To some folks, grilling is a year ‘round sport. To most, summer is peak season. In either case, weekend warriors of the kettle unite over hot coals to produce amazing barbecue for family and friends. Each of us has an heirloom recipe, a self crafted one or a classic store bought recipe as their go to crowd pleaser. However, once in a while we walk through the market one day and something different catches your eye.
That is what happened to me when I saw an array of McCormick’s Grill Mates down the aisle at my local grocery store. There were some unique flavors of rubs and marinades that caught my interest, I couldn’t pick just one. Fortunately, Grill Mate seasonings are inexpensive compared to the gourmet rubs and marinades I occasionally buy, so my thought process was to try these at a low risk (cost) and potentially high reward (intense flavor).
I decided to go with 2 rubs and 5 marinades:
- Sweet n Smoky
- Baja Citrus
- Brown Sugar Bourbon
- Garlic, Herb and Wine
- Hawaiian Luau
- Mojito Lime
*The Smokehouse Maple will not be reviewed here, but take my word for it…it’s good.
On all the packages, the instructions say to use on certain types of meat. I went against their suggestions and I went with a variety of unconventional meats, seafood and fruits. There were even some instances in which I added additional ingredients because I felt it was needed for my tastes. Furthermore, some flavors were better than others, so I will grade each dish based on taste by using the number system (1-5), with 5 being the best possible score.
Applewood Blueberry Fatty
- McCormick’s Applewood Rub
- 1 Blueberry Fatty (Recipe)
A fatty is a tube shaped ground sausage that is smoked on the grill for a few hours. They are fantastic appetizers that will have guests talking about them at parties. Anything pork will compliment this rub well because of the apple flavor.
- Prepare the grill for 2-zone indirect cooking or smoking.
- Apply rub on the fatty, let it sit at room temperature.
- Place the fatty on the grill (opposite from the heat) when the rub turns into a wet glaze. I added chunks of cherry wood to the fire for some smoke.
- Cook at 225 degrees until the sausage is done (about 2 ½ hours).
- Slice into discs or bite size and serve.
I liked this rub a lot, it’s coarse so I got a nice crust on the surface. The Applewood rub would probably be fantastic on ribs or chicken too. However, it could be overpowering if too much rub was used, apply sparingly. Grade: 4
Baja Citrus Skirt Steak
- McCormick’s Baja Citrus Marinade
- 3lbs Beef skirt steak
- Canola Oil
- Apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cup Orange juice
- ¼ cup Soy sauce
The marinade was made according to the instructions on the package, I used apple cider vinegar and I added the OJ and soy sauce. Moreover, even though skirt steak is a thin cut of meat, I marinated it for over 24 hours in the fridge.
- Set up cooker for direct grilling, 600+ degrees.
- Wipe off the excess marinade from the steaks with paper towels. Discard marinade.
- I added some chunks of oak wood to the fire. Place the steaks on the grill directly over the heat.
- Cook one side for 10-15 minutes or until the meat forms char marks, flip and cook for another 7-10 minutes or until desired doneness.
- Slice against the grain of the meat and serve.
This skirt steak was fantastic! I thought about making fajitas out of these, but the meat was so good on its’ own I just dove right in. The meat was cooked to well done because all the fat that skirt steak has makes it very tender. Also, I added some McCorkmick’s Smokehouse Maple to my sweet potato too! Grade: 5
Brown Sugar Bourbon Peaches
- McCormick’s Brown Sugar Bourbon Marinade
- Canola oil
- Apple cider vinegar
- 1/3 cup Bourbon
- 7 Semi-ripe peaches
Marinade was made according the package with only the addition of bourbon. The alcohol in the bourbon will be cooked out and the sugars will give some wicked grill marks. Furthermore, pick peaches that are still firm but not hard, they’re easier to remove the pit and they hold up better on the grill while softening them up at the same time. Peaches were marinated for 30 minutes.
- Set up grill for direct high heat.
- Start placing the peaches on the grill, flesh side down.
- Cook until you see grill marks, then flip to skin side.
- Baste the flesh side with the marinade.
- Cook with the lid on for a few minutes.
- Take peaches off the grill, baste with more marinade.
- Serve on the side, salad or on top of vanilla ice cream.
Way too salty! I liked the idea of bourbon, brown sugar and peppers in this package, but I didn’t account for the salt. The sugar needs to be amped up more…add either more or a combination of brown sugar/honey/molasses. It looks delicious, but the taste is something left to be desired. Grade: 2
Garlic, Herb and Wine Pork Tenderloin
- McCormick’s Garlic, Herb and Wine Marinade
- 2 Pork tenderloins
- Canola oil
- Balsamic vinegar
- Garlic pepper rub
I picked this marinade as my sleeper because I had a tough time thinking about what meat or seafood I should pair it up with. At last, I went for pork tenderloin…it took a while for me to come up with that, I don’t know why. First, I used my boning knife to cut all the fat and silver skin off. Second, I followed the instructions on the package and marinated over night.
