Barbecue Sauces, Rubs, and Marinades--Bastes, Butters & Glazes, Too


By Steven Raichlen

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Every griller’s secret weapon!

Transform meats and seafood, vegetables and desserts into world-class barbecue with the flavor foundations, wet and dry, that give grilled food its character, personality, depth, and soul. Chile-fired rubs, citrusy marinades, buttery bastes, pack-a-wallop sauces, plus mops. slaters, sambals, and chutneys—this cornucopia of more than 200 recipes draws on irresistible Thai, Mexican, Indian, Cajun, Jamaican, Italian, and French cuisines, plus those big flavor building blocks from America’s barbecue belt. Barbecue Hall of Famer Steven Raichlen shows how to add the expert touch to every dish in your repertoire, from transforming a simple steak to electrifying an exotic kebab. Includes a step-by-step guide to building a signature barbecue sauce and recipes for more than 30 outrageous main dishes.


Seasonings and Rubs

I've always been fascinated by the simple alchemy by which assertive seasonings are melded into a harmonious whole. Clearly, I'm not alone. Wherever you find people grilling, you'll find spices, and wherever you find spices, you find signature rubs and spice mixes that give barbecue its personality.

This chapter focuses on the rubs, spice mixes, and seasonings used by grill masters the world over. There's something for everyone: a quick, easy, all-purpose Basic Barbecue Rub; a Kansas City Sweet and Smoky Rub; and a fiery Lone Star Steak Rub.

From beyond America's borders, experience an electrifying kebab spice from Spain; a fragrant rosemary rub from Tuscany; and even a pungent seasoning from Bali.

Whether you're trying to increase the flavor of your barbecue or simply reduce the overall fat, chances are there's a rub or spice mixture in this chapter that can help you. You'll never have to use a commercial blend again.

Seasoned Salts and Peppers

All-Purpose Seasoned Salt

yield: Makes 1⅓ cups


Sprinkle this mixture on steaks, chops, chicken, fish—on just about anything you cook on the grill.

Virtually every recipe cooked on the grill calls for salt and pepper. In a perfect world, you'd dose the salt and grind the pepper fresh every time. This isn't always a perfect world, and having a batch of premixed seasoned salt on hand can save a lot of time and trouble. There's no shortage of commercial seasoned salts, but most of them are loaded with MSG and sugar. The following formula may seem simple, but it reacts in complex ways on your taste buds. The coarse crystals of salt and cracked black peppercorns give you sharp bursts of flavor. The black, white, and cayenne peppers provide three different kinds of heat. Black pepper is the most aromatic; white pepper has a stinging, front-of-the-mouth heat; while cayenne is pure fire that's chiefly experienced deep in your gullet. Put them together and you get a seasoning mix that makes just about everything on the grill taste better. Note that some people like a touch of sweetness in their seasoned salt, others don't, so I've made the sugar optional.


1 cup coarse salt (sea or kosher)

⅓ cup cracked black peppercorns

2 tablespoons freshly ground white pepper

1 tablespoon ground cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon sugar (optional)

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and stir or whisk to mix. Transfer to a jar, cover, and store away from heat and light. The salt will keep for several weeks.

Smoked Salt

Yield: Makes 2 cups


Sprinkle this smoky salt on anything. I mean anything. Even put it on popcorn, so you can be reminded of barbecue when you're at the movies.

You also need

If smoking outdoors: 3 cups hardwood chips (or as needed), soaked in cold water for 30 minutes, then drained

If smoking indoors: Hardwood sawdust

One of the best ways to give foods a smoky barbecue flavor is to season them with smoked salt. You can buy smoked salt, but it's not hard to make your own from scratch. Moreover, you can customize the smoke flavor, from the elegance of oak to the robustness of mesquite. Here are three methods for smoking salt, both indoors and outdoors. Smoked salt keeps well in a sealed jar. If it starts to cake after a few weeks, flake it with a fork.


2 cups coarse salt (sea or kosher)

Charcoal Grill Method: Set up the grill for indirect grilling. Add 1½ cups wood chips to the coals. Spread the salt in a thin layer in an aluminum foil drip pan and place it on the grate away from the fire. Cover the grill and adjust the vent holes for medium heat (350°F). Smoke the salt for 30 to 40 minutes. Add the remaining chips to the coals and continue smoking until the salt is bronzed with smoke and intensely smoke-flavored. Repeat as necessary. Cool the salt to room temperature, then transfer it to a jar, cover, and store away from heat and light.

