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rubs for meat

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
Hi. I am new here, and this is my first post. I have always wondered what it means when a recipe calls for a rub to put on meat. How is it done exactly? Hope this isn't too dumb a question.

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post #2 of 13
A rub is usually a salt/pepper/spice/herb mix. Amount used depends on what and how you are cooking. Generally it is applied liberally and at times patted in place to help it stick. I have seen others massage it in also.
post #3 of 13
A lot of barbecue folks put quite a bit of sugar in their rubs as well as other flavorings. A basic ratio is 8:3:1:1 - 8 parts sugar, 3 parts salt, 1 part chili powder or paprika, 1 part other seasonings. The rubs I make have a lot less sugar in them than that, though. Thought I had more pictures of applying rub to a rack of ribs, but can't find them at the moment. There is one picture of a lightly rubbed rack of spares at HoosierQ

And welcome to the forum, feel free to ask any sort of food related questions you may have.

mjb.
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post #4 of 13
Welcome

Rubs are mixed, dry seasonings which are applied to meat -- usually in a "grilling" or "barbecue" context ("grilling" and "barbecuing" are actually two different things -- with a little overlap -- if you can believe that).

Good cooks adjust their rubs to suit their purposes. The sweet rubs teamfat mentioned are usually reserved for barbecuing pork and fish at fairly low temperatures. Another rub, and a very common one at that, is so called "Montreal Steak Seasoning." This is a salty/spicy rub with no sugar at all. FWIW, it's actually a California style seasoning (primarily based on salt, pepper and granulated garlic), but there was an issue with the name when McCormick was trademarking it. Rubs with a strong herbal component are usually reserved for poultry.

The 8:3:1:1 rub teamfat mentioned was heavily promoted for awhile. First it was a rib rub, then became popular for pork in general. The numbers express a ratio: Eight parts brown sugar, 3 salt, 1 paprika or chili powder), and 1 everything else. I think the interesting thing is not how much sugar southerners like on their pork, but how much paprika is called for. Those fellas sure wanted their ribs red. Alton Brown still uses something like it, and it's not a bad place for beginners to start; but I don't think it's very popular with anyone who really knows what (s)he's doing. It overwhelms, rather than enhances the meat. Taste aside, it's best to keep sugar away from mid or high direct heat grilling, sugar scorches and tastes quite bitter. So, reserve these sugary rubs for low, slow and indirect.

Rubs can be ground very fine (usually called "dusts"), or be a mix of textures from fine to coarse. They're seldom just coarse, because so many of the usual ingredients can only be found ground fine. If the rub is a mix of textures, it's important to shake or stir it up before using to make sure the ingredients are evenly distributed.

As Mary said, rubs are typically applied liberally and may be left loose, or rubbed, or massaged into the meat.

For awhile it was popular to use dry rubs as a sort of marinade -- and people would rub their meat 24 or more hours in advance. This actually doesn't usually work very well -- the most penetration most seasonings get is about 1/4", and that they can do in 30 minutes -- but there are exceptions. If you see a recipe that calls for a rub followed by an overnight, you can almost always skip the overnight.

A wet rub, usually made with onions and/or a little oil is called a "paste." These do get better penetration over time.

Most rub recipes call for "kosher salt." The salt isn't "kosher" in the sense that it's blessed, holy or has any religious significance. It's kosher in that it's of the type used for the koshering process -- which includes salt adhering to the surface of the meat for a long period of time. The ability to cling, and its resistance to easily dissolving makes it work well for the purpose. Just as an aside, you can see that for the same reasons kosher salt is not a good choice for applications where you want it to dissolve.

Obviously, rubs are used for seasoning. Another purpose is to dry the surface of the meat so a crust (called "bark" forms). When barbecuing pork shoulder to make pulled pork, the bark is called "Mr. Brown," and the interior meat is called, "Miss White."

If you decide to create your own rub, or you're mentally evaluating a written rub recipe or ingredient list, the best place to begin with is a consideration of "balance" across three of the "five tastes" (salt, hot (like pepper), and sweet), as they relate to your meat. Always remember: When you're trying to figure out how much to use, consider how salty the rub is and how thick your piece of meat -- and try to get the right amount of salt. If it's a good rub, everything else will fall into place.

There are thousands of commercial rubs on the market, and thousands of recipes, but I've always enjoyed creating my own.

Hope this helps,
BDL
post #5 of 13
I never use a sweet rub on beef, to me it is a wrong flavor profile. On beef I generally stick to S&P, rosemary,onion and garlic powder, cumin,bay, and some cayenne.
post #6 of 13
I don't know the motivation for gingerpiper's original post, hope we are being helpful. Just keep in mind that rubs are basically just a seasoning mixture. They work for some things, they don't for others. Regarding BDL's comment about sugar and scorching, I'll vouch for that. I once used a sweet rub to season some pork chops before pan frying them. Not a good idea.

