Lifted parts of this from Fine Cooking magazine and added my on thoughts as well. Your Grilling Pantry should always contain these items to make fantastic dishes, rubs, marinades, and sauces.
Bacon – Everything, and I mean everything, is better with bacon. Dice fry and add to dishes. Or try wrapping scallops, chicken, or filets prior to cooking (nice to broil for about 10-12 minutes prior to wrapping to ensure that it will cook through on the grill or in the pan when wrapped).
Barbecue Sauce – Any will do. But I like to make my own. The fun thing about this is if you start with a ketchup, cider vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce base you can then add almost anything you like to make a savory or sweet accompaniment to your dishes.
Black Pepper – Freshly ground black pepper adds a little zing and a great texture.
Brown Sugar – Perfect for caramelization and for rubs.
Chili Powder – Another must have for grilling. Makes every rub better. And it’s very easy to make your own. Good chili powder is a combination of Ancho, Arbol, and Cascabel chilis, cumin seeds, garlic powder, paprika, and oregano.
Citrus Fruit – Lemons, limes, oranges. Makes wonderful sauces and mops. And adding a wedge to the plate perks up the presentation.
Flavored Butter / Butter – Butter is essential in any kitchen. Flavored butters (compound butters) are very easy to make. Just add herbs, cheese, whatever, allow to soften, mix, roll in Saran wrap and freeze. Slice off a bit and add to your steaks when cooking. My personal favorite is Blue Cheese Butter.
Flavored Oils – Adds nice subtle tastes and are very easy to make. Just start with olive oil and add in any spice or herb. Allow to sit and infuse, then drizzle over any dish or salad.
Fresh Herbs – Rosemary, thyme, mint, etc. Chop and mix with olive oil or just sprinkle over any dish.
Garlic – You MUST have garlic in your kitchen. I often buy the 10-12 braided heads because then you have a ton and it looks great in your kitchen. Chopped, minced, sliced, sautéed with shallots. Got to have garlic.
Ginger – Wonderful root, and one of my favorite “simple smells.” There’s nothing like breaking apart a ginger root and getting your nose in there. Goes well with Asian flavors (soy, sesame oil, hot peppers, etc) for a great marinade.
Honey (or maple syrup or Agave syrup) – Added sweetness to marinades offsetting saltiness. Wonderful for glazing too.
Hot sauce – Join the debate as to which is your favorite. There are thousands of variations. Tabasco or Frank’s Red Hot work extremely well.
Ketchup – Obviously as a condiment. But essential for barbecue sauces and great for marinades.
Mayonnaise – Condiment. Also a necessity for whipping up salads and slaws.
Mustard – My personal favorite condiment. Again many different variations. Pick your poison. Great for sauces. Prepared mustard is another essential for rubs (I use Coleman’s)
Olive oil – First press, virgin, extra virgin. Necessary for mixing, coating, dressings, etc.
Salt – See my prior post on salt. Kosher salt is the best for cooking because of its coarseness.
Soy Sauce – The Asian equivalent of salt. Wonderful for many marinades. I prefer Kikkoman.
Spices – A well stocked spice cabinet or drawer is a thing of beauty. The colors and smells blend together in a way that is almost intoxicating. You’ve simply got to have cumin, cayenne, chili powder, celery seed, mustard seed, cumin seed, coriander, fennel seed, red pepper flakes, thyme, garlic powder, kosher salt, and pepper. I also like to stash away a little chipotle chili powder and ancho chili powder for variety in rubs.
Vegetable and seed oils – Handy for neutral flavors for cooking. One of my favorites is sunflower oil because of its heat point and neutral taste.
Vinegar – Need to have white vinegar and apple cider vinegar. Must have for mops, sauces, and marinades.