10 Essential Sauces and Rubs for Grilled Meat

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

Want some extra insurance that tonight’s dinner from the grill will be packed with big, bold flavor in every bite? The solution is simple: sauces and dry rubs. Whether you’re firing up the grill for burgers, brats, chicken, or a juicy steak, the secret to really great grilled meat is as simple as a medley of spices from the pantry or a vibrant sauce to match the smoky char.

From classic barbecue sauce to a Southwestern dry rub, these are the 10 essential sauces and dry rubs for grilling season.

Chimichurri is intensely green and tastes just as bright and bold as it looks, thanks to a pile of fresh herbs, red wine vinegar, garlic, and shallots. This simple sauce hails from Argentina, where it’s a regular partner with steak. We also love it spread over chicken thighs and pork tenderloin.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

This easy-to-remember sauce is whisked together with four panty staples, and makes the perfect partner for grilled chicken breast. It’s just the right balance of sweet, tangy, and spicy — use it as both a marinade and a sauce.

(Image credit: Faith Durand)

This is the sauce to remember when you need to whip something up ASAP. It has a tangy, spicy flavor that pairs well with anything and everything you pull off the grill.

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

It’s hard to think about summer grilling season without thinking about classic BBQ sauce. Just like you’d expect, this version is sweet, tangy, smoky, and can keep for a couple weeks in the fridge or all summer long in the freezer.

(Image credit: Melissa Ryan)

Once you’ve mastered classic BBQ sauce, you’ve got to try this. Inspired by Memphis barbecue sauce, this tomato-based version is thick and tangy, with a twist of sweetness from rich pomegranate molasses and fresh peaches. It’s a natural pairing with pork and grilled chicken, and a fun way to make kebabs more exciting.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Blended together with tangy tomatillos, poblano pepper, and a pop of garlic, this everyday sauce hits your tongue with punchy flavor that’s just the right balance of sweet, smoky, and spicy.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

This simple and oh-so-versatile sauce is one to keep nearby whenever you fire up the grill. It’s just the right balance of sweet, salty, and sour flavors, and plays both marinade and sauce to chicken, pork, and beef.

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

This smoky, spiced dry rub incorporates crushed cacao nibs for a twist of extra-deep, rich flavor. It’s a natural match for any cut of steak and a good choice for pork tenderloin.

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

Mixed with chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, and paprika, this is a bold spice blend that will really liven up mild-flavored meats like pork and chicken.

(Image credit: Christine Han)

This classic spice rub comes together with a medley of ingredients from the spice cabinet, and while it was originally intended for pulled pork it is versatile enough to be used for so much more.