Recent batches of my rub have maybe 1/3 or less comprised of the salt and sugar combination, 2/3rds is other spices and herbs. One ingredient I add that would be frowned upon by some BBQ experts is ground allspice. I think it adds a touch of Jamaican jerk flavor which I like. In truth, I once made some wet rub out of my dry rub using some Meyer's dark rum and a few other additional things, spread the paste on some chicken leg quarters before grilling. Those were pretty tasty.

One note on salty rubs and pork ribs. A rub with high salt content left on ribs overnight can sort of cure the surface of the meat, and if the ribs are cooked low and slow the finished product can end up more 'hammy' than 'porky'. It isn't an issue with thicker cuts like shoulders and loin roasts. What can be an issue with butts and such is slow cooking meat that has been 'deep marinated' - somewhere on the label it may say in big print 'Guaranteed Tender' or 'Moist and Juicy' and in small print say that the meat is 15% salt water. Not a big deal for oven roasts, but done low and slow the meat can have undesireable taste and texture issues.

And as Mary B. said, rubs that work well on pork may not do well on beef. A couple weekends ago I smoked a beef chuck roast and some pork spares. I was going to do the beef with just salt, pepper and garlic, but threw on some of my rib rub as well. The beef was good, but the rub didn't really bring anything to the party, it probably would have been better without it. Actually that slab of spares wasn't my best, but that has more to do with a storm blowing in 2/3rds of the way into the cook and messing up my pit temps.

mjb.
Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
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Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
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post #7 of 13
I don't use sugar as I feel it makes the meat tough. I have no basis for this belief other than my observations when using a sweet basting sauce for ribs as opposed to using nothing. Two spices I consider to be underutilized for seasining meats are allspice and nutmeg. Try putting in a few allspice corns next time you make chicken soup. Not much, 3-4 corns per half gallon and remove before serving. You should not be able to define the flavor as allspice. If you can, you used too much. Using nutmeg for meats is a Scandanavian thing. It absolutely must be fresh ground. Pre-ground allspice loses its citrus overtones. Again, caution. Too little is better than too much, but you will be amazed at the results.
post #8 of 13
In some Filipino recipes, I had tried a meat curing powder called "tocino". It is sort of sweetish and makes white meat red in colour (?) Careful grilling, frying or barbeque-ing suits this kind of meat (either pork, chicken or even beef slices.) On thicker meat pieces, I would rather use a wet rub or brine even then use dry rub later. Altogether my preparation takes me at least 12 hours, 16 if I forget...and the result is altogether just right for my taste.

Just my 2 cents thoughts on this ....
Iz (aka Cooper's Mom)
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Bill and Izzie: Proud parents of a soldier.
Looking back on all the mistakes I've made in my life, all I can say is I've gotten a lot of miles out of stupid.
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post #9 of 13
I view making rubs as a good way to use up the dried herbs and spices that are aging on the shelf.
post #10 of 13
You are giving yourself a low quality rub that won't be as flavorful as it should be. Fresh spices and herbs are a must. Most of mine get replaced every six months.
post #11 of 13
Last things first: Yes, allspice is great. Jerk rules! Fresh is better than pre-ground. Same with nutmeg -- but go easy. Nutmeg is not something you want to push forward -- it's better in the background singing harmony.

First things last: The reason your ribs seem tougher after basting is because you basted them at all, rather than as a result of what you basted them with. It's a function of opening the door and replacing the hot, humid air in the chamber with (comparatively) cool, dry air. There are always trade-offs and exceptions but unless done at the right times and for the right reasons, basting aka mopping in a closed pit is usually counterproductive. Open pit, different story.

The first rule is KEEP THOSE DARN PIT DOORS SHUT. Actually, now that I think of it, the first rule does not include the word "darn."

Grey, I'm not sure where you are on the rib technique continuum. Why not start a thread and get some feedback? Lots of ribbers 'round this forum.

BDL
post #12 of 13
I think that's the point I was trying to make - I use 'em up before they get stale. :chef: I don't find some old container of thyme that was behind the refrigerator for 6 years and use it in a dry rub. :eek: :D
post #13 of 13
I make a rub for pork with brown sugar, kosher salt, poultry seasoning (or just sage), ground black pepper, smoked paprika and regular paprika, ground coriander and garlic powder. The proportions... no idea! But I think it comes close to 8:3:1:1 as mentioned by Teamfat.
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