One of the favorite summer hobbies for many people is having cookouts. The rich flavors and aromas of a good barbecue are nearly irresistible. All those tempting scents and tastes come from marinade, sauce or barbecue rub. While barbecue rubs are commercially available, it’s fun and pretty easy to make your own. The beauty of blending your own rub is being able to personalize flavor profiles for yourself or guests.
Before you grab spices out of the pantry consider the type of food for which your rub is destine. Are you using a recipe that calls for rub or adding rub as a way to adapt the flavors of your chosen meal? The kind of rub you use for fish doesn’t always work well on beef, nor do all pork rubs translate well onto vegetables. So one thing that’s really important is knowing your spices and what flavor you want to evoke from the rub without totally overshadowing your main course’s natural flavor. Be patient with yourself. This takes a little practice but if you keep notes on what works (and what doesn’t) before long you’ll be a pro.
Building a barbecue rub begins with a solid foundation. The tripod of the vast majority of rubs consists of an even proportion of salt, sugar and paprika. Note that you can use whatever specialty blends you like for those three items. There are literally dozens of types of salt, for example, each of which marries with food differently.
The next step is adding your spice combination. Do not go crazy here. A lot of rub recipes use less than 10 ingredients. This saves money and keeps the flavor from being muddy. You want distinctive, finished taste. So add your chosen herbs slowly and taste the blend frequently. Adjust to your taste.
What exactly to add? Very often the same herbs you’d use in the oven. Fish, for example, goes well with citrus and garlic. Use coarse ground pepper with chicken or beef, mustard or peppers with pork, and season salt with vegetables.
Beyond the Basics
Do you want even more flavor in your finished meal? Then you can marinate it or smoke it before the final cooking stage with barbecue rub. This creates delicate layers of flavor that surprise people. With meat in particular this is also an excellent way to coax out a little extra tenderness.
If you’re not sure where to begin with a rub blend, there are hundreds of recipes on the internet that can get you started. Try one or two as they stand based on your main course. If you like the result, then tinker with the recipe adding inspired personal choices in spices and herbs.