Marinades are great for some flavors, but the real flavor comes from a rub. The careful combination of spices will create an explosion of flavor in your mouth, allowing you to enjoy succulent flavor that will have you looking forward to the next grilling session. When the rub is just right, it will complement the natural flavor of the meat and take it from ordinary to incredible.
Creating the perfect rub for your tastes and favorite cut of meat will take some experimentation. Trial and error is a natural part of any great rub recipe, so you shouldn’t be afraid to try new flavors and spices. Get creative with the seasonings you use by taking a standard spice and then choosing another version of it. Examples would be replacing regular sugar with Turbinado or brown sugar. Plain salt can be replaced with kosher salt or sea salt.
Most rubs start with a few basic spices. Salt is required for depth of flavor, sugar adds a sweet flavor and paprika lends a mild flavor for a little extra taste. Black, white or red pepper is required to control the heat of the rub. More pepper will kick it up a notch, or you can tone it down by using less. Other great seasonings for rubs include garlic, onion, cumin, oregano and cayenne.
When deciding what ingredients you will use, take into account how you will cook the meat. Sugar is an excellent addition to rubs for pork if the pork will be cooked over low heat. However, sugar can burn easily, so it’s not always a good choice for steaks that will be grilled over an intense flame. Here are a few ideas for rubs you can use in your next barbecue.
Ribs – Sweet flavor goes great with barbecued ribs, so you can break out the sugar if you are cooking ribs at your next gathering. Start with ½ cup of brown sugar and a ¼ cup of paprika. Add in one tablespoon each of black pepper, salt, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder and cayenne. Rub in into the meat before cooking for a delicious flavor that will remind you of traditional Kansas City rubs.
Chicken –Consider adding a little lemon zest to give a chicken rub more kick. Mix ¾ cup paprika with ¼ cup each of ground black pepper, celery salt and sugar. Add in two tablespoons each of dry mustard powder, onion powder and minced lemon zest. Top it off with two teaspoons of cayenne pepper for a rub with flavor and kick.
Steak – Steak has a great natural flavor, but you can add flavor with the right kind of rub. Mix 1 and ½ tablespoons of brown sugar with one teaspoon each of paprika and garlic powder. Next, add in ¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper and salt. Mix in ½ teaspoon of onion powder, seasoning salt and black pepper. Add some moisture to the rub with ½ teaspoon of Worcester sauce, ¾ teaspoon or soy sauce and 1 and ½ teaspoons of olive oil. Once it’s mixed nicely, rub it in to the meat. Allow it to soak in for at least half an hour before grilling the meat.
Keep a notebook and pencil in the kitchen when you are preparing your rubs. Take notes on the rubs you prepare, and mark down how well they worked for you. This will make it easier to tweak recipes to match your personal tastes and cooking style. Over time, you will develop your own personal rub recipe that is sure to impress your friends and delight the family.