Smoker Method: Light your smoker and preheat to 250°F. Add the wood as specified by the manufacturer. Spread the salt in a thin layer in an aluminum foil drip pan and place it in the smoker. Smoke salt until bronzed with smoke and intensely smoke-flavored, 4 to 6 hours. Cool the salt to room temperature, then transfer it to a jar, cover, and store away from heat and light.

Stovetop Smoker Method: Place the sawdust in the bottom of a stovetop smoker, like one from Camerons or Nordicware, following the manufacturer's instructions. Place the drip pan in the smoker and the grate lined with aluminum foil on top. Spread the salt out in a thin layer and close the smoker, leaving a 1-inch gap. Place the smoker over high heat. When you start to see wisps of smoke, reduce the heat to medium and tightly close the lid. Smoke the salt for 20 minutes. Repeat as needed until the salt is bronzed with smoke and intensely smoke-flavored. Cool the salt to room temperature, then transfer it to a jar, cover, and store away from heat and light. It will keep for several weeks.


It's an edible stone—and a biological necessity—and barbecue would be unimaginably dull without it. I'm talking about the one food we eat daily that's neither plant nor animal, the world's most popular seasoning: salt.

Salt comes in a bewildering array of colors, textures, and tastes.

Indians love black salt (kala namak), a blackish-brown or blackish-pink salt with a smoky, almost sulfurous flavor. Talk about reinforcing the smoke flavor of barbecue! When I was in Hawaii, I chanced upon a red salt that was colored with edible clay—the traditional seasoning for the pit-roasted pig at a luau.

Salt comes from two primary sources: mineral deposits in the earth and evaporated seawater. Mineral deposits furnish rock salt; the ocean, sea salt. Freshly mined rock salt is the coarse, gray-white stuff we sprinkle on driveways to prevent them from freezing. To make common table salt, the mineral is dissolved in water, purified, evaporated, and dried.

Sea salt is made by evaporating seawater. Traditionally, the water was channeled into shallow seaside basins, where it evaporated in the sun. Sea salt is loaded with flavorful minerals, including iodine and calcium and magnesium chloride.

The ultimate salt goes by the French name of fleur de sel (salt flower). Made by the traditional solar evaporation method, this premium sea salt comes in large flaky crystals with a pleasing crunch and elegant briny flavor. One great example is Maldon salt from Essex, England.

Kosher salt comes in large, flaky pyramid-shaped crystals that are slow to dissolve on food. Because kosher salt doesn't melt right away, it gives you pointillistic bursts of flavor when you bite into a grilled steak or fish fillet. Its coarse texture feels great between your fingers when you take a pinch.

Balinese Seasoned Salt

Yield: Makes ⅔ cup


Sprinkle this salt on grilled chicken, pork, and seafood. It's also great on grilled vegetables.

I first tasted this seasoned salt at the Amankila resort in Bali. The bold flavors—coriander and cloves for pungency and anise and nutmeg for sweetness—ricochet on your taste buds. Ground red rice gives the rub a striking pink color. It also fosters the formation of a savory crust. Red rice is available at Asian markets and natural foods stores. If it's unavailable, use white rice.


2 tablespoons red rice

2 tablespoons coriander seeds

2 teaspoons fennel seeds

½ teaspoon whole cloves

½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

½ cup coarse salt (sea or kosher)

Heat a small dry skillet over medium heat. Add the rice, coriander, fennel, cloves, and nutmeg and toast until fragrant, 2 minutes. Do not brown. Cool the spices, then transfer to a spice mill and grind to a fine powder. Add the salt and pulse the grinder to mix. Transfer to a jar, cover, and store away from heat and light. The salt will keep for several weeks.

Central Asian Seasoned Salt

Yield: Makes ¾ cup


Generously sprinkle on lamb, beef, chicken, or seafood prior to grilling.

The spices in this salt are traditional Central Asian seasonings for grilling.


½ cup coarse salt (sea or kosher)

1 tablespoon cracked black peppercorns

1 tablespoon dried chives

1 tablespoon dried parsley

1 tablespoon dried mint

2 teaspoons ground coriander

2 teaspoons hot paprika

2 teaspoons dried garlic flakes

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and stir to mix. Transfer to a jar, cover, and store away from heat and light. The salt will keep for several weeks.

Sesame Salt

Yield: Makes 1¾ cups


This Asian-inflected salt makes a colorful seasoning for grilled seafood, chicken, and vegetables. Use it on grilled tofu, seitan, and vegetables.

