Grilling is harsh, as likely to incinerate dinner as it is to invigorate it. Although the technique is fraught with pitfalls from choosing the wrong cut of meat to turning ones back on an uncontrolled fire, the No. 1 slip-up is the sauce.

Too many novice grill jockeys' know but one type of grilling sauce – the spicy, smoky, tomato-based, sugar-laden purée known generically as barbecue sauce. They slather it on indiscriminately, employing it as marinade, seasoning, basting sauce and glaze – almost everything other than its intended purpose as a condiment and dip.

There are six families of flavorings for grilled food. Each has its purpose and its rules. Here's a rundown:

Marinades are high in acid, such as vinegar, fruit juice or wine, which help to break open the cell structure of proteins allowing them to tenderize and absorb flavorful elements in the marinade. Marinades do not penetrate deeply into foods, and will not tenderize tough meats without drying them out at the same time. They work best with porous and tender proteins like fish and white meat chicken. Always marinate under refrigeration and do not over do it. Ingredients left too long in a marinade will begin to lose moisture.

Brines are similar to marinades except that they use salt rather than acid to help open up the protein. They are better at incorporating flavor into a meat, and also help to increase moisture content, provided that the brine isn't left in contact with the meat too long. Like marinating, brining should be done under refrigeration.

Rubs are seasoning mixtures that can either be dry or a paste. As the name implies, they are rubbed into the surface of grilled food right before cooking. Rubs can be used in conjunction with a marinade or brine.

• A mop is both a thin, vinegary liquid used to baste a long-cooking meat, like brisket, and the hand-held string mop to baste it with. Mops are applied throughout the cooking process, during which time they flavor the meat and tenderize it. They are associated with particular styles of barbecue, especially South Carolina.

• A glaze is like a wet rub with the addition of sugar, causing the mixture to caramelize when exposed to fire. "Caramelize" means to brown, which is just one short step away from burning. This means you should only use a glaze (most commercial bottled barbecue sauces are glazes) in the last few minutes of cooking. It will brown in minutes – and burn a minute later – so never leave food unattended on a grill once the glaze has been applied.

The following recipes start with three rubs, and then four entrees that use one of the rubs in their preparation.

Provençal Rub

2 Tbsps. rosemary
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup parsley leaves
1 Tbsp. ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients together.

Store in a tightly closed container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Use with veal, poultry or fish.

Makes about 1/3 cup.

Tandoori Rub

1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsps. minced ginger root
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground cardamom
2 tsps. curry powder
2 tsps. paprika

Mix all ingredients together.

Store in a tightly closed container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Use with beef, veal, poultry or fish.

Makes about 1/3 cup.

All-Purpose Barbecue Rub

1 Tbsp. black pepper
2 Tbsps. sweet paprika
2 tsps. onion powder
1 Tbsp. garlic salt
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp. dried mustard
1 tsp. ground coriander

Mix all ingredients together.

Store in a tightly closed container at room temperature indefinitely.

Use with beef, veal or poultry.

Makes about 1/3 cup.

Provençal Steak With Extra-Virgin Tapenade

4 boneless steaks, such as sirloin strip, about 8 oz. each
1 Tbsp. Provençal rub (see recipe)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsps. tapenade (black olive spread)
1/8 tsp. minced garlic, jarred or fresh

Preheat a grill to high.

Season each steak with some of the rub and coat with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Combine the remaining oil, tapenade and garlic.

Grill the steaks to desired doneness, and serve topped with the sauce.

Serves 4.

Curried Pineapple Veal Chops

1 cup pineapple salsa
4 loin or rib veal chops, each about 3/4-inch thick
4 tsps. tandoori rub (see recipe)
oil for coating grill rack
1 cup curry sauce
1 Tbsp. chopped cilantro

Purée half the salsa and pour it over the chops, turning the chops to coat them on both sides.

Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the remaining salsa and curry sauce in a sauce pan. Set aside.

Preheat a grill to high.

Remove the chops from the salsa, wipe off excess and season with rub. Coat the grill rack with oil, and grill the chops over a medium fire until browned on both sides and cooked through to desired doneness.

When medium-done, the chops will feel not quite firm in the center, and will register an internal temperature of 150 degrees on a meat thermometer inserted into the side of a chop.

Heat the sauce in the saucepan to a simmer. Stir in the cilantro.

Serve with the chops.

Serves 4.

Tandoori Salmon With Cucumber Raita

11/2 lbs. salmon fillet, pin-bones removed
1 Tbsp. tandoori rub (see recipe)
1/2 cup curry sauce
1 cup plain yogurt, any fat percentage
1 container (8 oz.) prepared deli cucumber salad
1/8 tsp. ground cumin
oil for coating grill rack

Rub the flesh-side of the salmon fillet with the rub. Combine the curry sauce, and half the yogurt and pour into a large plastic zippered bag.

Add the salmon and massage until the fish is fully coated. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

While the salmon is marinating make the raita by combining the cucumber salad, the remaining yogurt and the cumin. Refrigerate.

Preheat a grill to high and coat the grill rack with oil. Lift the salmon from the marinade and place on the rack, flesh-side down; cover the grill and cook just until the salmon is nicely browned, about 3 minutes.

Flip and grill uncovered until the salmon is cooked through, about 8 minutes per inch of thickness. Don't worry if the skin burns.

Transfer salmon to a serving platter by sliding a large spatula between the fish and the skin, leaving the skin stuck to the grill (you can scrape it off later).

Serve the salmon cloaked with raita.

Serves 4.

All-American Turkey Burger

11/2 lbs. ground turkey
2 tsps. ketchup
2 tsps. spicy-brown mustard
2 tsps. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 Tbsp. all-purpose barbecue rub
oil for coating grill rack
kaiser rolls or hamburger buns, split
lettuce leaves, sliced tomatoes, condiments, as desired

Preheat a grill to high.

Combine turkey, ketchup, mustard, Worcestershire, breadcrumbs and rub.

Form into 4 patties, each about 3/4-inch thick.

Coat the grill rack with oil, and grill the burgers until browned on both sides and a thermometer inserted into the side of a burger registers an internal temperature of 160 degrees.

Serve on buns with lettuce, tomato and condiments.

Serves 4.

Andrew Schloss is a food-industry consultant and a cookbook author. His current book is "Almost From Scratch: 600 Recipes for the New Convenience Cuisine."



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