Cover the cooker and cook for 5 hours, turning the brisket every 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Pour off the fat in the pan as it accumulates and add water, ½ cup at a time, as needed.

Remove the brisket and reserve the remaining pan juices. Place the meat directly on the grill.

Combine the drippings with the barbecue sauce and brush over the brisket. Replace the cover on the cooker and cook for 1 additional hour, basting occasionally with the sauce. Simmer the remaining sauce mixture 10 to 15 minutes.

Slice the brisket diagonally across the grain into thin slices and serve with the sauce.

Serves: 8 to 10

NOTE: This recipe requires advance preparation.


Grilled Artichokes with Chile Dipping Sauce

These artichokes are so easy to prepare and are a great accompaniment to any barbecue of grilled meat, poultry, or fish.

4 small fresh artichokes
1 cup oil-and-vinegar-based barbecue basting sauce or barbecue marinating sauce
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 teaspoons minced serrano chiles
1 teaspoon lime juice

Cut the artichokes in half vertically and scoop out the dark leaves and the “fur.” Poach the artichokes in boiling, salted water until the leaves start to come off.

Remove and drain. Marinate in the marinade or grilling sauce for 2 hours.

Combine the mayonnaise, cilantro, chiles, and lime juice.

Grill the artichokes for 3 to 6 minutes on each side, remove and drizzle additional sauce over the top. Serve with the dipping sauce.

Serves: 4


Fourth of July Barbecue Baked Beans

White “Haricot Beans” include types such as Great Northern, navy, cannellini, white kidney, and small white beans, and they comprise the most versatile of the common beans. Serve these as a hot replacement for the traditional baked beans at your next picnic or barbecue.

1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 teaspoons New Mexican chile powder
4 slices uncooked bacon, cut in ½-inch pieces
1-1/2 cups barbecue sauce
1/4 cup beer or water
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon dry mustard
3 cups cooked Great Northern beans

Sauté the onion and garlic in the oil until they are soft.

Combine the onion mixture, chile powder, bacon, barbecue sauce, beer, sugar and mustard. Mix this sauce with the beans.

Cover and bake the beans in a 325 degree oven for 1 hour or until the beans are heated through and coated with the sauce.

Serves: 4 to 6


Spit Roasted Chicken with Spicy Wild Rice Stuffing

Roasting the chicken along with the stuffing makes for an easy dinner. To complete the meal, cut zucchinis lengthwise and brush them with chile oil. Grill during the last 15 to 20 minutes of cooking, remove and sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.

1 2-1/2 to 3-pound whole chicken
3 tablespoons barbecue dry rub for chicken
½ cup wild rice
½ cup white rice
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 cup chicken broth
½ cup chopped onions
4 sun-dried tomatoes chopped
½ teaspoon cayenne powder
½ teaspoon dried sage, crumbled

Rub the chicken with the barbecue rub, being sure to put some under the skin. Allow the rub to penetrate at room temperature while you prepare the stuffing.

In a sauce pan, cover the wild rice with 1-1/3 cups boiling water, return to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 40 to 45 minutes or until tender. It is not necessary to drain the rice thoroughly, but drain off any excess water.

Sauté the white rice in the oil for 2 to 3 minutes. Bring the broth to a boil, add the white rice, and return to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Do not drain.

Add the wild rice, onions, tomatoes, cayenne, and sage to the rice and mix well. Spoon the mixture loosely into the chicken cavities. Secure the neck skin to the back of the chicken. Insert the spit rod through the bird, tie the wings together, and tightly secure the bird to the rod.

Place a drip pan under the bird on the grill, lower the cover and grill over a medium heat for 2 hours or until the chicken is done.

Serves: 4


Blackened Red Snapper

Chef Paul Prudhomme made blackened fish popular. Although very tasty, trying to prepare this dish in a home kitchen can set off smoke alarms within a two-mile radius. It is much easier to do on the backyard grill, where only your immediate neighbors will think your house is on fire. A number of fish fillets work well in this recipe, including redfish, sea bass, or grouper.

4 6-ounce red snapper fillets
2 tablespoons melted butter or margarine
4 tablespoons barbecue or Cajun dry rub
Garnish: Chopped fresh parsley
Sliced lemons

Brush the fish with the butter and rub in the dry rub so that the fish is evenly coated. Cover and allow to sit for an hour at room temperature to allow the seasonings to penetrate.

Oil the barbecue grill so that the fish will not stick. When the fire is hot, place the fish skin side down and grill for 3 to 5 minutes or until the rub starts to blacken.

Turn the fish and sprinkle a little lemon juice on the cooked side to keep it moistened. Again, cook for 3 to 5 minutes.

Garnish with chopped parsley and serve with the sliced lemon.

Serves: 4


See also:

Rubs, Mops & Sops, Sauces, Marinades, and a Grill Sauce or Two

Using Rubs and Spices the Right Way


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