I love grilling season. I love cooking outside and the perfume of grilling foods all over the neighborhood. That smoky odor says “home” and “relaxing” and “outdoor fun.” It’s like a Norman Rockwell painting for the nose.
Often, that perfume is the result of sauces, rubs, and mops that have been lovingly created or poured from a bottle. These add flavor to the meat, chicken, fish or veggies, and even desserts that pick up those delicious grill marks while cooking on the grates.
So how can we infuse flavor without using a barbecue sauce? There are so many ways.
One way is to season the meat from the inside out. Rub seasonings under the skin of chicken, inject seasonings into steak and briskets with an infusion kit, or use a dry rub to massage into any meat or veggies.
Another way to infuse flavor onto meat and veggies is with a mop. The name comes from President Lyndon B. Johnson’s grill master, who created a grill pit about 40 feet by 40 feet. He could not reach all the meat at once, so he dipped a huge mop into in a pail of seasoned liquid and “mopped” his meat from a distance. Today, you can buy a specialized grill mop. To ensure flavorful, long-grilling meats like whole chickens or briskets, it’s the thing to do!
So what is the difference between a mop and a sauce? A sauce is thick, and a mop is about the consistency of water, with lots of flavor and very little sugar. Mops are often vinegar, beer or stock-based.
Dry rubs also add a lot of flavor to foods and can usually be used before cooking, unless they have a really high sugar content. They are great for all foods grilled, including veggies and salmon. The best way to get flavor from a rub is to gently massage the rub into the meat or onto the veggies, then let the rubbed food rest for several minutes in the fridge before cooking.
Barbecue sauces should echo or complement the flavors on your rub or mop. They are thick and come in many forms. Some are sweet, some are hot and spicy. Some use lots of vinegar and others use a tomato base. But many people make the mistake of slathering their meat with barbecue sauce before grilling. Barbecue sauces need to be reserved for the absolute end of the cooking time. At that point, they can be slathered on and cooked without fear of turning the meat to carbon. The sauce will darken and produce a lovely light char that will be grill-licious!
FYI: Eating meat that is burned to black has actually been linked to some cancers.
Herb Infused Mop (Pareve)
This mop is delicious on chicken, burgers, brisket, steaks and veggies. You can make it hot and spicy or kid friendly.
2/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup tamari sauce
1/4 cup water mixed with 1 tsp. chicken, beef or vegetable stock powder or paste
3 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp. grated garlic
1 Tbsp. grated onion
1 Tbsp. grated shallot
1 Tbsp. Dijon style mustard
1 Tbsp. dried parsley flakes
1 Tbsp. freshly minced chives
1 tsp. finely minced fresh thyme leaves
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
OPTIONAL: 1/2 to 1 tsp. cayenne pepper or Tabasco Sauce, to taste.
Mix all ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake well to blend. Let stand for about an hour to meld flavors. Taste, and adjust ingredients to taste.
Shake again before using. Wet the mop with water and squeeze out excess. Dip mop into liquid and mop onto chicken as it grills. Mop several times until all liquid is used up. Makes enough for 1-2 quartered chickens, a small brisket, several burgers or steaks and lots of veggies.
Apple Cider Mop (Pareve)
10 cloves garlic, chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup canola oil
1 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 to 1/2 cup Tabasco or other hot sauce, to taste
OPTIONAL: Substitute orange juice for the lemon juice. Slightly sweeter.
Substitute 1 to 2 Tbsp. finely grated ginger for the onion.
Place the onions and garlic in the bowl of a food processor and process until almost a liquid, scraping down the bowl a few times.
Pour the rest of the ingredients into a large bowl and add the garlic/onion mixture. Whisk vigorously to emulsify.
Wet the mop, squeeze dry. Divide mop sauce in half; reserve half in the fridge for later. Dip the damp mop into the sauce and mop on the meat, chicken or veggies. Makes about 5 cups.
Signature Dry Rub for Everything (Pareve)
I use this on everything from burgers, to steaks, chicken, potatoes, broccoli and more.
3 Tbsp. Montreal Steak Seasoning (it works the best)
4 Tbsp. granulated garlic
4 Tbsp. granulated onion powder
2 Tbsp. paprika
1 to 2 Tbsp. smoked paprika, to taste
1 Tbsp. black pepper
3 to 4 Tbsp. dark brown sugar
OPTIONAL: 1 tsp. to 1 Tbsp. cayenne pepper, to taste
Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to blend and break up the brown sugar. Pour into a container with a tight-fitting lid and store in a cool, dark place for weeks. You can increase the amounts to make enough to last all year round.
Dad’s Barbecue Sauce (Pareve)
My dad never measured; he tasted! Follow his advice and adjust to your taste. You can add as much “heat” to this as you like.
1 to 2 cups ketchup
1 small can (3 ounces) tomato paste
1/2 to 1 cup molasses, to taste
1 large onion, very finely minced or grated
2-12 cloves garlic, finely minced, to taste
1/4 to 1/3 cup dark brown sugar, to taste
1/3 cup apricot jam
2/3 cup canola oil
1 to 3 tsp. liquid smoke, to taste OR 1-2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 to 3 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
OPTIONAL: Tabasco sauce to taste
Cayenne pepper to taste
Red pepper flakes to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Heat a small skillet and add 2 to 3 Tbsp. canola oil. Add the onion and garlic and cook until translucent. Make a well in the onions and add more canola oil. Add the tomato paste in a thick round in the center of the pan, and cook, undisturbed, until the edges begin to brown. At that point, mix the tomato paste into the onions with a silicon spatula. Pour into a large bowl to cool for about 5 minutes.
Add the rest of the ingredients and whisk to blend. Add some water if the sauce is too thick. Adjust ingredients to taste, and pour some into a small bow to use for brushing on cooked meats for the last 3 to 5 minutes of cooking time. Use some as a sauce to put on burgers, etc. Makes about 4 cups. Refrigerate after use. Lasts several weeks.