In my opinion, summer cooking should be simple, effortless and ideally done outside over the grill. There’s always a time and place for your top-secret, 15-ingredient magic marinade, but on a busy weeknight I reach for those one-stop-shop ingredients that add instant flavor. Whether you’re making burgers, fish tacos or grilling up vegetables for a salad, these 5 grocery store staples make for the best no-fuss rubs and marinades.
Photo Credit: Foodie Crush
As any Southerner can attest, mayonnaise is a magical ingredient. I use it throughout the year, but I go through my jar the fastest in the summer. The savory spread adds moisture, fat and flavor all in one scoop. Once your food hits the heat, the fat melts away and leaves nothing but flavor. Try rubbing it on fish or tossing it with vegetables so they don’t stick to the grill. In a pinch, I’ll use the mayo as-is, but you can also try mixing in grated citrus zest or hot sauce. Mayo is also my secret ingredient in my burgers. I fold 2 Tablespoons into each pound of ground beef and it leaves you with incredibly juicy patties.
After you finish a jar of olives, don’t toss that precious brine. Brush it on pork chops, fish or grilled steaks while they’re cooking. The brine adds nice salinity and a delicate flavor.
Sambal Oelek (Thai Chili Paste)
Many are familiar with Sriracha, but I strongly encourage you to try out it’s chunkier, more interesting cousin Sambal Oelek. The Thai chili paste provides a good dose of heat and complex taste from ingredients like shrimp paste, fish sauce, garlic, ginger, palm sugar and lime juice. With all of that flavor-power in one bottle, it’s all you need to flavor a flank steak or shrimp before it hits the hot grate.
When I come across Mexican Coca-Cola in the United States, I always grab a few bottles to have on hand for sipping and cooking. Sweetened with cane sugar, it has a wonderful natural sweetness and, in my opinion, a more complex spicy and herby flavor. If you’re cooking a fatty cut of steak or pork, let it sit in the Coca-Cola for a few hours while you’re at work or out running errands. The cola tenderizes the meat and the natural sugars caramelize on the grill for a fantastic crust. If I have time, I will toss a few spices like cinnamon, cumin or some smashed garlic cloves in there, but it adds impeccable flavor on its own. This is also worth trying out in the winter when you’re roasting. The meat braises in the Coca-Cola and leaves you with a crispy, sugary exterior.
When I’m grilling a quality piece of meat, I like to keep the rub very simple. Garlic salt is the jar I always reach for because it provides an instant, savory note that doesn’t overpower what you’re putting it on. Look for the best quality garlic salt available at your grocery store. My favorite is this Black Garlic version from Jacobsen Salt Company ($13 for 3 ounces). The black garlic adds a mellow sweetness and the crunchy texture of the salt creates a nice crust on the outside of your meat. A little goes a long way here.