Rubbing it in – Grilling Tips #barbecue


In the United States Grilling is a point of pride with everyone wanting their own signature twist on a rub or sauce. Usually they call it their secret and are unwilling to share. Some have even been known to take their recipe to the grave with them.

I don’t get it. I love grilling and I love sharing. Really what does it matter if someone copies a recipe. If you believe Charles Caleb Colton then you believe that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”

I’m still working on coming up with a “signature rub” of my own. In the mean time, I found this guide that provides a great starting place for developing your own. What follows is the gist of the article along with other information I found:

Step 1: Salts and Sugars- The first thing to consider is the ratio of salt to sugar.

It is these two ingredients that are key to a good rub forming the familiar ‘bark‘ that is sought after by grill masters. The salt pulls moisture out of the meat then the sugar dissolves in this moisture which helps to create the desired ‘bark.’

A higher ratio of salt works best in rubs for beef, fish, and wild game, while those with more sugar are better suited for pork.

White sugar – will scorch at hotter temperatures. So is best used for slow and low cooking.

Brown sugar – Still contains White sugar but is combined with molasses; adds color and flavor to barbecue. Take care at high temperatures.

It is common to use equal amounts of sugar and salt. for a test run try starting with 1/2 cup salt and an equal amount of brown sugar

Step 2: Pepper – Dry rubs need to be balanced not only in flavor but also in heat.

Add ground pepper to the salt-sugar mix in small increments until your ideal blend of heat and flavor is reached.

Adding more pepper is always an option, but you can’t remove it

I’m not a fan of black pepper so I start out with only 1 tablespoon and adjust from there.

Step 3: Transition Spices – These spices are generally not as dominant as other spices, so they can be added with a heavier hand.

Chili powder – Use with beef, lamb, pork, and wild game.
Cumin  – Use with beef, poultry, fish, pork, and seafood.
Paprika – . Use with beef, poultry, fish, pork, and seafood.

For a nice Southwest flavor try Cumin and Paprika. I start with about 1.5 tablespoons Cumin and 1/2 cup Smoked Paprika

Step 4: Signature Flavors – This is when you get to make the rub your own.

Coriander – Use with pork, lamb, poultry and beef.
Dill – Use with chicken and fish.
Garlic powder -Use with pork, beef, lamb, poultry, seafood, and wild game.
Ginger – Use with wild game, fish, seafood, pork, and poultry.
Onion powder – Use with pork, lamb, poultry and beef, seafood, and wild game.
Oregano – Use with lamb, beef, and fish.
Mustard powder – Use with beef, lamb, poultry, pork, and wild game.
Rosemary – Use with fish and poultry.
Thyme – Use with beef, fish, pork, and poultry.

Let your imagination go wild from here on out. For my work in progress, a brisket rub, I’ve used Cocoa (Think Mole’)

Alton Brown suggests starting as follows:

  • 8 cups sugar
  • 3 cups salt
  • 1 cup red pepper
  • 1 cup other spices

This makes 2 mason jars full. More that enough for several grilling sessions for that average Joe.

Here is another starter recipe

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
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