I love the nutty roasted flavor of this sesame-seasoned salt. Ditto for its appearance: snow-white salt crystals, tan roasted sesame seeds, and jet-black kuro goma (Japanese black sesame seeds). The latter are available at Japanese markets and at natural foods stores and gourmet shops.


½ cup white sesame seeds

½ cup black sesame seeds, or additional white sesame seeds

¾ cup coarse salt (sea or kosher)

3 tablespoons cracked black peppercorns

Heat a dry skillet over medium heat. Add the white sesame seeds and toast, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and golden brown, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer the sesame seeds to a bowl and let cool. Stir in the black sesame seeds, salt, and pepper. Transfer to a jar, cover, and store away from heat and light. The salt will keep for several weeks.

Lemon Pepper

Yield: Makes ¾ cup


Sprinkle on as you would normal pepper, but when you want a bright blast of lemon as well. It also works as an ingredient in rubs, marinades, or sauces.

Many of the rub and sauce recipes in this book call for lemon pepper. You can buy it ready-made, of course, but commercial brands vary widely in quality and are often artificially flavored. It's easy to make your own.

For even more flavor, use fragrant Meyer lemons, which originated in China as a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange.


2 lemons

¾ cup black peppercorns

1. Grate the zest (oil-rich outer rind) off the lemons, using a Microplane or box grater. You need about 2 tablespoons.

2. Place the lemon zest and peppercorns in a spice mill. (Don't overcrowd the spice mill—work in several batches if necessary.) Grind the zest and peppercorns to a coarse powder. Transfer to a jar, cover, and store in the refrigerator. The lemon pepper will keep for several weeks.

Six Pepper Blend

Yield: Makes ¾ cup


Use as you would regular pepper—not just on grilled foods. It's better.

When I was growing up, pepper was, well, pepper. Today you can find white, black, green, and pink peppercorns, not to mention pungent Sichuan pepper. Each has a distinct flavor: the earthy heat of black peppercorns; the clean heat of white pepper; the herbal, almost fruity tang of green peppercorns.

Botanically speaking, pink peppercorns and Sichuan peppercorns aren't pepper at all, but the berries of exotic shrubs. The former have a floral fragrance, while the latter possess a piney pungency that has the curious effect of making your tongue feel numb. As for hot pepper flakes, they belong to the capsicum family and add a different sort of heat.


2 tablespoons Sichuan peppercorns

½ cup black peppercorns

2 tablespoons white peppercorns

2 tablespoons green peppercorns

1 tablespoon pink peppercorns (optional)

1 tablespoon red pepper flakes

1. Heat a small dry heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the Sichuan peppercorns and roast until fragrant and just beginning to darken, 2 to 4 minutes, stirring often. Transfer the peppercorns to a bowl to cool. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and stir to mix.

2. Grind the pepper mixture in a pepper or spice mill. If using a spice mill, work in small batches to ensure an even grind. Transfer to a jar, cover, and store away from heat and light. The pepper blend will keep for several weeks.

American Rubs

Basic Barbecue Rub

Yield: Makes 1 cup


Sprinkle this rub on pork, beef, chicken, and robust fish, like salmon. You can cook the meat at once or, for an even richer flavor, let it marinate for 2 to 4 hours first.

Here's the granddaddy of all barbecue rubs, but don't let the simple formula fool you. There's a heap of flavor in this simple rub—the molasses sweetness of the brown sugar, the heat of the pepper, the vegetal sweetness of the paprika, and the slow burn of the cayenne. Use this basic formula as a springboard for your own creativity (see how to customize a barbecue rub). Note: There are two ways to use this or any rub—sprinkle it on right before grilling or smoking as you would a seasoned salt. Or apply it several hours or even the day before to cure the meat as well as season it.


¼ cup coarse salt (sea or kosher)

¼ cup packed brown sugar (light or dark—your choice)

¼ cup sweet paprika

2 to 4 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper

Optional flavorings:

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon onion powder

½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

½ teaspoon celery seeds

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and stir or whisk to mix. Transfer to a jar, cover, and store away from heat and light. The rub will keep for several weeks.


The Basic Barbecue Rub: Adds and subs

For a Tex-Mex-style rub, add 2 tablespoons chile powder and 1 tablespoon each ground cumin, oregano, and unsweetened cocoa.

For a West Indian rub, add 1 tablespoon each onion and garlic powder; 1 teaspoon ground allspice; and ½ teaspoon each ground cinnamon, nutmeg, and Scotch bonnet chile powder or ground cayenne pepper.

