BBQ sauces and rubs are one thing every grill chef is particular about—as they should be! The perfect BBQ sauce, rub or marinade adds flavor and moisture to meat, but every chef has his or her own unique ingredients. We’ve broken the recipes down into six components so you can make sure to have them on hand to create your own signature rubs and marinades this summer for all your BBQ parties, dinners and experiments.
Step 1: Salts
Savoury dishes need a salty background flavour that can then be combined with other flavours to balance it for the BBQ.
Salt: refined; usually iodized; fine grained
Kosher salt: no additives; coarse grained
Sea salt: from evaporated seawater; can be fine grained or flakes
Seasoned salt: regular salt mixed with flavours (garlic salt, onion salt, celery salt…)
Step 2: Sugars
Make sure to consider your salt to sugar ratio. A higher ratio of salt works best in rubs or sauces for beef, fish and chicken where a higher sugar ratio tastes great with pork.
White sugar: highly refined cane sugar; will caramelize at hot temps and burn at hotter ones
Brown sugar: white sugar combined with molasses; adds color and a distinct flavor as well as caramelization
Honey: adds the sweetness like sugars do but with a more rounded flavour
Maple Syrup: again, adds a sweet flavour along with that great Canadian Maple flavour we all love
Step 3: Peppers
Dry rubs need to be balanced not only in flavor but also in heat. Add ground pepper to the salt-sugar mix in small increments until your ideal blend of heat and flavor is reached. Adding more pepper is always an option, but you can’t remove it, so go slow.
Cayenne: also called ground red pepper. This hot powder provides instant heat.
White: with a lighter color and a milder flavor, it provides gentle heat and background warmth.
Black: it has a strong, distinct “pepper” flavour. Fine- or course-ground, both work great.
Chile: not to be confused with chili powder, flavors can vary from very hot to mild. Smoked chile powders such as ground chipotle are also widely available.
Step 4: Transition Flavours
Transition flavours tie the sweet, salty, and peppery flavours together. These are not as strong as the other flavours, so they can be added with a heavier hand.
Chili powder: a pungent earthy flavor. Use with beef, lamb, pork, and wild game.
Cumin: aromatic with a nutty, light peppery flavor. Use with beef, poultry, fish, pork, and seafood.
Paprika: Hungarian paprika has a deeper, heartier flavor, while Spanish paprika has a milder flavor. Use with beef, poultry, fish, pork, and seafood.
Citrus: Lemon, lime and even orange and grapefruit offer a nice mellowing of stronger, spicer and saltier sauces and rubs. And it tenderizes the meat nicely as well.
Onion Powder: Not to be confused with onion salt, this is a great way to get a fresh, bright onion-y flavour in your dry rubs.
Step 5: Your Signature Flavors
This is the time to stamp your name and your personality on your grilled fare. Be creative and taste as you go — you may come up with the next great thing!
Coriander: use with pork, lamb, poultry and beef.
Dill: use with chicken and fish.
Garlic powder: use with pork, beef, lamb, poultry, seafood, and wild game.
Ginger: use with wild game, fish, seafood, pork, and poultry.
Oregano: use with lamb, beef, and fish.
Mustard or mustard powder: use with beef, lamb, poultry, pork, and wild game.
Rosemary: use with fish and poultry.
Thyme: use with beef, fish, pork, and poultry.
Step 6: Even More Uniqueness
If you are a bit more daring with your Q’ed fare, why not try adding something even more unique to your sauces and rubs to make the flavour completely your own?
Liquor: Whisky is obvious…but have you tried Irish Creme on your BBQ chicken?
Wine: another obvious choice for beef, lamb or wild game, red wine is an excellent addition to your signature sauce
Coffee: used wet or dry (ground), coffee is a great flavour boost for beef that no one will see coming
Fresh herbs: sprinkling fresh herbs on top of meat as soon as it’s pulled off the BBQ will infuse a very slight flavour at the end of cooking, while it rests (you can also make herb butters that will melt in your mouth on top of things like lamb or pork chops).
Roasted Garlic: another pretty obvious addition to a rub or sauce, garlic is delicious and sweet when grilled and can be spread directly on the meat or served on the side.
Cinnamon: yes, cinnamon is great with meat (and potatoes!), especially chicken. Try it — you’ll be pleasantly surprised
Yogurt: a great way to marinate chicken (with just salt and pepper or other wild flavours); it keeps it very moist on the inside
Cashew Butter (or other nut butters): the natural oils make it a natural choice for grilling, but have you tried it? It’s delicious on all meats!
What’s your go-to BBQ seasoning? Do you like salty? Sweet? Or a combination of both? Do you prefer wet or dry marinades?