Alright Sister, you’re taking charge of the grill this season. You’ve got your pink polka-dot apron, your shiny new spatula and tongs, and a determination to master that darned grill before summer fully strikes. Before you get started, you’ll need to know a few basics on how to make grilled foods taste awesome. Between the glaze, the marinade and the rub, you’ve got a few choices on how to sauce up your entrée–and do it better than Pop. Read on to learn the differences among them and where they each work best.
What it is: The glaze is a thick, rich sauce brushed onto meats, roasts and big ol’ chunky foods as they are cooking on the grill. Often sweet and spicy by nature, common glazes include barbeque sauces, honey sauces and fruit sauces. Make a glaze with fruit jams and jellies, whisked into a small amount of oil, water and seasonings like brown sugar, cayenne and dried herbs. Apple butter, pineapple juice, honey, fig jam and strawberry jelly are all common bases for a sweet, delectable glaze. Whatever your mix, aim to get your glaze the consistency of barbeque sauce, and slather it over your grilled entrée every now and again as it cooks over the hot coals.
Where it works: The glaze works best over thicker cuts of meat and chunky tofu-based dishes, such as pork tenderloin, pork chops, tofu burgers and ribs.
What it is: The marinade is what your meats, veggies and anything else going on the grill get tossed in for at least a few hours and up to overnight to soak up flavor. Usually vinaigrette-like in consistency, the marinade is thin and water-based (with just a drizzle of oil), so that it can properly absorb into the grilling medium and infuse it with the marinade’s flavors. A marinade should include something savory (usually soy sauce), something pungent (usually garlic or onions), something spicy (hot peppers or cayenne) and your main flavors of the dish (Italian seasonings, fresh herbs, Asian spices, etc.). Submerge your grilling medium completely in the marinade and cover until you are ready to grill. Then shake off excess marinade before it hits the heat. Fish will only need to marinate about 30 minutes, whereas heartier meats or tofu entrees can go overnight for maximum flavor absorption.
Where it works: Marinades are best when used in foods that can absorb the flavors over time, or in those cuts of meat that are cheaper and tougher and can benefit from a bit of softening. Beef stew meat, tofu kebabs, fish fillets, jumbo portabellas and sliced eggplant are all delicious with a good marinating.
What it is: The rub is a dry mixture of spices and minced flavor ingredients that is literally rubbed onto the surface of your grilling medium. Mexican-inspired rubs may include chili powder, cumin, oregano and red pepper flakes, as well as minced garlic and cilantro. A good rub imbues a flavor of sweet, smoky and spicy flavors into the meat without changing too much of the texture. Add a bit of oil or water to the rub for smoother rubbing, and now you have a wet rub.
Where it works: Rubs are delicious over most cuts of meat, such as chops, steaks and loins. On the vegetarian side of foods, a rub won’t be very effective over vegetables and fruits (as the spices won’t stick to the surface), but it could be great over tempeh, tofu and seitan. With all rubs, allow the spices to sit for about 30 minutes for the flavors to marry.