Marinades, sauces, rubs and mops: Kick up the flavor of your 'cue

Rubs are a mixture of herbs and spices that are rubbed onto meats before cooking, lending a flavorful outer crust. Fattier meats like pork ribs, pork loin, lamb chops, salmon, and skin-on chicken are the best options when using a rub. Rubs can be applied onto the food minutes or hours before cooking.

A mop is a thin sauce, consisting mainly of tomato juice, vinegar, apple cider, beer, or a combination of those, that is mopped onto food throughout the grilling process. Oftentimes, a mop is preceded by the application of a rub on meat before cooking. It's used on tougher cuts of meat that need to be cooked "low and slow" to keep in moisture and to apply flavor.

Barbecue sauces vary widely in the U.S. -- from vinegar-based and tangy to tomato-based and sweet and can be used on any grilled food. They should basted on during the last 5-15 minutes of the cooking process. The sugars in the barbecue sauce will burn if applied to food too soon when grilling, leaving black, charred food.

Pirate Marinade --Eating Well Magazine

(This is one of my staple marinades and is especially good on pork.)

1/4 cup olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 tablespoons chopped garlic

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup red-wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon orange zest

1/4 cup orange juice

3 tablespoons packed brown sugar

2 teaspoons ground allspice

3/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

5 dashes hot sauce

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stir for about 2 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl. Stir in soy sauce and remaining ingredients. Let cool to room temperature before use.

All-Purpose Rub --Real Simple

1/4 cup chili powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

2 teaspoons kosher salt

In a small bowl, combine the chili powder, cumin, mustard, cinnamon, oregano, and salt. Add enough olive oil to make a paste and rub over raw meat, under and over chicken skin, or on seafood.

Bourbon Cider Mop --Steven Raichlen for Food Network

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) salted butter

1 1/2 cups apple cider

1/3 cup brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup bourbon

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the cider, sugar and pepper to bring to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the bourbon. Correct the seasoning, adding salt, to taste.

Basil-Balsamic Barbecue Sauce --Katie Machol

1 cup balsamic vinegar

3/4 cup ketchup

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh basil, finely chopped

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon dijon mustard

1 teaspoon orange zest, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Put all ingredients into a saucepan over medium heat and whisk to combine. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low, stirring occasionally. Cook 15 minutes until reduced (will be thick, the consistency of barbecue sauce). Remove from heat, let cool, and store in the refrigerator until ready for use.

Information from, via Elizabeth Karmel, author of Soaked, Slathered, and Seasoned: A Complete Guide to Flavoring Food for the Grill.

Photo: ctaloi via Flickr

Some people are purists and insist on enjoying the natural flavors of grilled food, but others (myself included) believe that foods cooked on the grill can be further enhanced by sauces, rubs, mops and marinades, taking them to the next level. Get a little adventurous with your grilling this Summer and try out one of these methods for adding serious flavor to your 'cue.

Here's a quick rundown on different types of flavor enhancers for your grilling pleasure:

Marinades are good on leaner or blander foods like chicken breasts, pork chops and vegetables, and should be used at least 30 minutes to a few hours before cooking. The oil in the marinade keeps flavor and moisture in, while the acid (i.e.: lemon juice, vinegar) acts as a tenderizer. Do not reuse a marinade that has been used for raw foods. If you want to reuse it, simply boil it for three minutes (because you don't want to be getting or giving anyone food poisoning).

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