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Home(made) for the Holidays: Do-It-Yourself Barbecue Rubs


Barbecuers are easy to shop for. There’s always a new accessory, grill, or smoker that’s guaranteed to delight during holiday gift-giving. What other subset of the American population would actually welcome coal in their stockings? Especially if it’s binchotan, a premium charcoal from Japan.

But you don’t have to battle crowds or burden your credit card to please the grill buff on your gift list.

Give him or her something you’ve made yourself—a hand-crafted barbecue rub.

Rubs are simple to make and even easier to customize. And procrastinators take note: in all likelihood, you already have everything you need in your pantry.

So here’s the basic formula, which some of you may recognize as “Raichlen’s Rub” or “Four-Four Rub”:

     1 part kosher salt, sea salt, seasoned salt, or smoked salt
     1 part black pepper, cracked black pepper, lemon pepper, or white pepper
     1 part sweet paprika, hot paprika, or smoked paprika (pimentón)
     1 part brown sugar (light or dark), white sugar, maple sugar, or Sucanat

Combine in a bowl and mix with your fingers so you can break up any lumps in the brown sugar.

Where you take it from there is our secret. Here are some suggestions:

  • For a more complex all-purpose American-style rub, add garlic and onion powder (1 tablespoon for each 1 cup Raichlen’s Rub), plus 1 teaspoon each mustard powder and celery. Dang! I just gave away the formula for my Best of Barbecue All-Purpose Rub.
  • For a Tex-Mex style rub, add 1/4 teaspoon chili powder and 1 tablespoon each ground cumin, oregano, and unsweetened cocoa, plus cayenne pepper to taste. Whoops! I just gave away the recipe for my Best of Barbecue Lone Star Rub.
  • For a West Indian rub reminiscent of Jamaican jerk, to 1 cup Raichlen’s rub add 1 tablespoon each onion and garlic powder; 1 teaspoon ground allspice; and 1/2 teaspoon each ground cinnamon, nutmeg, and Scotch Bonnet chili powder or cayenne. I did it again! Gave away the secret to my Best of Barbecue Island Spice Rub.
  • For a Spanish-style rub, substitute pimentón (smoked paprika) for the sweet paprika in Raichlen’s rub. Add 1 tablespoon each ground cumin and ground coriander and 1 teaspoon grated orange zest.
  • For a seafood rub, use only half the salt in Raichlen’s rub, replacing the other half with Old Bay Seasoning (or add to taste).

Package your rubs in a glass shaker jar or Ball jar. Paste on handmade labels with your personal suggestions for use. It’s a lesson we all learned in kindergarten: nothing says caring and thoughtfulness like a gift you make yourself by hand.

Click here for even more great recipes for homemade barbecue rubs.

Of course, if you’re really pressed for time, you’ll find a full line of my Best of Barbecue Rubs ready made online. Order today.

Happy holidays, everyone!