Repurposing that old file cabinet - turn it into a grill
Chapter 13 - Accessories & Gadgets

Chapter 12 - Sauces, Marinades, Seasoning, Pantry Items

Mike ThayerGrilling Good Eats

by Mike Thayer

Even if you aren't an experienced griller, there's no excuse for food that's underseasoned.  That's why I'm starting off this chapter with what to stock in your pantry.  You might wonder what a pantry has to do with grilling.....  FLAVOR!  Remember, we're talking creating layers of flavor, cooking over a fire is one layer, a type of wood is another layer, and sauces, marinades and seasonings enhance and add to those great grilled layers!  With a well stocked pantry, you can create virtually any kind of sauce, marinade or dry rub you can think of. 

The whole key here is to stock a grill pantry and fridge/freezer with items you really like.  Don't buy things just because it's THE trendy thing to do right now.  Don't purchase items that are just "OK" but you really don't eat that often.  If you're not a cayenne pepper kind of person, there's no sense in having a lot of that in your pantry, buy a larger amount of something you really like instead.  When it comes to dried herbs and spices, they can get pricey, so don't buy a large variety just because it might impress somebody or you think you'll try it..... but it just ends up getting old.  Buy what you know you like and if you want to experiment, great, but go small.

A pantry set up for the grill

Basics for the Grill Pantry ~ Items you need for just about whatever you're grilling or smoking

  • Kosher salt
  • Regular table salt
  • Black pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Some kind of vegetable oil
  • Vinegar ~ you could go crazy here, there are a lot of vinegars out there, regular, red wine, rice wine, balsamic, champagne, sherry...  go with what you know and like.  I keep regular, rice wine (it's mild), apple cider and balsamic on hand

Baking Basics for the Grill Pantry ~ most notably for grilling desserts in cast iron or on skewers

  • Baking chocolate
  • Biscuit and/or cornmeal mix
  • Cocoa powder (unsweetened)
  • Corn meal
  • Evaporated milk
  • Oatmeal
  • Pancake/waffle mix
  • Vanilla extract

Sweetener Basics for the Grill Pantry ~ for desserts, sauces, marinades

  • Granulated sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Powdered sugar
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses ~ a must have to make BBQ sauce!
  • Honey

Dried Herbs, Seasoning and Spice Basics for the Grill Pantry ~ remember, go with what you know and like

  • All purpose seasoning salt
  • Bouillon cubes and/or powders or pastes, beef & chicken
  • Basil
  • Bay leaves
  • Cardamon
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Chili powder
  • Crushed red pepper
  • Cumin
  • Dill
  • Garlic Powder
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Ground ginger
  • Ground nutmeg
  • Ground pumpkin spice
  • Italian seasoning mix
  • Minced onion
  • Mustard powder
  • Old Bay, regular ~ excellent with fish/seafood
  • Onion Soup Mix
  • Oregano
  • Paprika ~ sweet and smoked
  • Parsley flake
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Taco Seasoning
  • Thyme

Beverage Basics for the Grill Pantry

  • Beer
  • Bourbon
  • Tequila
  • Vodka
  • Wine, red and white

Egg and Dairy basics for the Grill Refrigerator

  • Butter, unsalted
  • Eggs ~ I like to buy the 18 count containers and I've always got two on hand
  • Heavy cream
  • Milk
  • Sour cream and/or plain yogurt
  • American cheese
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Mozzarella cheese
  • Parmesan cheese

Fresh Produce for the Grill Refrigerator

  • Apples
  • Broccoli and/or cauliflower
  • Carrots
  • Mushrooms
  • Lemons/limes/oranges
  • Lettuce
  • Seasonal fruit

Must-have Condiments for the Grill Refrigerator

  • BBQ sauce ~ I prefer to make my own, but hey, sometimes you need a "quickie"
  • Jellies/jams
  • Italian dressing ~ an excellent impromptu marinade
  • Ketchup
  • Louisiana Hot Sauce
  • Mustard ~ keep a variety on hand, yellow, brown, Dijon, it's a change of pace and it keeps well
  • Mayonnaise
  • Pickles, relish
  • Ranch Dressing ~ an excellent burger condiment 'cheat'
  • Sriracha 
  • Soy sauce
  • Teriyaki sauce
  • Thousand Island dressing ~ can you say, "special sauce?"
  • Worcestershire sauce

Basics for the Grill Freezer

  • Bacon
  • Beef, ground
  • Beef, steak ~ your favorite cut
  • Chicken ~ breasts, thighs, drumsticks, wings, whole chicken
  • Pork sausage
  • Pork chops
  • Dough ~ pizza crust, pie crust, puff pastry
  • Vanilla ice cream  ~ topped with some grilled fruit, yum!

