When it comes to BBQs, the meat can be something of a challenge – it’s either cooked well, too well or undercooked and there’s really not a lot of leeway. By contrast, the spices and marinades for the meat are much more of an art as there are so many variations and choices.
Barbequing is much more complex than having the perfect grill, and as such getting the right seasoning mixture can often be that much more rewarding than having an expensive machine.
It is worth noting that spices are different to a marinade. Spices can be used individually or in combination and used as a ‘rub’, only dry ingredients are used, including not only spices but also dried and powdered herbs, salt and sugar, as well as other powdered ingredients such as stock. This is then rubbed over the meat before it is cooked. In some cases, the salt is added separately before the rest of the rub. This is usually the case if the salt is used primarily for its tenderizing properties rather than taste.
A rub begins with a sugar base, which should form most of the rub. Ultimately it comes down to personal preference, but generally sugar makes up over two thirds or three quarters of the total rub. You then add in the spices for different flavours. If you want something hot then go for chili powder or pepper. Onion powder, garlic powder, and paprika are also common spices to use.
A marinade is a liquid that the meat is soaked in for flavour, usually for some hours before it is cooked. To make your own marinade, you will need four main elements. You will need an acid, which will tenderize the meat. The most common examples are vinegar and lemon juice, although wine or cider can also be used. You also need oil, which helps keep the meat moist but also helps bind the spices into the marinade. The recipe for the marinade should be three parts oil per one part acid. Then you’ll need to add the spices to add the flavour and finally some salt, which improves the marinade and the meat too.
Because marinades are acidic, they should not be placed in containers such as aluminium. To be safe, keep marinades in plastic or glass containers. If you marinade fish to barbecue, then you should only marinade it for about a half an hour; if left to marinate too long, the fish will start to cook in the acidic juice.