Monday, March 1, 2010

Rib Rubs: A review and notes on making your own

Last week I talked about rib cuts for a "Barbecue 101" post. Today we get to see those ribs with some rub on them. I picked up a few commercial rubs at the grocery store to compare to each other. To be honest, there weren't many choices. Here in Seattle, Tom Douglas has a near corner on the rub market.

I get a little jealous. Especially when see that the jar of homemade rub I left at my mom's house is untouched. She goes through her Tom Douglas rub, however, as if it were fairy dust.

I recall the conversation went something like this:

"I like it on everything," she said.
"Mom, it's just spices, salt and sugar. You can make it yourself, or here, why haven't you tried the rub I left last time?"
"I didn't know if it was old."
"Old? I just made it, last week, in your house. How could it be old?"
"Well, I didn't know if it could go bad."

This from a woman whose dried Marjoram in the back of the cupboard there, is probably going on twelve years.

Sigh. It's the packaging. It's really great. See?

He's expanded into sauces and marinades, too. I'd never tried his Smoky Barbecue Rub (mom and dad like the Salmon Rub), so I decided to finally try it. I also grabbed a bag of old school Lysander's rub to compare.

Before you apply a rub to your ribs, first read this post about removing the membrane.

To apply a rub, grab a handful and sprinkle it from about 12 inches above the meat surface. This will give you a more even coating. Be generous. Do not massage the spice into the meat. Pat it lightly and let it sink in on its own.

Now for my review.

The Tom Douglas rub was, dammit, excellent. The smoked paprika gives it an extra flavor level and a deep red color. It applied well and, while it contained some brown sugar, wasn't overly sweet.

I could tell by looking at the Lysander's that it was going to be too salty. It even states on the packaging to "Not coat the meat", so there you go. I did a light dusting with it. It smelled like bullion. Old bullion. Am I just like my mother?

We should talk about salt. Some say any salt in a rub dries out the meat. Here are my thoughts.
#1. I've done side-by-side comparisons with salt vs. no salt rubs on brisket and pork butt and did not find the salt rub meat to be drier. See #3 how I feel about salt in a rib rub.

#2. Use kosher salt in rubs. It's less dense, ergo, there is a lesser chance of oversalting. In all my rub recipes, I use kosher.

#3. The larger the cut of meat, the less you need be concerned with salt. The inverse is true as well. The surface of a brisket or pork shoulder is quite minimal to the overall meat quantity. A little too much salt on the bark isn't going to ruin it.

Ribs, however, are another story. A rub covers quite a bit of the surface area, and most of the meat will be touched by the rub. Go light on salt for ribs and smaller cuts of meat.

Making Your Own Rub
It is ridiculously easy to make your own rub. I shouldn't say this, as I plan to launch a line of rubs someday. For now, we sell our rub in the most hokey of hand made packaging. Don't look too closely or you will see that my cut lines aren't always straight. Cut lines? Yep, I use a paper cutter to trim each hang tag. I print them on our computer, and never can remember which way I'm supposed to put the paper in for the printing on the other side. Do I flip? Do I turn? Darn! I messed up another piece of cardstock. And so it goes....

Making a rub yourself is as easy as going to your local bulk foods store, or restaurant supply store like Cash and Carry, to buy larger quantities of spices. The cost of spices decreases dramatically with volume, and once you get the rib bug, those 4 oz spice rack containers aren't going to do it for you.

Here is one easy ratio you can use: mix 2 parts assorted spices to 1 part salt/sugar. Or you can buy my book (grin) for rub recipes. Or read any number of barbecue books with rub recipes. The key to making your own is to start simply, and add in one flavor at a time.

How long to leave on a rub before cooking?
Minimum two hours, maximum one day. My opinion.

What's next? Fire up your smoker, girl, and get those ribs smokin' slow and low, indirect from the heat source. Choose a wood to your liking and Get Your Smoke On. Hickory is nice, or a blend of hickory and a fruit wood. Aim for a temperature of 200-225 degrees.

Next post will be about mops and finishing sauces. Tune in soon!

1 comment:

  1. U know what Im gettin a smoker when I get some extra money ! We have a friend who smokes when we go ridin in river ranch in fl. It is always great! I love to cook and you have inspired me :) You also have inspired me to work on your rub logo! I bet I can make one hot like the other guys!! hehe ( your cuz colleen here)