Go ahead and rub it in. Massage that dry rub all over the exterior of bird, beef or boar. Fish and tofu are good candidates, too. Sprinkle it on and use your fingertips to spread the mixture of herbs, spices and salt. Don't be shy.
Now, slam that well-seasoned beauty on a heated, well-oiled grill and wait a few minutes.
Smell the smoke. It’s a seductive scent, the aroma of juice melding with vibrant flavorings as they drip on the fire, the exposed surface gently caramelizing as it cooks.
Last-minute rubs act as simple seasoning elements. Apply the mixture an hour or two before grilling and refrigerate; the rub acts as both a seasoning and a cure, soaking deeper into the flesh.
Flavorful marinades spike entrees with bold flavors, too.
Marinades generally contain three elements: an acidic liquid (such as citrus juice or wine), a moisturizer (such as oil) and seasonings. Foods bathe in the liquid, some only for a few minutes, but most often for several hours in the refrigerator.
I asked four experts to give tips for using rubs and marinades to render delectable grilled entrees. Here is what they had to say:Pork
Steven Raichlen, grilling guru and cookbook author, says pork is particularly delicious with spice rubs and any marinade with a fruity component.
‘‘It’s a fatty meat and that equals delicious when it combines with smoke,’’ he says, adding that his basic barbecue rub is great with pork because it has an element of sweetness. He says it is especially good used on fattier cuts, such as pork ribs and pork shoulder.
His basic rub combines brown sugar with spices, plus garlic and onion powder. It calls for plenty of sweet paprika, but those who prefer a spicier blend can substitute some (or all) hot paprika.
He says the general rule of thumb is to use a marinade with leaner cuts (such as loin or tenderloin), and a dry rub with fattier cuts. But rules are meant to be broken, and he quickly rattled off several exceptions.
I asked him about his Mojo Marinade. It’s pronounced, this classic Caribbean mixture turns pork chops, pork loins and tenderloins into delicacies. The mixture combines citrus juices, oil, garlic and herbs. Half is used as a marinade. The other half is set aside to use as a sauce.Beef and chicken
Judith Fertig, who along with Karen Adler has written three grilling cookbooks, says to team beef with something with an umami flavor. Even if you don’t recognize the word, you’ve probably tasted umami. It’s in soy sauce, aged cheeses, anchovies, tomatoes and, most of all, mushrooms. Often labeled the fifth taste (a sensation distinct from sweet, salty, bitter and sour), umami imparts a savory meaty flavor.
‘‘I love to grill beef tenderloin or rib-eye steaks rubbed with a Creole Coffee Rub,’’ Fertig says. ‘‘The coffee gives you a hint of deep, dark umami that is absolutely delicious. It is great on less expensive cuts, too. On a flank steak, you could marinate it first in bottled Italian dressing, then pat it dry and rub it on. Or rub it on a thick sirloin steak. With either cut (flank steak or thick sirloin steak), slice it and serve it over a bed of tossed greens. You can feed a lot of people that way and it’s not as expensive. ‘‘Or take any kind of dried wild mushrooms and grind them (into a powder) in a clean spice grinder and then mix with salt and pepper. Use it as a dry rub, or use it as a base for a grilling paste, which is halfway between a marinade and a dry rub.’’
To turn a rub into a paste, she says to add some moist ingredients, such as minced garlic and a little olive oil. Add some dried red pepper flakes and brush it on the beef. Cover and refrigerate for as little as one hour, or let it chill overnight.
As for chicken, she says, it is naturally kind of sweet yet bland, so it needs something with a little razzle-dazzle added to it. In her latest book, ‘‘BBQ Bash’’ (Harvard Common Press, $16.95), she gives a simple recipe for a Chic Chicken Rub made with 1 tablespoon granulated garlic, 1 tablespoon lemon pepper and 1 /2 cup kosher salt.
She also recommends a Sicilian-style marinade for chicken made by combining 1 /4 cup minced garlic, 3 /4 cup olive oil, 3 /4 cup dry white wine, 3 /4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1 /2 cup chopped fresh parsley, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint and 1 /2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes. This is enough for 3 whole chickens. She recommends that the chickens marinate at least 1 hour, or up to 8 hours.Fish
Marisa Neal, co-owner of Santa Monica Seafood, says rubs and marinades can play an important role in fish grilling, especially when cooking fish filets and steaks.
‘‘I like a lemon pepper-based rub, or one that is mesquite flavored,’’ she says, adding that she uses the store-bought rubs sold at her stores. ‘‘The rub helps to give the exterior a different texture, to make it crisp and add robust flavor.
As for marinades, she says a full-flavored fish such as tuna or swordfish doesn’t necessarily need a marinade, while milder fish such as tilapia can greatly benefit. She likes a marinade that her late father, Anthony Cigliano, used. It’s a mixture of olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, oregano and crushed red pepper.
She cautions cooks to limit marinating time to no more than 20-30 minutes to avoid creating an unpleasant texture. If using teriyaki or other soy-based marinades that are lower in acid, fish can soak a little longer.
Grill delicate fish resting on a piece of foil with a little of the marinade puddled around it; firm fish can grill directly on a well-oiled grid. As for cooking times, she uses the 10-minute rule: Cook about 10 minutes per inch of thickness over a medium-hot fire. About halfway through the cooking time, turn the fish. To check for doneness, use a fork or knife tip to check for flakiness in the thickest area. She suggests that generally fish be grilled to medium-rare because it continues to cook a bit after it is removed from the heat.Tempeh and tofu
Mark Cleveland, chef and co-owner of Avanti Cafe in Costa Mesa, Calif., says grilling tempeh (fermented soybean cake) and tofu is a matter of flavoring it, then heating it through while giving it a lovely smoky taste.
