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Rubs: The Topic


Chris Amirault
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After too long going without, I whipped up a batch of this chipotle ancho rub based on Reed Hearon's version, our go-to rub for summer grilling. Tonight I broiled (no grill -- rain) some chicken that was sopped with the rub, half a lime, and a few tablespoons of the oil used to fry the chiles, and with some homemade tortillas and a few sides it made a fine dinner.

We'll use this rub for pork, shrimp, chicken, flank steak, salmon, and probably a few other meats, not to mention compounding butter for grilled corn, tossing a bit into ground, uber-ripe tomatoes for a quick salsa, and sprinkling it on Frosted Mini-Wheats.

OK, that last was an exaggeration. But, really, we use it all summer.

What are your go-to rubs? They don't have to be Mexican, of course, just dry combinations of spices, herbs, chilis, peppers, salts, sugars, and who knows what all for grilling, barbecue, smoking, roasting... the sky's the limit.

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Salt and pepper. Does that count? I can't think of a protein I have cooked in any manner that didn't get a salt and pepper rubdown at least a few minutes before cooking.

For BBQ I use the rub from an old issue of Cook's Illustrated: it's pretty basic, but I haven't had the time necessary to really improve upon it. Your chipotle ancho rub sounds pretty good: maybe I'll give it a go next time I have frosted mini wheats :smile: .

Chris Hennes
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chennes@egullet.org

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I like using a rub of pasilla chiles, cinnamon, brown sugar, and tomato paste for pork-- it's great on a good bone-in chop over some polenta with fresh corn kernels stirred in...

Torren O'Haire - Private Chef, FMSC Tablemaster, Culinary Scholar

"life is a combination of magic and pasta"

-F. Fellini

"We should never lose sight of a beautifully conceived meal."

-J. Child

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All depends on what I'm cooking or smoking... usually we'll make a custom rub for each entry if we are at a competition and when at home we'll use up whatever rub is left over. Numerous times I've used my competition chicken rub on beef or pork or in an omlette.

Typical ingredients in the spice bin: cane sugar, cumin, cinnamon, all spice, paprika (sweet spanish), black pepper, garlic (of course!) and sea salt.

BBQ Brian

Brian Misko

House of Q - Competition BBQ

www.houseofq.com

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When I run out of ideas or just want something more than S&P without digging through the spice cupboard, I salt and dump in some of whatever curry powder I happen to have around.

It's also great for days when I don't have time to putter around the kitchen making a real curry but crave the taste.

May

Totally More-ish: The New and Improved Foodblog

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When I'm feeling lethargic, I like to splash some tuna with a little soy and then hit it with a combo of Togarashi and wasabi powder. I also use some rubs as spice mixes (which they really are) to flavor glazes and brines. My house rub for meat is an Orange Chipotle Rub and I’m also using a sumac base rub for seafood, chicken, and lamb. BTW, how are y’all storing your rubs –refrigerated or unrefrigerated? Have any of you tried vacuum sealing rubs or spices after they’ve been ground? Do you make them in bulk? Have any of you experienced leveling and sharpening of your rubs that is when certain flavors recede over time and heighten others like capsicum?

Jim Tarantino

Marinades, Rubs, Brines, Cures, & Glazes

Ten Speed Press

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I store that chipotle ancho rub in a jar in the fridge. The tasks of frying chiles just right without burning, mincing a ton of garlic, and grinding it all up to the proper shaggy texture take enough time that I made a double batch this time and have stored half in a vacuum-sealed package in the freezer. I'll be able to compare fresh vs frozen down the road.

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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  • 1 month later...

I use mostly dry rubs. Two in particular are worth mentioning here. The first is based on (believe it or not) a Joy of Cooking recipe:

4 t sweet paprika

3 t ancho

3 t brown sugar

2 t kosher salt

1 t cumin

1/2 t white pepper

1/2 dried oregano

1/4 t mace

1/8 t cayenne

This gets used for pork especially (it's my go-to for baby backs and spares), but it works well on chicken and salmon, too. For the salmon, I like to butter filets, then pack the rub on and fry in a very hot pan -- a less-messy variation on Prudhomme's blackened fish.

