On the Grill: Marinade, Rub or Glaze?

Mechele R. Dillard's picture

When adding flavor to grilled meats and veggies, a good marinade, rub or glaze is a great option, but which to choose?

As summer continues, the heat is rising all over the country. According to recent reports from The Weather Channel, the temperature is running above average all across the nation. With a heat wave bearing down, no one wants to be inside at the stove. For cooking, the grill is a great option right now. But, if you are one of the many doing BBQ this summer, do you marinade, rub or glaze your meat, or even give it a combination of all three?


Giving your meat a good soak in a marinade can add flavor, and using acidic ingredients works as a tenderizer, which can be especially helpful for tougher cuts of beef or pork. Liquid ingredients, such as fruit and/or vegetable juices, wine, water, broth or oil, are combined with seasonings and herbs, and the meat is left to soak for a period of time. The tougher the meat, the longer the marinating process should/can be; some meats, like fish, are less able to tolerate a long soak, particularly a strongly acidic marinade, which can actually cook some cuts, like chicken or fish. Beef generally should be marinated a minimum of six hours to overnight, while some cuts of pork, as well as fish and chicken, can often gain great benefit and flavor from only 15 minutes to two hours of marinade time.

A simple marinade to try: ¼ cup olive oil, 1 tsp. garlic powder, 2 tsp. oregano leaves and ½ tsp. black pepper. Mix together and pour into a resealable bag with two boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Massage to be sure the marinade covers the chicken, then zip closed and set in the fridge for at least two hours. This marinade, not having an acid, works well on chicken for an overnight marinade, as well. Experiment with your own favorite flavors. And remember: While using the marinade to brush on during grilling is fine, reusing the marinade or using it as a dip AFTER cooking can get you sick—don’t do it.


Rubs are simply mixes of dry spices rubbed onto a piece of meat before putting on the grill. They can bring great taste to the outside of the meat, and can work together with marinades to produce an all-over yummy piece of meat, inside and out. Some people like letting the rub “set” before cooking, while others just rub it on and go. And, some like to give the meat a light coating of oil or butter first, to make the rub “stick,” while others find that they prefer a straight massage onto the meat.

You can purchase prepared rubs, but mixing together your own favorite herbs and spices—some of mine are garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cumin, black pepper, cayenne pepper and oregano—is simple and can be tailored to your specific tastes. And, when you hit on a combination you like, you can make a large amount and store for easy use in the future. Just mix and pour into a sealed storage container or resealable plastic bag for a quick rub anytime you feel like it.


Glazing is the last wave of flavor on a grilled piece of meat. It can add not only a nice “sheen” to the meat, but it also gives meat that nice stickiness on our fingers many of us associate with our BBQ. Glazes are typically high in sugar, and can burn easily, so simply brushing on the glaze during the last five minutes or so during cooking, whether it be a coat of BBQ sauce, honey, or your favorite jelly thinned down with a bit of water, is the best technique for this option. And, in a burger rut? Give your burgers a zing with a quick glaze a the end of cooking!

Could you do all three? Sure, you could! But, remember, each flavor you marinate, rub or glaze onto the meat will give it a new layer of taste, so be sure your flavors are not cancelling each other out, over-amplifying a particular seasoning (overdoing it on the heat or the sweet can happen pretty quickly, for example), or, worst of all, conflicting with each other, producing a non-desirable taste.

And, could you try these techniques with veggies? Sure, go for it, especially with “meaty” veggies like mushrooms and eggplant.

Oh, and in case you want to check to see what the weather will be doing before you make grilling plans this weekend, check out The Weather Channel online.

Happy grilling!

Image: Wikimedia Commons