For a Spanish-style rub, substitute smoked paprika (pimentón) for the sweet paprika in the Basic Barbecue Rub. Add 1 tablespoon each ground cumin and ground coriander and 1 teaspoon grated orange zest.

For a seafood rub, use only half the salt in the Basic Barbecue Rub, replacing the other half with Old Bay Seasoning (or add to taste).

The Flavor Components: When starting from Scratch

Barbecue rubs are all about balance, blending sweet, salty, sour, and hot into a harmonious whole. Here are options for each of these flavor components:

Sweet: Sugar, brown sugar, maple sugar, palm sugar, or freeze-dried sugarcane juice (like Sucanat)

Salty: Sea salt, kosher salt, smoked salt, or specialty salts, like Indian black salt or Alaskan spruce salt

Sour: Lemon pepper, fresh or dried lemon, lime or orange zest, sumac, and so on

Heat: Black pepper, green peppercorns, pink peppercorns, Sichuan pepper, white pepper, dried chile flakes or powder, ginger, wasabi, hot paprika

Dalmatian Rub / Newspaper Rub

Yield: Makes 1 cup


Apply this simple seasoning the next time you grill a steak or smoke a brisket or beef ribs. Pretty terrific on pork, lamb, and veal chops, too.

Sometimes less is more. Consider the "Dalmatian" Rub used by new wave pit masters to turn out world-class briskets and beef ribs. Combine equal parts coarse salt (sea or kosher) and cracked black peppercorns and you get a white and black rub that's speckled like a Dalmatian. Add hot red pepper flakes and you get a "Newspaper" rub—black and white and red (read) all over. Use either to make superlative grilled and smoked beef.


½ cup coarse salt (sea or kosher)

½ cup cracked black peppercorns

¼ cup red pepper flakes (optional)

Combine the salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes (if using) in a bowl and mix with your fingers or a small whisk. Store any unused rub in a jar with a tight-fitting lid away from heat or light. It will keep for several weeks.

How to Crack Black Peppercorns

Ground black pepper works well in rubs. For seasoning steaks and other meats, I prefer partially pulverized black peppercorns, better known as cracked pepper. To crack peppercorns in a pepper mill, set the mill on the largest grind. To crack peppercorns by hand, wrap a couple of tablespoons of peppercorns in a dish towel and crush them with a heavy object, like a rolling pin or the bottom of a cast-iron skillet. A heavy-duty mortar and pestle work well, too. the French call cracked black peppercorns mignonettes and use them to make steak au poivre.



Yield: Serves 4

You also need

Hickory, oak, or your favorite hardwood

These may be the simplest ribs you'll ever make, but simple doesn't mean simplistic. The salt-pepper seasoning forms a savory crust while keeping the focus on the beef. I call for beef short ribs here, but you can also use beef long ribs or full beef plate ribs. (Increase the cooking time to 6 to 8 hours for the latter.)


4 pounds beef short ribs (choose large ribs with lots of meat on them)

½ cup Dalmatian Rub/Newspaper Rub, or as needed

Lean-and-Mean Texas Barbecue Sauce (optional)

1. Set up your smoker following the manufacturer's instructions and preheat to 250°F. If working on a charcoal grill, use only half a chimney of charcoal.

2. Generously season the short ribs on all sides with Dalmatian Rub/Newspaper Rub. Place the ribs meat side up on the smoker rack.

3. Smoke the ribs until darkly browned and cooked through and tender, 3 to 4 hours. When cooked, the meat will have shrunk back from the ends of the bones by ½ to 1 inch and the internal temperature will be about 200°F.

4. Transfer the short ribs to a platter. Loosely tent them with aluminum foil and let rest for 15 minutes. Pass the Lean-and-Mean Texas Barbecue Sauce.

Note: For even more flavor, set up your grill for direct grilling and preheat to high. Brush and oil the grill grate. Just before serving, brush the cooked short ribs on all sides with the barbecue sauce and grill over a hot fire to sizzle the sauce into the meat (2 to 4 minutes per side). Serve the remaining sauce on the side.

Kansas City Sweet and Smoky Rub

Yield: Makes about 2½ cups


Sprinkle on ribs, pork shoulders, briskets, and chicken 30 minutes to 2 hours before smoking. If desired, sprinkle on more rub during cooking and give a final hit just before serving.

