Grilled poussin with lemon-garlic-chilli dipper

Top chefs share their favourite barbecue rubs and marinades

by Great British Chefs 1 July 2022

If you want to take your barbecue to the next level, you’re going to need some top quality dry rubs and marinades. Check out these suggestions from the UK's top chefs and harness their professional tips to ensure your next barbecue is the one everyone talks about! 


Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews as well as access to some of Britain’s greatest chefs. Our posts cover everything we are excited about from the latest openings and hottest food trends to brilliant new producers and exclusive chef interviews.

If you feel like you’ve got the basics of barbecue down, and you’re looking to take your grill game to the next level, rubs and marinades are a brilliant way to bring even more flavour to the table. Don’t get us wrong, sometimes all you need to get the best out of your meat is salt, pepper, glowing hot coals and a bit of smoke – but if you’re ready for something a little more experimental, you’ve come to the right place.

First though, a bit of science. Though rubs and marinades both add flavour to your meat, they do so in rather different ways. Marinades are often designed to tenderise meat as well as adding flavour – they usually contain some kind of acid that helps to break down the tougher proteins, and the longer you leave the meat marinating, the more tender it’ll become. Rubs, meanwhile, don’t tenderise in the same way, but they will add direct flavour to the outside of your meat, and they’ll create a delicious crust as you cook, adding texture and flavour to your final dish. That crust also hardens and helps to protect the meat inside, keeping it moist and juicy.

So, whether to rub or marinade? That’s up to you. Consider the meat you’re dealing with, what flavours you want to use and what you want the final product to look like. Seafood and vegetables can both be marinated too, although marinating time is generally much shorter, particularly for seafood, which is much more delicate than meat. Aim to marinate seafood and delicate vegetables no longer than 20 minutes, while tougher vegetables and cheeses can take a longer bath.  

Ready to get cooking? We’ve rounded up some of our favourite barbecue rubs and marinades for guidance – both in terms of flavour and method – to help you up your game before your guests arrive. Scroll down and take a look!

1. Beef onglet taco with spring onion crema, morita salsa and coriander

Nud Dudhia’s incredible steak marinade has a long shopping list of ingredients, but the extra effort is more than worth it. He blends together a mix of salt, sugar, citrus, garlic, chillies, beer, onions and coriander, and leaves his steak to marinate for two days before searing it with butter or bone marrow on a raging hot barbecue. Served with a dollop of cool spring onion crema on the side, this is a real show-stopping recipe to impress your guests.

2. Paprika and honey glazed pork loin with apple and radish salad

Chef Kerth Gumbs marinates a 4 bone rack of pork in chilli, thyme and lemon juice before searing over a high heat to get some beautiful caramelisation on the outside of the meat. This larger cut of meat is then cooked more slowly at a lower temperature - a method that ensures the meat stays pink and juicy. 

3. Summer marinated spatchcock chicken

Adam Gray's winner chicken dinner uses an English mustard spice paste. Spatchcocking not only allows the chicken to cook more evenly on the barbecue, it means more surface area for the marinade to cover, too. After marinating for 8 hours, the chicken is cooked over hot coals until the skin is crisp and the meat super succulent. All this needs is a simple salad or two for a stunning barbecue spread. 

4. Espetinhos de frango – chilli and lime chicken skewers

Brazilian chef Marcello Tully shows how quick and easy a good barbecue recipe can be with his Espetinhos de Frango – literally translating as ‘small chicken skewers’. His Brazilian-style marinade of red chilli, lime, sugar, garlic and white wine vinegar only takes twenty minutes to penetrate the delicate chicken breast – any longer and the vinegar will start to overly break down the already-tender proteins – and after that he barbecues them on skewers. Simple and delicious.

5. Lime-marinated flank steak

Martin Wishart’s cooking is based on a foundation of classical technique, but he shows a more modern side here with an Asian-inspired marinade for his flank steak. Flank is a cut that typically would be braised, but it’s also fantastic if cooked fairly rare on a barbecue, with a similar texture to skirt or hanger. Martin marinates his flank in fish sauce, soy sauce, lime, garlic and chilli for twenty-four hours before patting it dry and flashing it over a hot barbecue until medium-rare.

6. Barbecued miso poussin with lemon, garlic and chilli dip

The advantage of using sweet ingredients in marinades is that they develop incredible smoky caramel flavours when they hit the barbecue. Scott Hallsworth uses this den miso marinade for lots of his recipes, but it really comes into its own as a barbecue marinade for this poussin – the brown miso, sugar, mirin and sake all scorch and caramelise to create a punch of Japanese flavours. Plus, poussin shouldn’t take longer than ten minutes to cook, meaning you can really get them flying off the grill to happy guests once your barbecue is up and running.

7. Barbecued jerk lobster with coconut rice

Few of us would ever think to barbecue a lobster – crustaceans always seem destined for a stock pot full of boiling salted water – but Nathan Outlaw is on hand to open our eyes to new ways with fish and seafood. His jerk marinade isn’t authentic or simple, but it is delicious – he cuts his lobster in half and spoons the sauce in, leaving it to marinate whilst he lights the barbecue. From there, the lobster goes shell-down on the grill until cooked.

8. Ajwaini Macchi (Monkfish kebabs)

Monkfish is a delicious meaty fish that really suits barbecue cooking, but it will easily dry out if you’re not careful. Peter Joseph takes it on with not one, but two separate marinades, going in first with ginger, garlic, chilli, turmeric and lemon to give it colour and flavour, before hitting it with a second yogurt-based marinade that starts to tenderise the flesh, as well as adding another layer of spice. That yoghurt chars beautifully on the barbecue and protects the inside of the fish too, leaving you with a stunning smoky exterior and soft juicy innards.

9. Chicken satay with peanut sauce

Sally Abé’s chicken satay marinade is simple but incredibly effective – she uses equal parts kecap manis and fish sauce to make the base for her marinade, and adds garlic into the mix too for extra punch, leaving the chicken to sit for thirty minutes before skewering and searing over hot embers. Meanwhile, half an hour is more than enough time to whip up her satay sauce, and still have a chat to your guests before you start cooking.

10. Paneer tikka

Alfred Prasad’s paneer tikka is a delicious, vegetarian barbecue dish that anyone can enjoy. Alfred whisks a host of Indian flavours into yoghurt, and then uses that to marinate his paneer for thirty minutes. Ideally you would use a tandoor to cook this but a barbecue serves just as well, and the yoghurt forms a delicious crispy coating as it cooks, adding to the smoky flavour.

11. Barbecued Meantime Pilsner-marinated free-range pork belly with English asparagus salad

Beer can be a tricky one when you’re marinating – some hoppy varieties can add a lot of bitterness to your final dish, so take care when choosing. Adam Gray goes for a pilsner in his barbecued pork belly recipe and throws in peppercorns, bay leaves and garlic, leaving to marinate for eight to ten hours before roasting in a low oven. The pork goes back in the fridge afterwards to be pressed, so you can have this prepared well ahead of time and then finish individual slices on the barbecue later.

12. Tamarind, teriyaki and chilli oil barbecued aubergine

Anna Hansen uses the bold flavours of a teriyaki marinade along with fiery chilli oil to marinate aubergines, which become sticky and caramelised once cooked over live fire. She also uses the fragrant, sour flavour of tamarind to offset the richness of this dish, making it impossible to resist! Serve with a selection of barbecue side dishes, or as a quick weeknight barbecue option with some steamed rice