Flavor Your Food with Marinades, Rubs, and Glazes

Eating food that looks and tastes good is just as important as it fitting within your dietary needs; after all, we use all our senses when we eat!

As Labor Day approaches and the end of summer nears, make the most of grilling season by adding more flavor to your favorite foods. When you add a marinade, rub, or glaze, your chicken or steak can go from good to great! Read on to find out what each of these flavor-enhancing techniques is and how to use them.


Marinades infuse flavor into your food and can help tenderize tough cuts of meat. They are usually a combination of acids like vinegar and lime juice, herbs, spices, and oil. Condiments like mustard and soy sauce are sometimes added to give another flavor dimension to the food.

Many marinades include a sweetener like brown sugar, honey, or maple syrup, which adds flavor and is often used to caramelize the meat and to give a crispy texture and glistening appearance. If you’re diabetic or want to reduce the calories of a marinade, you can substitute the sugar with a low- and no-calorie sweetener like sucralose, which will provide the same sweet taste as calorie-containing sweeteners.

Marinades work well on thick cuts of beef, chicken, fatty fish, tofu, and meaty vegetables like portabella mushrooms and eggplant. To get the most flavor out of your marinade, marinate food for at least 30 minutes if not a few hours or overnight. Once you remove meat from the marinade, discard the leftover or bring it to a boil if you want to serve as a sauce.


Rubs are a dry mixture of herbs and spices that are often used to add a smoky or spicy flavor to meats. Dry rubs can also add a crispy texture when the seasoning forms a crust on the meat.

Pat dry rubs onto fish, beef, pork, or poultry or add a little oil to the herb/spice mixture to make a wet rub that is easier to spread and stick to meats. When using a rub, let the mixture sit for at least 30 minutes so that the flavors meld together; then coat your protein and let sit again for the flavors to permeate the meat.


A glaze is a thick sauce that is brushed on meat, burgers, and ribs while food is being grilled. Barbecue sauce is probably the most well known glaze used for grilling.

Glazes are often made with jams and juices or by reducing broths, sauces, and marinades combined with a sweetener like honey, syrup, or sugar. As a result, they tend to have a high sugar content, which helps with caramelization of the meat and gives a glossy, mouth-watering appearance. Just be careful not to coat meat in the glaze prior to putting it on the grill (like you would with a marinade or rub), otherwise you risk it sticking to the grill grates and burning.

As with marinades, you can use sugar substitutes to reduce calories and sugar content in your favorite glaze. Check back here Thursday for a Quick Glazed Pork Loin recipe!



Jessica Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN is a registered dietitian nutritionist and culinary nutrition expert. She has extensive experience as a recipe developer, writer, editor, and speaker. She is the co-author of We Can Cook: Introduce Your Child to the Joy of Cooking with 75 Simple Recipes and Activities (Barron’s, 2011), past columnist for the Culinary Corner column in Today’s Dietitian Magazine, and maintains a popular blog at JessicaLevinson.com. Jessica is an active member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) and various Dietetic Practice Groups of the AND, including Nutrition Entrepreneurs, Food and Culinary Professionals, and Dietitians in Business and Communications. Follow her out on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

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August 12, 2014 Lifestyle Advice