Fresh Produce for the Grill Counter (a.k.a., kitchen counter)

  • Garlic
  • Onions ~ store in your pantry if you've got the space
  • Potatoes ~ another item for the pantry if you've got the space and have fun with this one, there's russet, Yukon Gold (a personal favorite), red potatoes, fingerlings, new potatoes, purple/blue potatoes (great for grilling)
  • Tomatoes
  • Bananas

Another basic item to keep at the ready and fresh on your counter, a good loaf of bread.  Get away from the mass produced sliced stuff, spend the extra buck here and get a whole loaf, it tastes better.  TIP Don't store bread in the fridge thinking it will extend its shelf life, it won't.  Putting bread in the fridge actually dries it out which means it won't hold up in a sandwich like it's supposed to and there's the loss of flavor thing.... 

So there you have it, a nicely stocked GRILL pantry, fridge, freezer and countertop.  The nice thing is, you can build this up a little at a time.  Whenever you make a grocery list, refer to this article and add a few items from it to your grocery list.  You'll stock your pantry in no time.   And remember the best benefit:  Properly stocking a pantry for the grill leads to more grilling, which means eating out less, eating better and saving money!

Rubs & Marinades

Rubs and marinades turns ordinary into......  wait for it.....  ANOTHER DOSE OF YUM!  You can go subtle, bold, sweet, savory, spicy, whatever you want!  And when in doubt or you just don't know what kind of flavor profile you're craving, you can't go wrong with a simple treatment to what you're grilling using just good 'ol salt, pepper and olive oil.  When in doubt, use this.  It never disappoints. 

 

Mike's Spicy Chicken Rub

Turkishusaflags This is a great dry rub with a little influence from Turkey.  Apply it to your favorite cut of chicken for grilling.   

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dried coriander
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Mix all ingredients to incorporate.  Best when rubbed on the meat at least four hours before grilling.  Store excess in an air tight container.

 

Basic Cajun Spice Rub

It says it in the name - Cajun - excellent on chicken, pork, seafood

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tablespoons cumin
  • 3 Tablespoons oregano
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 Tablespoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon basil

Directions:

Mix all ingredients to incorporate.  Best when rubbed on meat at least four hours before grilling.  For fish/seafood, go for one hour before grilling (you don't want the fish/seafood getting mushy).  Good for 4 serving portions.

 

Mike's Sweet Heat Rub

Excellent on beef!  It's good on chicken and pork too, but excellent on beef!

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt

Directions:

Mix all ingredients to incorporate.  Best when rubbed on the meat at least four hours before grilling, good for 4 serving portions.

 

Chicken Shwarma Rub

A nice little Mediterranean flare, best on boneless chicken thighs.

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons allspice
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried yellow mustard
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon tumeric
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

Mix all ingredients to incorporate.  Best when rubbed on the meat at least four hours before grilling, good for about 6 chicken thighs.  TIP:  Always mix your rubs in a separate container before adding to the meat.  You get a better incorporated mix that way and because the seasonings didn't touch the meat, you can store any excess in an air tight container for later use.

 

Roast Beast Rub

If you don’t have a favorite off-the-shelf rub (I like Cookies Flavor Enhancer), here’s a quick and easy rub to try.

Ingredients

  • One tablespoon Kosher salt
  • Two tablespoons of granulated garlic
  • One tablespoon onion powder
  • One tablespoon dried oregano
  • One tablespoon paprika
  • One teaspoon dried mustard
  • One teaspoon black pepper

Directions: 

After rubbing down your beast to roast, put it in a big zip lock bag or plastic container and refrigerate overnight..

 

Korean Style Ribs Marinade

If you're looking for something a little different than BBQ, here it is.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 3 Tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 minced garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon black pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 Tablespoon red pepper flake
  • One medium onion, chopped
  • The juice from one lime

Directions:

In a large bowl, mix together all the marinade ingredients.  Add the meat and marinade for at least four hours before putting on the grill. 

MARINADE TIP #1:  If you've got too much marinade and it hasn't come in contact with raw meat, save some back for a dipping sauce.

MARINADE TIP #2:  Something else you can do with excess marinade that hasn't come in contact with raw meat is add a small ladle of it to the water you use to cook rice with.  And oil based marinades are excellent brushed on roasted potatoes, adding some zest to that potato bite!

