Raichlen RubSteven Raichlen
What gives some guys the edge? What makes their ribs taste a little spicier, their briskets a little more soulful, their food in general a little brighter? Often the secret is as simple as making your own barbecue rub and sauce from scratch. This is easier than you think, and thanks to the wide variations in paprikas, sugars, and other spices, you can follow my formula to the teaspoon and still give it your own personal touch. I’ve been using this rub in one variation or another for more than twenty years and it works equally well with beef, pork, lamb, poultry, seafood, tofu, and even vegetables.
- Active Prep: 5 minutes
- Yield: Makes about 1 cup: enough for 8 to 12 pounds of meat
- Equipment: Mixing bowl
- 1/4 cup sea salt
- 1/4 cup brown sugar (light or dark—doesn’t matter)
- 1/4 cup paprika (sweet, hot, smoked, or a combination of the three)
- 1/4 cup freshly ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons granulated garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons granulated onion powder
- 1 teaspoon celery seed
Step 1: Combine the ingredients in the bowl and mix, breaking up any lumps in the brown sugar with your fingers. (Your fingers work better than a whisk or wooden spoon.)
Step 2: If not using the rub right away, store it in a sealed jar away from heat and light. (I keep it in the refrigerator.)
When shopping: For the best results, use an imported paprika from Hungary or Spain. For a mild rub, use sweet paprika. For a spicy rub, use some or all hot paprika (a specialty of Hungary. One good brand is Szeged). For a smoky rub, use some or all pimenton (smoked paprika) from Spain. For a Texas- style rub, replace the paprika with pure ancho or other chili powder and add one teaspoon each of dried oregano, ground cumin, and cayenne pepper.
You don’t need to mix the seasonings on the spot every time you need a barbecue rub, but I’d try to use up each batch and make a fresh one every 3 to 4 weeks.
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.