- Set the grill up for 2-zone indirect cooking at 300 degrees. I added chunks of cherry wood to the fire.
- Remove tenderloins from marinade, wipe off excess with paper towels.
- Tie tenderloins together with butcher twine.
- Apply garlic pepper rub then place the pork on the cool side of the grill.
- Cook with lid on until interior temp of tenderloin reaches 140 degrees (1 ½ hours).
- Grill the tenderloins directly over the heat to produce a flavor crust.
- Remove from the grill, slice and serve.
The pork tenderloins were an absolute homerun! I loved it, my family loved it, I even loved the leftovers. I wouldn’t change anything about this recipe. The marinade made the meat taste fresh and savory…a definite keeper. Grade: 5
Hawaiian Luau Pork Steaks
- McCormick’s Hawaiian Luau Marinade
- Canola oil
- Apple cider vinegar
This marinade was another hard one to pair up. I ultimately decided to go with pork steaks. Pork steaks come from the shoulder and sliced from ½” to 1 ½”. I went with about ¾” cut pork steaks and I planned to smoke them. I followed the marinade instructions and put them in the fridge for about an hour…I recommend longer, you’ll find out why.
- Set up smoker to 225 degrees, I used cherry wood for smoke.
- Wipe off excess marinade from the meat and place them on the grill.
- Smoke for 2 hours, then finish them directly over the fire for char marks.
- Serve as is.
Almost the same problem as with the Brown Sugar Bourbon marinade, it’s not sweet enough. If I had to do it over again, I would add teriyaki sauce or pineapple juice, because I didn’t get enough of a Hawaiian vibe. However, the pork steaks were still delicious despite the lack of taste from the marinade. Grade: 3
Mojito Lime Tilapia
- McCormick’s Mojito Lime Marinade
- 5 Tilapia filets
- Canola oil
- Red wine vinegar
- ½ lime
My biggest obstacle here was how to grill this fish, it’s too delicate. So, instead of placing the tilapia directly on the grate, I’m using a cast iron skillet on the grill. With that out of the way, I prepare the marinade according to the instructions. In addition, I include red wine vinegar and a half of a lime. These filets marinated for 30 minutes.
- Set up the grill for direct high heat cooking. Place the skillet over the heat.
- Barely wipe the marinade off the filets by using the inside of the storage bag and place the fish in the skillet.
- Turn the filets once you see a crust formed, close the lid for about 5 minutes. Check and rotate if the heat is more intense on one side than on the other.
- Remove from the skillet once inside the fish looks opaque.
- Serve immediately.
Maybe it’s coincidence but 2 of the 3 highly graded marinades were the most healthy meals, that’s something my wife would like me to do more of. The tilapia was very satisfying, it had a fresh and earthy flavor. I served it on a bed of rice pilaf, topped with roasted red peppers and cornbread (I had to break up the healthiness). Grade: 4
Sweet n Smoky Ribs
- McCormick’s Sweet n Smoky Rub
- Baby back ribs
- Brown sugar
Simple low and slow BBQ ribs here. Like the Applewood rub, this is a coarse rub, comparable to many gourmet rubs on the market. The rub gives the ribs some phenomenal color too, bright orange-red. This is a classic all purpose rub for pork, chicken, beef and seafood.
- Set up smoker for 225 degrees, I added cherry wood for smoke.
- Apply rub liberally onto the meat, let the ribs sit at room temp until the rub looks like a glaze.
- Place the ribs in the smoker, I like using the 3-2-1 smoking method. This is when you smoke the ribs for 3 hours, wrap in foil for 2 hours (add the rest of the ingredients in this step) and cook 1 hour unwrapped.
- Remove the ribs from the grill, let it rest for a few minutes and serve.
No BBQ sauce needed here, ribs were perfect and the rub can stand on its own. It’s a good idea to put more sugars like honey and brown sugar because the rub itself was a little flat on the sweet side. However, the peppers and other spices come through for some appetizing smoky ribs. Grade: 4
My quick math shows the average score of all these products is 3.9 out of 5. My main criticism in general, is the absence of sugar in the products that should have a sweet taste like the Brown Sugar Bourbon or Hawaiian Luau. Even the rubs can be sweeter, however, it is a simple fix by doctoring the marinades and rubs for my own taste buds. Overall, these McCormick’s Grill Mates are outstanding. Their flavors are an easy, convenient way to prepare great meals on a budget that taste like gourmet meals from a restaurant. Grill Mates set the bar pretty high for me.