 

Mike’s Asian Flare Short Rib Marinade:

If you don't like the Korean style above, try this one.  VERY tasty!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • The juice from one lime (if you don’t have any limes handy, substitute with 2 tablespoons of rice vinegar)
  • Two fresh green onions, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried ginger
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Directions
Make the marinade, then pour over the ribs and refrigerate overnight.  Good for about three pounds of ribs.

 

Mike’s Poultry Brine
If you’re looking for something a little different in how to do grilled chicken or turkey, this might just be the ticket for you. Talk about moist and tender poultry! It’s an easy brine and adds a lot of flavor to any cut, chicken breasts or thighs, turkey breasts, turkey drumsticks, in fact, this brine is excellent with pork cuts as well.

Ingredients

  • One gallon of warm water
  • ¾ cup of Kosher salt
  • One heaping tablespoon of Cookies Flavor Enhancer
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup olive oil

Directions
Put the salt, sugar and olive oil into a big pan, add the warm water. Stir until the salt and sugar have dissolved, which the warm water helps to do. After the water comes back down to room temperature (VERY important, we’re brining the poultry, not cooking it), give the brine another quick stir and add your chicken or turkey, letting them brine for at least four hours in the fridge. Overnight is even better. This amount of brine is good for a whole chicken, or up to about 8 pounds of breasts, thighs or drumsticks. This brine is so good, you don’t have to add a dry rub to the meat if you don’t want to. Grill naked…… keep your mind out of the gutter, that means no seasoning. I’ve grilled poultry ‘naked’ plenty of times, just brushing the chicken thighs or turkey legs with garlic infused olive oil after each quarter turn (about every 2-3 minutes), hitting it again with the olive oil when moving it to the cooler spot on the grill (indirect heat) to finish cooking and then hitting it again with the olive oil just before plating.

Download Mike's Poultry Brine Recipe

 

Sauces ~ Ketchup and mustard are great, but here are a few recipes to really compliment your grilled fare

Mike’s ‘Quick Whiskey BBQ Sauce’

This is really more of a convenient cheat rather than a bonafide recipe, but it’s time saving, easy to put together and rather tasty!

Ingredients

  • One cup of KC Masterpiece BBQ sauce (or whatever brand might be your favorite)
  • ¼ cup of water
  • One tablespoon of dried, minced onion
  • 2 shots of your favorite whiskey/bourbon (reserve a 3rd shot for yourself)
  • 5 generous shakes of Louisiana Hot Sauce
  • One tab of butter

Directions
In a medium sauce pan over low heat, melt your butter. Let it coat the bottom of the pan and once it’s coated, add all remaining ingredients and just let it all simmer to marry all that flavor for about 15-20 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. This is a great sauce to use just before plating.

 

Tzatziki Sauce

Tzatziki isn't just for gyros....   The sauce is actually a fantastic change of pace addition to just about any grilled meat or fish.  It's also excellent used as a chip or veggie dip, salad dressing, put it on a cracker, a sandwich and more.  You can pretty much substitute Tzatziki sauce with anything you might use mayonnaise for.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/2 an English cucumber, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • One Tablespoon dried dill
  • One Tablespoon lemon juice (citric acid is a nice alternative)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, mix until thoroughly incorporated, cover and chill for about 30 minutes or until ready to use. 

 

Chipotle Aioli

This is a nice add to just about any kind of burger or grilled sandwich for a nice little kick, heck, it's good just spread on a piece of grilled bread!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 Tablespoons finely chopped green onion
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
  • The juice from half a lime
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, mix until thoroughly incorporated, cover and chill for about 30 minutes or until ready to use. 

 

Easy Peasy Pan Sauce

Meat fats and fruits make for delicious sauces!  Try this before you grill up some pork chops:

Trim some of the fat off the chops before marinating or rubbing and save it to create pan drippings. When you’re grilling, put those fat trimmings in a cast iron skillet over low heat and let them render to create the base for a sauce or gravy.

Easy Peasy Pan Sauce…. Combine pork fat drippings with a little flour, some black berries or blueberries - whatever kind of berry you might have on hand for that matter - and some balsamic vinegar. Salt and pepper to taste and you’ve made an excellent compliment to the chops, chicken or beef you've been grilling up!

 

Quick Dipping Sauce/Condiment Cheats

  1. Combine 3 parts Ranch dressing to 1 part Louisiana Hot Sauce
  2. Combine 3 parts Ranch dressing to 1 part Sriracha

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