Homemade BBQ Rubs for the Grill Master on Your List
Originally Published: December 10th 2013
We’ve always been fascinated by the simple alchemy by which assertive seasonings are melded into a harmonious whole. Clearly, we’re not alone. Wherever you find people grilling, you’ll find spices, and wherever you find spices, you find signature rubs and spice mixes that give barbecue flavor and personality.
In fact, there are hundreds—maybe even thousands—of commercial barbecue rubs on the market, including Steven’s popular Project Smoke line.
DIY BBQ Rub Gift
Rubs, however, are ridiculously easy to make at home, and are a great project for a gloomy winter afternoon. We love to give them as gifts. Many of our favorite blends have been inspired by the recipes in Sauces, Rubs, and Marinades, where Steven shares American-style rubs as well as rubs with international flavor profiles.
In all likelihood, you already have the ingredients you need to create a signature rub for giving. Try our recipe for Basic Barbecue Rub to get you started.
What is a BBQ Rub?
Simply defined, a rub is a mixture of salt, spices, and herbs used to flavor grilled or smoked meats, seafood, and even vegetables and tofu.
There are two ways to use a barbecue rub. The first is to apply it right before grilling or smoking, in which case it acts as a sort of seasoned salt. The second is to rub it into the meat a few hours or even a day before you plan to cook it, in which case the seasonings partially cure the meat, resulting in a richer, more complex flavor.
Regional American BBQ Rubs
In America, where pit masters use rubs with greater imagination and with a freer hand than anywhere else on Planet Barbecue, rub preferences—just like barbecue itself—follow predictable regional lines.
- In the South and Midwest, for example, barbecue rubs play a variation on a theme of salt, pepper, paprika, and brown sugar with onion or garlic powder and/or celery or mustard seed for counterpoint.
- Texas brisket masters use a no-nonsense blend of coarse salt and cracked or coarsely ground black pepper (in roughly equal parts), sometimes igniting the mixture with hot pepper flakes.
- As you move west, rubs acquire the south-of-the-border accents of chili powder, cumin, and oregano.
- In my neck of the woods (Miami, Florida), rubs dance to a tropical beat in the form of sazon (a Spanish-Caribbean salt, pepper, garlic, and oregano rub from Puerto Rico) or a scotch bonnet- and allspice-blasted dry jerk rub from Jamaica.
- Then there are what you might call the “maverick” rubs—rubs flavored with offbeat ingredients you wouldn’t normally associate with barbecue, like cocoa powder or ground coffee.
5 Barbecue Rubs for Gifting
Need more great ideas for seasoning? Try some of our go-to recipes:
Consider the following rub, which was inspired by the Cajun spices used for pan-blackening. Cayenne and black pepper give it gumption, but there’s more to the rub than heat. You’ll need to know about one special ingredient here: filé powder, or ground dried sassafras leaves.
4. Shawarma Rub
Here’s a rub used by Israeli grill masters to make turkey shawarma.