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  • Michelle Schwartz

Your Guide to Grilling Rubs & Marinades

Updated: Jul 7, 2023

A great rub or marinade can mean the difference between mediocre and blow-your-socks-off good when it comes to grilling. The finer points come with experience but if you're starting out, there are some basic facts that are important to know.

Both rubs and marinades are used to flavor and sometimes tenderize foods before they are cooked and they need some time to do their work. (This is a key point that I think a lot of people miss.)

The time aspect is what differentiates rubs and marinades from seasonings and bastes. While the ingredients may be similar, seasonings and bastes are applied lightly during cooking, rather than heavily well before cooking like rubs and marinades are.

What are the Differences?

Rubs - Usually dry mixes of spices and herbs that often include salt and sugar. They are applied liberally and well ahead of cooking, and they are massaged into meat. Rubs permeate meat with complementary flavors and often foster the formation of crust.

Marinades - Liquid-based flavoring and tenderizing mixtures that are applied ahead of grilling to soak into the food. Marinades are made with herbs and spices in oil, various acids or dairy. Acidic marinades are especially useful for tenderizing meat, fundamentally altering the molecular structure of meat much like cooking does. The more acid, and/or the thinner the food product it is marinating, the faster the acid will penetrate and tenderize.

Grilling Tips for Rubs and Marinades

*Give your rubs and marinades plenty of time to thoroughly permeate your food before grilling. You want to season your meats at least an hour before grilling with rubs. The general rule of thumb for marination is to allow a minimum of 1 to 2 hours per inch of meat.

*Keep grilling fare juicy by using oil-based marinades for vegetables, lean meats and fish, and kebobs.

*When using an oil-based marinade, avoid flare-ups by using a brush, rubber spatula or gloved hand to scrape away as much excess marinade as possible before placing it on the grill.

Be sure to try our Organic Grilling Rubs! One of our favorite is the Smoked Tea Rub

Some of this article taken from Frontier Co-op Spice Savvy.

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