It could be that the great foods of summer just don’t need much fussing with, or it might be that the warm weather makes me a bit lazy. Whatever the case, I’ve found that having a pantry of flavorful ingredients on hand to throw together for homemade rubs and marinades is a summer necessity. Marinades tenderize proteins with acids and oils and rubs help foods develop a delicious crust. Both add tremendous flavor, and it takes just minutes to put a brilliant one together.
In addition to a standard selection of oils and vinegars, fresh herbs and spice-cabinet standbys like cumin and cayenne, here are my top ten picks for filling out the shelves:
Chile heads want them in everything, purists use them in moderation, but every grilling pantry should have a selection. Choose fresh ones for marinades, and dried ground ones like ancho or chipotle for rubs.
Finely grind it for a rich, deeply flavored addition to rubs. It’s unforgettable for beef, duck and venison. Try this recipe for Cedar Grilled Flat Iron Steaks with Coffee Rub.
In addition to sweetness, brown, turbinado or muscovado sugar will add a lovely caramel flavor to rubs and marinades, like in this Korean-Style Grilled Steak.
Nothing beats its deep flavor in Asian-style marinades. It’s famously pungent and briny, so add it sparingly.
Garlic, garlic, garlic!
A go-to for fabulous flavor. Use minced garlic in marinades, dried granulated garlic for dry rubs.
Bold, spicy, lingering flavor makes ginger a superstar. Use fresh minced root in marinades and dried ground ginger in rubs.
Honey and Agave Nectar
These are the most versatile sweeteners for marinades and blend easily with other ingredients. Turn to molasses and maple syrup when you want stronger, deeper flavor.
Lemons, limes, and other citrus
Their juices are a great acid for marinades, and don’t forget their zest for rubs. Try this Citrus Marinated Salmon.
Great color, plus deep, natural smoke flavor.
Deep, rich and packed with satisfying umami (savory) flavor, it’s ideal for marinades of almost any stripe but particularly for Asian-influenced ones.
How does your pantry contribute to great rubs and marinades? Share your tips and suggestions in the comments section below.