This Kansas City rub is the most ecumenical of barbecue seasonings. Sweet rather than salty, flavorful rather than fiery, it contains mustard in the style of a Memphis rub and chili powder in the style of Texas. This open-mindedness reflects KC's central geographic location. Beef and pork are equally popular here and sauces and seasonings tend to be mild and sweet, rather than strongly flavored or spicy. A well-mannered rub, this recipe—from my friends at the Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS), the source of so much good information about barbecue—will produce the sort of sweet, smoky ribs most of us would identify as perfect barbecue. Note the use of smoked salt to add a smoky dimension to the rub. You can make your own or use a good commercial brand.


⅔ cup packed light brown sugar

⅔ cup granulated sugar

½ cup sweet or smoked paprika

¼ cup seasoned salt, preferably All-Purpose Seasoned Salt, or a good commercial brand, such as Lawry's

¼ cup Smoked Salt, or a good commercial brand

¼ cup onion salt

¼ cup celery salt

2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons pure chile powder (not a blend)

2 teaspoons mustard powder

1 teaspoon poultry seasoning

1 teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon ground allspice

½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and stir or whisk to mix. Transfer to a large jar, cover, and store away from heat and light. The rub will keep for several weeks.


Buy the freshest possible spices and dried herbs. After 3 months, most dried herbs, especially delicate herbs like chervil or tarragon, will have lost their punch. Buy replacements at a store that has a high turnover. When possible, grind whole spices yourself right before you use them. Use a small electric coffee grinder reserved for this purpose. Use another grinder for coffee.

Date the rub and indicate the shelf life: If kept away from light and heat, most rubs will be at their peak for 1 to 2 months.

Use a cautious hand when adjusting flavors. Remember—the male brain is wired to think, "If some is good, more must be better." Too much of any spice can ruin a great batch of rub.

Take your rub for a test drive. Remember, a rub will taste different on your finger than it will on meat sizzling away on a grill. Try the rub on a neutral-tasting piece of meat, like a steak or chicken breast, so you know how it behaves on the grill.

Strive for balance. A good rub will play like a musical chord on guitar or piano.

If not following a recipe, be sure to record the ingredients you use along with accurate measurements. You want to be able to replicate your successes. And share them with us on the Barbecue Board (

When giving rubs as gifts, package in airtight containers or shaker jars. These can be purchased in some cookware shops or restaurant supply stores. Design a label—easy using a computer. Include instructions for use.

As a general rule, figure on 2 to 4 teaspoons of rub per pound of meat, poultry, or fish.

So, how do you use your rub? There are two ways.

As a seasoning, like you would salt and pepper, and apply it just before grilling. Sprinkle it on, or rub it in with your fingertips. (That's why it's called a rub.) You can sprinkle on some more just before serving to reinforce the flavor.

As a cure: You'll achieve a more complex flavor if you use the rub as a cure or marinade: Apply the rub to food several hours ahead of time (up to 1 to 2 days ahead for large cuts of meat), and refrigerate, covered, until ready to grill.

5-4-3-2-1 Rubs East and West

The 5-4-3-2-1 Rub has been a mainstay on the American barbecue competition circuit—not to mention an easy way to remember the formula for a complex flavored rub equally well suited to pork, beef, lamb, and poultry. That set me thinking about another alphanumeric rub—this one with an Asian accent.

AMERICAN 5-4-3-2-1 RUB

Yield: Makes 1 cup


Use American 5-4-3-2-1 Rub on beef, pork, chicken, and ribs of all persuasions.


5 tablespoons sweet or smoked paprika

4 tablespoons brown sugar (light or dark—your choice)

3 tablespoons coarse salt (sea or kosher)

2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon ground cumin


  • "A useful companion cookbook for creative barbecue enthusiasts." —Library Journal

On Sale
May 2, 2017
Page Count
352 pages


Steven Raichlen

About the Author

Steven Raichlen is the author of the New York Times bestselling Barbecue! Bible® cookbook series, which includes the new Brisket Chronicles; Project Fire; Barbecue Sauces, Rubs, and Marinades; Project Smoke; The Barbecue Bible; and How to Grill. Winners of 5 James Beard awards and 3 IACP awards, his books have been translated into 17 languages. His TV shows include the public television series Steven Raichlen’s Project Fire, Project Smoke; Primal Grill; and Barbecue University; the French language series Le Maitre du Grill, and the Italian series Steven Raichlen Grills Italy. Raichlen has written for the New York Times, Esquire, and all the food magazines; and is the founder and dean of Barbecue University. In 2015, he was inducted into the Barbecue Hall of Fame. His website is

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