When it comes to making authentic barbecue at home, there are two schools of thought when it comes to seasoning the meat. One school advocates the use of wet marinades in which the meat is left to sit in a flavorful mixture for several hours to soak in all the flavors. The second camp of barbecue aficionados believes that the only way to make true barbecue is by using a dry BBQ rub. In recent years, the number of proponents for the wet marinade method of barbecuing has diminished as more and more people are learning about dry dubs and the benefits of using them in their cooking.
A BBQ dry rub is a mixture of powdered spices, herbs, and other seasonings that is applied to the meat before it is smoked or cooked. While there are many dry rubs that can be purchased in the supermarket, nothing beat the flavor and freshness of a homemade BBQ rub. Rubs bought from stores may be on the shelves for several months or years after they have been manufactured, which diminishes their intensity and changes their flavor profiles and balance. Not only this, but you never know exactly what you are getting in the bottle. Often, companies will use inferior products to save costs and add chemicals and preservatives to increase shelf life. When you make your own spice rub at home, you can use the best quality ingredients, add exactly what you want to suit your tastes, and be sure that the finished product is fresh and free of chemicals.
When you use a spice rub on meats before barbecuing, a few things happen. For one, the meat becomes intensely seasoned with the rub. When the meat is placed on the grill, the spices and seasonings begin to toast in the heat, releasing their essential oils into the meat. This is where all the flavor of the herbs and seasonings is located. Next, most spice rubs include salt and sugar. These two ingredients act to draw out moisture from the meat. This may sound like a bad thing, but it’s only a small amount. When this small amount of moisture is drawn to the surface of the meat, it adheres to the spice mixture, forming a sticky crust called the pellicle, which browns and caramelizes during the cooking process, giving the meat a rich, deep, and flavorful taste and aroma that permeates the entire cut. Proponents of the dry rub method argue that it is superior to the wet marinade method for a couple of reasons. First of all, because a marinate is composed of liquids, they feel that when placed on the grill, the meat has a tendency to steam rather than cook by dry heat. Next, the liquid marinade can actually act like a barrier to keep the smoke out of the meat. Finally, these wet marinades have a tendency to burn prematurely, requiring the cook to keep a constant watch on the food.
Making your own barbecue dry rub is easy and can be customized to meet your own tastes. There is not really a recipe for dry drub, but rather a formula that uses ratios, which allows you to make as much or as little as you need for your barbecuing applications.
A good barbecue rub recipe is formed by mixing the following:
8 Parts of brown sugar
1 part of kosher salt
1 part of chili powder
1 part of optional seasonings
The brown sugar adds sweetness to the rub and helps in the caramelization process. The salt obviously seasons the meat, but also helps to draw out moisture, which helps the rub to adhere to the meat. Next, the chili powder adds a little heat to the mix.
The optional seasoning part is where things get interesting and where you can customize the rub to your desires. In this component, you can add whatever seasonings, herbs, and spices that you like, as long as the combined amount equals one part. For example, you could use some onion powder or garlic powder, both of which are common ingredients to many dry rubs. If you would like to add an Asian twist to your BBQ rub, you could add a small amount of five spice powder. The addition of a small amount of curry powder can give your dry rub and Indian influence. Let your imagination and your taste buds be your guide. Once you have selected all of your ingredients, mix them well in a bowl and store in an air tight container until needed.