Help! It's 5:30 p.m., dinner needs to be on the table in less than an hour and you forgot to put the chicken breasts into a marinade before you left for work in the morning.
Don't despair. A flavorful grilled feast is as close as your spice cabinet.
"Marinating takes hours, with glazes and sauces you're mixing this and heating that. A rub is the fastest way of adding flavor to food," says grilling guru Jamie Purviance, whose latest cookbook "Weber's New Real Grilling" just hit shelves.
A rub is simply a blend of seasonings massaged -- rubbed -- onto food.
"Salt and pepper is sort of a rub," Purviance says. "And then there are rubs with dozens of ingredients."
Depending on the spice and herb combos, rubs can introduce a number of ethnic flavors to your grilling fare. A blend with cumin, cayenne and garlic leads you down a Tex-Mex path while cardamom, turmeric and ginger can take you to the Middle East. Mustard, paprika and a bit of brown sugar evoke traditional barbecue notes.
Salt, Purviance explains, is an essential ingredient.
Salt draws moisture out of the meat and that moisture mingles with the herbs and spice. Then, when the meat reabsorbs the salt (a process called dry brining), the herbs and spices go along for the ride.
"Letting it sit 30 minutes is good; 60 minutes is even better," Purviance says.
Doug Tomek, a resident of Hampshire and founder of Uncle Dougie's, a maker of grilling rubs, sauces and marinades (as well as kick-butt Bloody Mary mixes), says cooks shouldn't be afraid to get rough. Rubs are called rubs because they should be rubbed into the meat, not just sprinkled on top. A bit of olive oil can help that along.
"You want to get the seasoning into the meat, into all the crevasses," Tomek says.
Here's the Uncle Dougie's method: Drizzle some olive oil onto the meat and put it in a plastic bag. Dump the rub -- he recommends Downright Tasty (a proprietary blend of 14 herbs and spices) -- into the bag, seal it, pressing out as much air as you can. Now massage the meat through the bag.
"It's a nice way to keep clean," adds Uncle Dougie's partner Tim Condon.
So, get some chicken thighs, pork chops, T-bones or whatever else you crave out of the fridge when you walk in the door at 5:30. Massage in the rub -- whether your own concoction or a favorite store-bought blend -- and let it rest on the counter for a bit. Cold meat shouldn't hit a hot grill anyway.
Now heat the grill, toss tomatoes wedges and cucumber slices in balsamic vinaigrette for a quick cold salad, steam some broccoli and call the family to the table for a tasty meal.
Phew! Dinner time has been saved again.