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BBQ MAGIC it’s in the “RUB”
By Brent Walton
Get out your grill and clean up last year’s gunk that you were going to get done over the winter after that big Labor Day shindig last year. Well it’s May and it’s National Barbeque Month that means Time to get your Que on!
This year I wanted to let you know a few secrets to the true “BBQ MAGIC” and get you off to a great year of grilling. In the “Smokey World of BBQ” the spice blends or seasonings are called “RUBS”. It is no more than a few spices carefully crafted in just the right amounts and then sprinkled or “RUBBED” onto your meat and any other foods like potato’s, vegetables and the like. Applied correctly this “rub” will take your ordinary items to extraordinary. Here in lies the “BBQ MAGIC”.
We will start with salt, really not a spice by definition, but a flavor enhancer. Salt is one of the four or five flavors your taste buds recognize, sweet, sour, salty and bitter. The fifth being recently recognized as “umami” or “savoryness” a brothy kind of flavor. Salt is used many ways for many things besides food in which it is a key ingredient. Most salt in America contains Iodine, maybe you have seen “Iodized salt” it was put into the salt to help make sure we got enough of the iodine that prevented many debilitating diseases in the early 20th century. Salts without iodine are readily available. There are many choices and types like kosher salt, rock salt and many variations of sea salt as well as typical table salt.
Next Item you need is pepper. Pepper is obtained from the vine “PIPER NIGRUM”. It is still called the King of Spices and is the most traded spice in the world. So valuable at one time in history that it was worth more than gold by weight and its peppercorns exchanged as a currency. Pepper is the third most used ingredient used in recipes behind water and salt.
With our salt &pepper now start to add a few more spices to suite our taste. When it comes to building your super secret signature spice “rub” make sure each ingredient brings something to the table. What I mean here is do not add ingredients so it sounds so sophisticated and complicated.” I have 23 ingredients in my rub” yeah and it will taste like a spice wreck. Your rub needs to compliment your food not confuse it. Really “fusion” is not what you want in a seasoning blend. You can always make different rubs for different things. Because it is good on Tri-Tip it might not be the best choice for lets say an Asian fish dish. The natural spice to try next is Garlic-with the addition of garlic you have the traditional ”SANTA MARIA STYLE” seasoning that is so popular on Tri-Tip. Salt & Pepper, Garlic so simple and so good. Things that would be a good additional fit would be Onion salt, celery salt; with just those five ingredients you would have a good basic rub. To add the BBQ twist lets try some Chili powder or some of the spicy chili peppers like a little Cayenne or Chipotle. Be careful here not to overpower the rub with spicy ingredients. Paprika is another good ingredient, more for the nice red color it would add and not so much for the minimal flavor it brings. You want all the ingredients working together to deliver a “flavor Package”. You can experiment. See what you like. There are many spices to choose from, dry mustard, allspice, ginger, cumin to name a few.
Herbs are another ingredient you can add, again be careful here as herbs tend to overpower the rest of your rub. Popular herbs would be rosemary, thyme, sage, basil, oregano and the like. I do not ad herbs to my rubs as they tend to burn easily. If I want an herb flavor I would add fresh herbs to the dish at the end of the cooking process.
The other ingredient popular to rubs would be “Sugars”. They bring balance to the salts and add carmelization to the meats and other dishes. Carmelization is when the sugars burn a little and it has a great flavor to really enhance some dishes, especially pork. Sugar comes in many forms colors and grinds. Most popular for a rub is brown sugar as it has a touch of molasses in it so it brings some flavor to the rub. Plain white and turbinado or raw sugars can be used as well.
So let’s get busy and make that BBQ MAGIC. Remember to keep it simple and there is no one secret ingredient that has not been tried before. Believe me on that one! I’m going to leave you with a couple solid rub packages that you can try and or build from.
Once you have your signature”BBQ MAGIC” it will separate you from those ordinary backyard barbeque drones and you will be the King on your block. It’s good to be the King! Use it wisely, use it liberally, and use it often. Have a great BBQ season!
BBQ MAGIC#1 BBQ MAGIC#2
¼ cup Salt/kosher salt/sea salt ¼ cup salt/kosher salt/ sea salt
3 tablespoons black pepper 3 tablespoons black pepper
2 tablespoons garlic powder 1 tablespoon white pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder ¼ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon celery salt ¼ cup paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (*optional) 2 tablespoons chili powder
Good rub as is or build from here. 1 tablespoon cumin
2 teaspoons cayenne or chipotle *