Right up there on the list of Barbecue essentials, (alongside that refrigerator door full of Marinades), are rubs. A rub is a combination of spices, seasonings and herbs that add ﬂavor and texture to meats.
Spice rubs are most often used when grilling or smoking Meat, Poultry, or Fish. There are an endless number of different recipes for rubs and many of them, based on speciﬁc ingredients, are geared towards a particular application, but some are highly versatile and seem to work on almost anything.
The combination of ingredients that makes a good rub for a particular kind of food is endless; many cultures have combinations as identiﬁable to them as their art or music.
A barbecue rub can be dry or it can have some liquid, (usually oil or water), in it, that gives it the consistency of a paste. Dry rub ingredients can be mixed up and stored in an airtight container for many months. Ones that have been turned into a paste should be packed tightly in a jar and kept in the refrigerator. Although they will last for a month at least, they will lose potency over time. Experimentation is the best for determining which method is best for what’s going on the grill.
When formulating a rub, keep in mind ingredients that work well together. They can include brown sugar, paprika, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, chili powder, oregano, sage, or whatever sounds good to you. The proportion of salt should be great enough to trigger osmosis and begin to draw the moisture from the surface of the meat, and if there is too much sugar, it can caramelize and burn, leaving
a bitter taste.
Keeping a dry rub in a shaker is great for easy application. With meat, it can be applied a day ahead, but with poultry and ﬁsh, too extended a time can create overpowering ﬂavors that will mask the natural ﬂavor of what’s being cooked.
Shake the rub over the entire surface of the meat. Use a generous amount at ﬁrst and then, as it starts to get moist and adhere, add more if desired. Wrap the meat loosely in butcher paper and leave in the refrigerator until a couple of hours before cooking. The same applies when using a paste.
If you’re looking for a faster way of getting all that rub-goodness, and you don’t have the time to concoct your own, check out Oliver’s Own Rub Potion #9. This perfect blend of herbs and spices is one of those “works on almost anything” rubs. You can ﬁnd it in half pint deli containers in our Meat Departments. We think Hamlet would be proud!