The other is jerk, more or less, but certain household dietary issues prevent me from using fresh really hot peppers (or even coarsely ground black pepper), so I've toned it down:

4 parts allspice

3 parts cinnamon

2 parts ground thyme

1 part white pepper

1 part kosher salt

1/2 part sugar

This works on pork and chicken, but its highest and best use is as follows:

1. Brine chicken wings (1/2 C Diamond Crystal Kosher salt to one quart water) for two-three hours.

2. Remove wings from brine, pat dry, and allow to air-dry on racks for two hours.

3. Cold-smoke the wings over fruitwood for three hours. Remove from smoker and sprinkle generously with rub.

4. Roast wings at 250F for 45 minutes.

5. Increase oven temperature to 375 F. Once you reach temperature, roast for 15 more minutes, or until skin is brown and brittle.

Dave Scantland
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Eat more chicken skin.

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I don't eat a lot of beef, but when I have beautiful rib-eye steaks I can't resist this rub. It's more or less from a Bobby Flay recipe called Barbeque Cowboy Steaks. I use less salt, substitute New Mexico chile or ancho chile for black pepper and use less garlic powder or fresh sqeezed garlic. If I am altering 3 out 6 ingredients perhaps it really isn't his recipe any more. This makes enough for three or four steaks. The rub goes on and the steaks sit at room temp for about an hour before grilling.

1 tsp or less salt (he calls for 1 Tbsp, which seems scary to me!)

1 tsp Hungarian sweet paprika

1/2 tsp garlic powder or fresh sqeezed garlic (he uses 1 tsp)

1 tsp ground ancho chili (he uses black pepper)

1 tsp ground dry thyme

1 tsp finely ground coffee beans

The ground coffee just knocks me out. I imagine that you could add ground coffee to a variety of chili-based rubs and it would deepen them.

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Odd that Bobby Flay would miss a chance to add chiles! Thanks for the coffee reminder. When I'm making a chile stew, I add some brewed coffee; it adds roundness and a nice bitter edge. I keep meaning to try it in a rub, but it never occurs to me at the proper moment.

For beef (back ribs, short ribs, steaks) I use a simple combination of salt, ancho, white pepper and powdered sugar, filled out with a neutral paprika. Rub them an hour or two before cooking -- the salt brings out the water-soluble proteins, which mix with the seasonings.

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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I love the Klink's Rub linked to above. In fact I was just regretting the fact that I can't seem to find any sumac here. Sunday we're going to try to introduce our French friends to ribs, and I'd love to have that rub. But I'm really appreciating the other recipes posted here, and one of them will probably be on the menu for the party.

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Odd that Bobby Flay would miss a chance to add chiles! Thanks for the coffee reminder. When I'm making a chile stew, I add some brewed coffee; it adds roundness and a nice bitter edge. I keep meaning to try it in a rub, but it never occurs to me at the proper moment.

Dave, I too add strong brewed coffee to red pork chili. For some reason I have never done it with beef chili, but I rarely make beef chili. Sometimes I add bitter chocolate to my chile by mixing unsweetened cocoa with a very small amount of sugar, making a slurry and dumping it in. I usually add coffee and/or this chocolate about a third or halfway through the cooking time, which for a pork stew might be a couple of hours. Dunno exactly why I add it then.

Perhaps adding a small dusting of cocoa to a chili rub would be interesting. Sounds like you are already using sugar in your rub, so you could omit any extra of that. If you added a little cinnamon it might be like a mexican chocolate kind of thing--certainly a natural with ancho chili.

