One of the many secrets top notch grilling and barbecue chefs have is the use of the “rub”, or the combination of dry spices added to meat just far enough ahead of cooking to impart some wicked flavor.
There are endless great rub recipes out there, including the legendary Mike Mills’ “Magic Dust” which has won him numerous barbecue awards. Buy any book on grilling and barbecue and you’ll be inundated by hundreds of ideas for the ideal rub.
In March of 2003, I developed what I consider my ‘baseline’ rub, otherwise known as our “family rub” because my then seven year son, my wife, and I all enjoyed it equally. It doesn’t have the big spike of heat of so many of today’s rubs, which I like because think about it — you want more heat? Add more cayenne. Simple as that.
One thing I like to do is write rub recipes in ‘parts’ rather than teaspoons or tablespoons. It makes producing a huge batch far easier, and also allows for a faster process … just grab a spoon (or a quarter cup measuring cup!) out of your drawer and you’re ready to go.
THE GRILLING MAN’S “FAMILY RUB”
Feel free to adjust to your own taste
2 parts Kosher Salt
1 part Spanish Paprika
1 part Garlic Powder (not garlic salt!)
2 parts Chili Powder
1/2 pt. Cayenne
1 part Brown Sugar
1 part Onion Powder
1/2 pt. Ground Mustard
1 part Fresh Ground Pepper
1/2 pt. Dried Oregano
1/2 pt. Dried Sage
Mix well in bowl, incorporating all ingredients. Stores well in a tight jar for up to two months.
Using the rub the right way
The thing about rubs is, honestly, they are overused. They are often used heavily to cover defects in the quality of the meat, or applied too early and thus becomes too penetrative to the flavor. The rub should, in the end, balance the flavors, not become the flavors.
Pork ribs: I like a fine dusting on the ribs 3-4 hours before starting to smoke them. Anything more, and due to the salt it dries out the ribs and changes their flavors.
Steaks: If you dust the meat about an hour before cooking, you’ll be in good shape.
Beef roasts: This is where you can leave it on for a bit. Dust the meat the night before cooking for good penetration.
This rub works well on everything: fish, lamb, popcorn, you name it. At my house it’s always within reach and always enjoyed. Let me know what you think.