10 Must-have Marinades, Brines and Barbecue Rubs

For tender, flavorful meat, whip up one of these marinades, brines or rubs. See more pictures of grilling steak.
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There's no good reason to cook a choice cut of meat without seasoning it. Doctoring up your favorite foods with a little flavor transforms meals.

If you don't mind planning a meal ahead of time, marinades are a great option for grilling. They're typically made with vinegar or wine, oil, spices and herbs. Meats, seafood and poultry are steeped in it for hours -- sometimes an entire day -- before cooking. Meats that easily dry out on the grill or in the oven, such as pork or turkey, are better paired with brines, which are water-and-salt solutions enhanced with other spices and herbs. And dry or wet rubs made with spices and sometimes oil are rubbed directly onto and into meat to flavor and tenderize it.

Whether you're a novice in the kitchen and want a solution for dried-out meats, or you're a veteran cook with years of experience, you'll love these 10 recipes for marinades, brines and rubs that every cook should have on hand.

Steak Marinade

This simple steak marinade is just as practical as it is tasty. If planning meals ahead of time isn't your strong suit, this marinade is for you. Chances are you have the five staple ingredients this recipe calls for on hand: garlic, onion, steak sauce, lemon juice and vegetable oil. Without making a special trip to the grocery store, you can prepare a mouthwatering, seasoned steak with no hassle and little forethought.

This five-star recipe from Marinade.com recommends coating your meat in the mixture and letting it soak overnight. Grill the London broil the next day. You can also drizzle the marinade over cooked steaks for extra flavor.


  • 1 London broil
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup steak sauce
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil


Mix garlic, onion, lemon juice, steak sauce and vegetable oil together. Marinate the London broil in it overnight.

Chicken Skewers with Peanut-ginger Marinade
Brush chicken skewers with marinade before tossing them on the grill. You'll get a succulent, savory final product.
Brush chicken skewers with marinade before tossing them on the grill. You'll get a succulent, savory final product.
Annabelle Breakey/Getty Images

This marinade delights the taste buds with its sweet, tangy and salty accents. Its forward flavor comes from a mix of fresh ingredients, such as orange zest, pure orange juice and grated ginger root. But if you're short on time or fresh ingredients, this recipe can easily be adapted. Modify by using store-bought orange juice instead of juicing your oranges. Also, if you don't have a zester, use a cheese grater with fine teeth to yield the orange zest you need. There's no match for fresh ginger, but powdered ginger can fill this need. These modifications can also make this marinade less expensive to prepare.

The Food Network's Aida Mollenkamp recommends pairing chicken skewers with her recipe for peanut-ginger marinade.


  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest
  • 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup light soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons ginger
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes


Combine the orange juice, orange zest, peanut butter, sugar, soy sauce, ginger, garlic and red pepper flakes until the mixture is smooth. Marinate your chicken by placing it in a sealed plastic bag with the mixture. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, but no longer than eight hours.

Barbecue Chicken Marinade

Sherry, dry vermouth and a medley of herbs make for a robust mix of flavors in Barbecue Chicken Marinade from Recipe Source. While it's best to use good-quality sherry (a liquor you would drink), you may substitute a low-sodium cooking sherry. The chicken should only need a matter of hours to soak in this mixture, unlike other marinades that work best with meats soaked overnight. You can also use this barbecue marinade as a sauce to serve with grilled chicken or even as a baste. However, baste with caution: Vegetable oil in the mixture can combust when it comes in contact with your grill's hot coals.


  • 1 cup sherry
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Medium onion, minced
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon mixed herbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dry vermouth


Combine all ingredients, and marinate the chicken for about three hours before grilling.

Teriyaki Marinade
Terikayi marinades complement the natural flavors of beef, chicken, veggies and even tofu.
Terikayi marinades complement the natural flavors of beef, chicken, veggies and even tofu.
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Here's one of the all-time classics: teriyaki marinade. From the beginner baker to the grill master, cooks of all experience levels can make this marinade from Cooks.com to perfection. Just mix four ingredients, and your marinade is ready. Vegetables such as onions and bell peppers, as well as fruits like pineapple, are complemented with teriyaki marinade, whether you're stir-frying, grilling or baking. This mixture is great with beef kabobs, burgers, tofu, chicken and more. To bake chicken in the oven, let it sit in a pool of marinade in a pan; it should come out tender and moist.



Combine all ingredients, and marinate your meat or vegetables for one hour or longer.

All-purpose Brine for Smoked Meats

Brines are well-known for making meats more tender and succulent, and this all-purpose brine for smoked meats lives up to that reputation. The recipe comes from Stephan Pyles' cookbook "The New Texas Cuisine" and is especially fitting if you're smoking a large amount of meat. Once you let the meat marinate in the refrigerator for 24 hours, it will be better prepared to be smoked and less likely to dry out. Brines tend to be quite salty, so you can always use less salt if you prefer. You may enjoy experimenting with using more of one ingredient, such as sugar or bay leaves, to adjust the flavor to suit your palate.


  • 4 quarts water
  • 1 cup kosher or sea salt
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme (the equivalent of 1 teaspoon dried thyme)
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 2 cloves
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne powder


Put all ingredients in a pot. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and allow mixture to simmer for five minutes. Cover the pot and cool the mixture to room temperature. Once cooled, add the meat and soak it for 24 hours in the fridge.