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Seeing how you're messing with sumac, try this:

Lemon Sumac Rub

Makes about 1/4 cup

Timetable: Swordfish steaks, shrimp, chicken breasts or kabobs, beef kabobs, or lamb kabobs: 1 to 2 hours

This Casbah-style rub is a double dose of pucker. The lemon zest and sumac provide a nice complement to the fennel. You can also use this as a spice mix in ground meat kabobs. And yes you can scale it up.

2 teaspoons dried lemon zest (I've used fresh lemon zest and it works nicely)

1 teaspoon hot paprika

2 teaspoons fennel seeds, toasted

1-1/2 tablespoons sumac

1 teaspoon dried mint

1 teaspoon freshly cracked black peppercorns

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

Combine the lemon zest, paprika, fennel seeds, sumac, mint, peppercorns, and salt in a spice mill or a blender and grind to a coarse powder. Stored in a clean, airtight container, this will keep in the freezer for 3 to 4 months.

Jim

Jim Tarantino

Marinades, Rubs, Brines, Cures, & Glazes

Ten Speed Press

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Katie, you beat me to it with that cocoa addition question. Has anyone tried that?

I have. I did an amuse a while back with a cocoa rub on cubes of pork tenderloin that I grilled then plated with passion fruit coulis, ancho oil and caramelized cocoa nibs.

2.5 parts cocoa powder

1 part ancho powder

1 part brown sugar

.5 part pasilla powder

.5 part garlic powder

.5 part salt

.5 part black pepper

.25 part cinnamon

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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This cocoa thing got me curious, so I dug up an old SF Chronicle recipe that was adapted from a Scharffenberger recipe, no doubt in their attempt to convince people that their cocoa nibs are, in fact, edible. They are, sort of. My daughter had given me a pack of them and I've been trying to use them up for the better part of a year now. Cocoa nib brownies was the most successful, but this turned out to be a pretty good way to used them.

We started with a 1lb flanksteak. The recipe was a little strange, calling for 1 T of hot red pepper flakes. I subbed the same amount of ground ancho chile. It called for 1 T of cocoa nibs, 1 1/2 T of brown sugar (I cut it back to 1 T), half tsp of cumin seeds and 1/4 tsps of dry mustard and allspice. It also called for 1 T of kosher salt, which according the recipe, resulted in each portion having 1.714 mg of sodium. That seemed like a ridiculous amount of salt, and being a person who has, over the years, adapted happily to using less salt, I cut way way back on that. All the ingredients went into the coffee grinder. I tasted it and proceded to add some ground coffee. I couldn't stop myself.

The recipe suggested applying the rub at least 8 hours before grilling, so that's what we did. It was very good, considering my proportions were fairly haphazard. Next time I would try it with a rib-eye instead. If flanksteak is at all tough I think it does better with a wetter marinade rather than a dry rub. And all the flanksteak I have been buying this year seems tougher than it used to be, whether I'm doing a stir-fry or grilling it whole.

Tri2Cook: your pork rub sounds good, but you don't say if you liked the way it turned out. With almost twice the amount of cocoa to chili, was the taste of the cocoa very pronounced?

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Tri2Cook: your pork rub sounds good, but you don't say if you liked the way it turned out. With almost twice the amount of cocoa to chili, was the taste of the cocoa very pronounced?

It was good but probably not the way I would do it for a go-to type rub. In the context I used it the cocoa level was appropriate but I'd lower the level a bit for general use. The pork was part of a 10 course dinner for 24 I catered (cooked on site) that was themed around chocolate. Chocolate in some form was incorporated in every course. They wanted it, they got it, they enjoyed it and I had fun but between the idea testing and the actual event I didn't want to do anything with chocolate for a while after. I was tempted to alter the formula a bit based on what I think would give a better balance but it didn't seem right to offer up something I hadn't actually tried so I left it the way I did it. I would definitely recommend adjusting to taste.

Edited by Tri2Cook (log)

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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A few of my thoughts on rubs...