‘‘When it comes to grilling, half-inch-thick tempeh has a texture that is a more pleasant than tofu because it won’t break up,’’ he says. ‘‘Marinate it in a citrus-oil mixture. Simmer a high-quality olive oil along with some sliced garlic, and then off heat add the zest of one lemon and one lime.
Whisk in some white or red miso and some black pepper.
‘‘Put it in the marinade in the morning or even the night before, then you have both flavor and a protective coating so it won’t stick to the grill.
Grill it when the coals burn down, or if it’s on a gas grill, use the low setting.’’
For tofu, he likes to grill on cedar planks. He cuts firm tofu into 3-inch cubes and weights the cubes for a couple of hours to remove excess moisture and improve the texture. To weight it, place tofu between two layers of paper towel on a baking sheet. Place a second baking sheet over tofu, and set a can or two on top and refrigerate.
He skewers and marinates the cubes in either the citrus-oil mixture or a mixture of rice vinegar, grated ginger, chopped green onion and soy sauce.
Before grilling, he dips one side of each cube into black sesame seeds, and the opposite side into white sesame seeds. Placed plain-side down on the plank, he grills them until heated through. He likes to serve these colorful cubes with a carrot salad.
So whether your pleasure is pork or beef, chicken or tofu, it’s grillin’ season.
COFFEE-RUBBED FILET MIGNON
2 tablespoons finely ground chicory coffee or espresso 1 tablespoon Spanish paprika 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar 1 teaspoon dry mustard 2 teaspoons kosher salt or sea salt 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper 1 1 /2 teaspoons oregano 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper Olive oil 4 (8-ounce) boneless filet mignon
Prepare hot fire in grill. In small bowl, combine coffee, paprika, sugar, mustard, salt, peppers, oregano and cayenne pepper. Brush steaks with olive oil and season both sides with rub. Grill steaks, covered, for 3 minutes on each side for medium-rare. Cooking times vary depending.
Nutritional information (per serving): Calories 300 (72 percent from fat), protein 19.1 g, carbohydrates 2.1 g, fat 23.7 g (saturated 9.5 g) Cholesterol 80 mg, sodium 862 mg, fiber 0.1 g
MOJO-MARINATED PORK TENDERLOIN
1 /2 cup olive oil 8 large cloves garlic, peeled, thinly sliced crosswise 1 teaspoon ground cumin or more to taste 1 /2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice 1 /2 cup orange juice 1 1 /2 teaspoons coarse salt, or more to taste 1 /2 teaspoon black pepper 1 /2 teaspoon ground oregano 1 /3 cup water 1 /4 cup chopped fresh cilantro or mint 2 to 3 pork tenderloins (1 1 /2 pounds total) 2 large sweet onions cut into 1 /2-inch thick slices For serving: 1 navel orange, peeled, sectioned with membranes removed or peeled and sliced
Prepare mojo: Heat oil in deep saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and cumin; cook until garlic is fragrant and pale golden color, 1 to 2 minutes. Yield: 4 servings.
Do NOT let garlic brown too much or it will be bitter. Cautiously add lime and orange juice (it may sputter, so stand back). Cautiously add salt, pepper, oregano and water. Stir and bring sauce to boil. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and/or cumin if needed. Cool to room temperature. Add cilantro.
Trim tenderloins of silverskin (sinew on exterior), if present. Place in single layer in nonreactive 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Pour half of the mojo over pork and marinate, covered, in refrigerator at least 3 hours, preferably overnight, turning occasionally to insure even marinating.
Refrigerate remaining mojo to serve as a sauce.
Preheat grill (if using gas, preheat to high). Remove pork from marinade and discard marinade (keeping reserved marinade for sauce). Brush and oil grill grate. Arrange tenderloins on grill. Brush onion with some of the reserved mojo, skewer them crosswise on bamboo skewers or toothpicks. Place on grill. Grill pork and onions until cooked to taste. The meat will take 3 to 4 minutes on each of its 4 sides, 12 to 16 minutes in all for medium. To test of doneness, insert an instant-read thermometer in the thickest part of meat. The internal temperature should be about 155 to 160 degrees. Onions should be nicely charred after about 4 to 6 minutes per side.
Transfer meat to cutting board and let it rest for 3 minutes. Slice tenderloins crosswise on the diagonal. Fan out slices on plates or platter and top with onions (removed from skewers). Spoon the reserved mojo and garnish with orange segments or slices. Serve.
Nutritional information (per serving): Calories 275 (65 percent from fat), protein 19.9 g, carbohydrates 1.9 g, fat 20.9 g (saturated 7.8 g)
Cholesterol 79 mg, sodium 788 mg, fiber 0.2 g
Source: Adapted from ‘‘How to Grill’’ by Steven Raichlen (Workman, $19.95)
RAICHLEN’S BASIC BARBECUE RUB
1 /4 cup firmly packed brown sugar 1 /4 cup sweet paprika 3 tablespoons black pepper 3 tablespoons coarse salt 1 tablespoon hickory-smoked salt or more coarse salt 2 teaspoons garlic powder 2 teaspoons onion powder 2 teaspoons celery seeds 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Combine all ingredients in mixing bowl and stir to mix. Your hands work better than a spoon to break up any lumps of brown sugar. Store the rub in airtight jar away from heat or light; it will keep for up to 6 months. Use this rub on chicken or pork or robust fish such as salmon.
Nutritional information (per teaspoon): Calories 8 (less than 1 percent from fat), protein 0.2 g, carbohydrates 1.8 g, fat 0 g (saturated 0 g) Cholesterol 0 mg, sodium 550 mg, fiber 0 g
Source: ‘‘How to Grill’’ by Steven Raichlen (Workman)