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Rubs impart great taste to meats that cook for either a very short time, or in the case of ribs or brisket, a much longer time.

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Grilling is all about flavour – not just from the grill itself, but also from the seemingly endless variety of marinades, bastes, rubs, sauces, butters and condiments.

I love the flavour of a good steak. If the meat is excellent quality or grass-fed, a dusting of kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper is enough to deliver on taste. With these plainly grilled steaks, a punchy sauce such as a salsa verde, a mustard, anchovy and garlic butter, or a spiced pesto are great accompaniments.

Lesser-quality meats, tougher steaks such as flank or hangar, or less flavourful cuts such as boneless, skinless chicken breasts need a marinade to tenderize or enhance the taste. It can be as simple as a salad dressing or a herbal mixture with a base of mustard or citrus. Brush on Korean gochujang, Indian curry paste or Thai red-curry paste mixed with oil for simple, spicy, flavourful marinades. But don’t marinate with sugar-based sauces, as the sugar will burn on a hot grill.

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Marinating times vary, but one hour on the counter equals two hours refrigerated. Longer marinating should always be done in the fridge. Bring refrigerated meat to room temperature before cooking.

Rubs are another flavour booster. They impart great taste to meats that cook for either a very short time, or in the case of ribs or brisket, a much longer time. Sprinkle over, making sure the meat is well-coated.

There are many good rubs available commercially, but here is a basic slightly spicy one: Combine 3 tablespoons coarse salt (kosher or sea) with 1 tbsp brown sugar, 1 tbsp mustard powder, 2 tbsp chili powder, 1 tbsp ground cumin, 1 tbsp hot smoked Spanish paprika and 1 tbsp ground black pepper. Makes about ¾ cup. Don’t salt the meat if you use this. For a sweeter rub, especially for spareribs, add an extra tablespoon of brown sugar.

Finishing sauces are more often sugar-based and are brushed on toward the end of cooking to give added flavour. This is where a good barbecue sauce fits in.

To enhance store-bought barbecue sauces, which are sometimes too sweet or not spicy enough, try adding to 1 cup of the sauce:

  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper and 1 tbsp chili powder for extra spiciness.
  • The juice and zested rind of one lemon, for a citrus hit.
  • ½ cup passata (puréed tomato sauce) and 2 tbsp lemon juice or vinegar, 1 tsp hot smoked Spanish paprika for a smoky tomato flavour.
  • 1 tbsp chopped garlic and 2 tbsp chopped parsley for a garlic punch.

For a quick homemade barbecue sauce, stir together: 1 cup ketchup, ½ cup rice vinegar, 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce, 1 tsp hot-pepper sauce, lots of freshly ground black pepper, and chopped herbs, if desired.

For food safety, don’t put your cooked meat back on the raw-meat platter (this is particularly important with chicken). Instead, place raw meat on a tray covered with parchment paper. Once the food is on the grill, toss out the parchment paper and use the clean tray underneath for the cooked food.

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I love Steven Raichlen’s books for his tasty recipes and first-rate information. His latest is Project Fire, but I would recommend The Barbecue! Bible for the less experienced cook. Weber also puts out excellent tips and information. The company’s latest book is Ultimate Grilling.

Need some advice about kitchen life and entertaining? Send your questions to lwaverman@globeandmail.com.

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