I never mix salt into rubs. I salt the meat (or whatever) first, allow some time for the salt to draw moisture to the surface, then apply the rub over the salt. The moisture helps the rub stick but, more important, I can apply the rub as lightly or as heavily as I'd like without affecting the salt level.

Unless needed as a bulking or carrying agent I dislike paprika in rubs used for longer cooking items, notwithstanding the plethora of recipes (especially for barbecue) that call for paprika as a main ingredient. Paprika--even that of high quality--simply doesn't have a flavor that stands up well to long cooking, especially dry heat cooking. If you want a chile flavor use chilies that hold up (ancho, Aleppo, guajillo, aji amarillo, et al.) I will use smoked paprika (and/or chipotle) for grilled foods where some smoke flavor is desired and either the method or brief cooking time will not allow for much smoke to adhere.

I rarely make the same rub twice and am not really into 'all-purpose' rubs as I think different meats lend themselves to different rubs. As important, perhaps, I take into strong consideration what the rubbed item will be served with. Just as one might decide on these side items instead of those if this sort of sauce is going to be made for, say, this grilled steak, so to I think it is important to base sides on what will work with the rub on the main item or, conversely, base the rub at least somewhat on what the chosen sides are.

A couple rubs with cocoa. Both include coffee and chilies. The first I did for a brisket i was smoking; the second is a variation of the first and was used for bison rib-eyes (good on grilled tri-tip too).

1/4 c coffee, ground into a powder from fresh beans

1/4 c cocoa, unsweetened

1/4 c dark brown sugar

1/4 c ground Ancho pepper

1 Tbls dried thyme

1 Tbls onion powder

1 Tbls ground New Mexico hot chili powder

1 Tbls garlic powder

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground marjoram

1/4 tsp ground allspice

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

several turns of a black pepper mill

The variation:

3 Tbls coffee, ground into a powder from fresh beans

1 Tbls unsweetened cocoa

1 Tbls dark brown sugar (or light)

2 Tbls ground ancho chilies

1 Tbls dried thyme

1 Tbls granulated onion

2 tsp ground New Mexico hot chili powder (or use 3 tsp Aleppo, or use 1 tsp cayenne)

1 Tbls granulated garlic

1 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground marjoram

1/4 tsp ground allspice

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

a couple turns of a black peppermill

a couple turns of a white peppermill

For the helluvit, a rub for ribs (got a million rubs!):

1 T whole black peppercorns

1 T whole white peppercorns

1 T whole green pappercorns

1 T whole coriander

12 whole allspice berries

8 whole cloves

2 bay leaves

1 T whole cumin seeds

1 T whole fenugreek

Toast the above ingredients in a hot dry skillet over med-high heat till fragrant and lightly toasted, stirring constantly, about 2 min.

Grind well in a spice grinder, reserve in a bowl, then combine with:

1/4 c Aleppo pepper

1/3 c dried thyme

1/4 c turbinado sugar

1/3 c granulated onion

1/3 c granulated garlic

2 t ground ginger

(T = tablespoon t = teaspoon c = cup)

Nice alone under a thin veneer of glaze, painted on the ribs for the last few minutes of cooking, just long enough for it to seize and set. (Pineapple with tamarind and a little honey is nice; mango with calamondin, pomegranate with honey are others.)

Kevin

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kl: brainy idea to add the salt first. How long do you let the meat sit w/salt before adding the rub? Then how long between rubbing and grilling?

As a guideline do you like a 1:1 ratio for unsweetened cocoa:brown sugar? Did you prefer the recipe with 3 parts coffee to approx 1 part chili powder to the one that was closer to 1 part each? I know the heat varies depending upon what type of chili you are using, but for the sake of argument let's say ground ancho. I like the idea of finding a workable base of fresh ground coffee, chili, cocoa and sugar, then varying the rub with other herbs or seasonings depending upon what's on hand.

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