I’m not sure about you, but I love to see well seasoned food on the grill. It seems that when you go to the restaurant and order a grilled steak, it has those beautiful grill lines and is so juicy it makes your mouth water before the steak ever hits your lips. On top is a sauce that can be tasted all the way through the meat. With a little practice and just the right combination of marinade and seasonings, you can learn to create a steak marinade just as good, if not better, as those you thought could only be found in your favorite steak house.
First, let’s distinguish between a marinade and seasoning with something like a dry rub. I remember the first time I used a dry rub. Most of the seasoning either fell off or got burned to the outside like a thick layer of char. Needless to say; the meat didn’t taste like the rub at all.
Well, you live and you learn. To avoid my faux-pas, coat your meat in a thin layer of olive oil to help the dry seasonings to coat the meat and not fall off. The type of seasonings you use in a dry rub is entirely up to your tastes. Hotter spices will give you more of a Mexican flare—cayenne pepper, dried chiles, cardamom, and dried onion flakes.
Spicy can be combined with sweet for a Caribbean taste. The juice from the fruit will create more of a marinade unless you opt to brush on the juice about thirty minutes before the end of grilling. This is the taste that I love when my friends make their authentic Jamaican Jerk Chicken.
Now, let’s move on to marinade ideas. You will want to marinade your meat as long as you can. The meat will tenderize and the flavor of your marinade gets all into and through the meat bringing flavor in every bite when it’s done on the grill. The acidic component of the marinade is what breaks down the collagen in the meat to make it tenderer.
When marinating meat, first you need to thaw and trim the fat off. Combine your marinade ingredients in a plastic bag. Seasoning packs work well when you don’t have the time or desire to shake a little of this and a little of that into the bag. Experimenting with new tastes is fun. You can mix a few spices and herbs in a small bowl and add some olive oil and vinegar. Just a tip when it comes to vinegar – don’t be too heavy handed with the vinegar as it can easily overpower the flavor of the other ingredients.
The benefit of making your own marinade is that you know what is in the mix. Packaged seasonings don’t usually contain any preservatives so you are safe there too. Ready-made sauces from the store can be used, but be careful when adding other ingredients. One that does taste good as a base is a basic barbeque sauce, but not by itself. It’s better when you add extras from the spice rack to jazz up the taste. But, that is what marinades and grilling are all about. Try your hand at a new flavor for your next meal on the grill and don’t be afraid to experiment.