Honey Brined Turkey
An alternative to a sweet honey brine is one made with herbs, citrus peels, peppercorns and salt.
An alternative to a sweet honey brine is one made with herbs, citrus peels, peppercorns and salt.
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Thanks to this Honey Brined Turkey recipe from Culinary Cafe, there's reason to have turkey more often than just on Thanksgiving. This special brine earns appeal because of its creative family of ingredients: two full bundles of fresh thyme, eight cloves of garlic and a hefty amount of honey. Flavors from the brine infuse the meat in this deep marinating process.


  • 8 quarts water
  • 2 cups kosher salt
  • 1 cup honey
  • 2 bunches fresh thyme
  • 8 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons coarse black pepper


Combine ingredients, ensuring that the salt and honey are dissolved in the water. Place the turkey in a plastic bag, and pour the brine over the turkey. Seal the bag, place it in a large pot, and let it marinate in the fridge for 12 to 18 hours.

Pork Brine

Salt and sugar regularly appear in brines, but this one, specially formulated for pork, uses apple vinegar as its dominant ingredient, which gives it an unexpected kick. Use this brine for any cut of pork. It only takes about 15 minutes of prep time and about two hours for marinating, which allows for fairly last-minute grilling or pan-frying. What's more, the editor at Allrecipes.com says each serving comes in at a lean 311 calories, 5.7 grams of fat and 100 mg of cholesterol. Use this pork brine recipe for a healthier way to season meat compared to dishing up fattening, store-bought sauces.


  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon mustard powder
  • 1 tray ice cubes


Bring vinegar to a boil. Combine salt, brown sugar, peppercorns and mustard powder in a separate plastic bowl with a lid. Pour hot vinegar into the mixture, and stir until dissolved. Allow the mixture to steep for 10 minutes. Add ice cubes, stirring until they melt. Place the meat inside the bowl, seal it, then refrigerate for two hours.

Caribbean Wet Jerk Rub
One taste of this jerk rub will transport you to the sandy beaches of the Caribbean.
One taste of this jerk rub will transport you to the sandy beaches of the Caribbean.
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A number of the main ingredients in this Caribbean rub may be difficult to find at your local food market, but they're worth tracking down. Most important is Jamaican pimento, which is similar to allspice. However, it's distinctly more pungent than the allspice you may be used to eating. Also, remember to use English thyme and Jamaican scallions (if possible), which are different from the more common versions in the United States.

In their book "Traveling Jamaica with Knife, Fork & Spoon: A Righteous Guide to Jamaican Cookery," Robb Walsh and Jay McCarthy share the recipe for Caribbean Wet Jerk Rub. Besides its authentic taste, another great thing about this recipe is that it preserves well for months, so you can make extra and keep it on hand. Or, the next time you need a personalized hostess gift, pour the rub into a handsome jar and present it with pride.


  • 1/2 cup fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 bunches green onions, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup ginger root, finely diced
  • 3 Scotch bonnet peppers, stemmed and finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup peanut oil
  • 5 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 freshly ground bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground Jamaican pimentos or allspice
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1tablespoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Juice of 1 lime

Directions Mix all the ingredients into a thick, chunky paste. This rub mixture will keep well in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to three months.

Chipotle Rub

This recipe for Chipotle Rub is also called Mexican Potpourri. Fried chipotle peppers give this concoction its signature taste. When you fry them, prevent them from burning by turning them once and removing them from the pan after they puff up (about a minute's cooking time), otherwise, the rub will taste bitter. You'll need a food processor and a coffee grinder or spice mill to grind up ingredients like garlic, oregano and salt.

Use Epicurean.com's Chipotle Rub on seafood, pork, corn, green beans or any other foods you like. It also gives sauces, stews and even salads a boost. This recipe only yields 1/2 cup, so you may want to make extra so you have it ready when needed.


  • 1 tablespoon corn oil
  • 3 chipotle chilies, seeded and deveined
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano, toasted and freshly ground
  • 5 cloves garlic


Pour the oil oil into a pan over medium-high heat. Add chilies and fry them until they're puffy and brown. Blot excess oil and cool. Grind the chilies until they turn into powder. Run this powder with the salt, oregano and garlic through a food processor. If the mix is wet, spread it out in a thin layer on a baking sheet and bake it at 150 degrees Fahrenheit (65 degrees Celsius) for one hour. Store the rub in an airtight container at room temperature.

All-purpose Rub
A medley of spices comprises this classic all-purpose rub.
A medley of spices comprises this classic all-purpose rub.
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Of all the ways you can enliven foods for the grill, using an excellent all-purpose rub is a must in your kitchen because it complements practically anything. Cumin, mustard, cinnamon, oregano and other spices form the basis for this rub from Real Simple magazine and Recipes.com. It's supremely convenient to make, and it's a budget-saver, too, because the recipe calls for dried spices instead of fresh herbs. Add a bit of olive oil to create a paste that you rub on raw meat, under and over chicken skin, or on fish, calamari, crab or other varieties of seafood.


  • 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 teaspoon kosher salt


Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Make a wet rub by adding enough olive oil to form a paste.


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  • "Bbq Chicken Marinade." RecipeSource. (Dec. 2, 2009). http://www.recipesource.com/side-dishes/marinades/00/rec0095.html
  • "Chicken Skewers with Peanut-Ginger Marinade Recipe." Food Network.com. (Dec. 2, 2009). http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/aida-mollenkamp/chicken-skewers-with-peanut-ginger-marinade-recipe/index.html
  • "Chipotle Rub Recipe." Epicurean.com. (Dec. 2, 2009). http://recipes.epicurean.com/recipe/24100/chipotle-rub.html
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