Before we jump into this dry rub recipe, allow me to talk a bit about spice rubs in general. One challenge for me once I began a low-carb lifestyle was cutting the sugar out of my BBQ spice rubs. Sugar is a main ingredient in many BBQ rubs. Since it tips the scale at over 12 grams per tablespoon, I started to seek out alternatives. In the past, I used both commercially prepared rubs and my own. Both options were heavy in the sugar department.
I started this carb-cutting journey following the ways of the South American asado style, simply salt and fire. This is an amazing way to create good food but I quickly found it a much better of a solution for a high-heat method of cooking than for an open fire. This makes sense, as that is the asado style in a nutshell.
BBQ rubs actually have a dual propose. Not only do they add flavor to the meat, but they also add a beautiful color. As the old adage says, “We eat with our eyes first.” All you have to do is look at a foodie’s Instagram account to prove this point. At the lower temperatures used in BBQ, the meat does not brown well. While it tends to taste good, its appearance can be lacking.
You may notice that this dry rub recipe is lacking salt. Salt is arguably the single most important ingredient in preparing good food. The reason for its omission is two-fold. First, salt is not actually a spice, but that’s a story for another day. Second, if you add the salt to your meat separately, you can control the exact amount applied each and every time.
Now, let’s make a rub and get it applied:
- 2 tbsp 5-Spice Powder; this is available anywhere you find spices and generally contains cinnamon, cloves, fennel, anise, Szechuan peppercorns
- 1 tbsp Hungarian Paprika; for me this gives more color than flavor
- 1 tsp Garlic Powder (use 50% more if using granulated)
- 1 tsp Truvia
- ½ tsp Onion Powder (use 50% more if using granulated)
- ¼ tsp Ground Ginger
- ¼ tsp Black Pepper
Thoroughly mix all the above ingredients together.
A general rule of thumb, a rack of ribs take about 2 tbsp of dry rub. The above gives you enough mix for two or three racks or one Boston Butt.
Getting ready to rub:
A good friend, Mr. Ray, says “there’s lots a ways to get Chicago,” meaning you can take many routes and still get where you want to go. This Mr. Ray “ism” holds extremely true in the world of BBQ and grilling.
Much is written on using a binder to help the salt and rub stick to the meat. The list of things used for this is a long one, and any of the following will work well, and they really don’t affect the taste of the end product at all: Yellow mustard, vegetable oil, cooking spray.
I prefer a very simple approach: water. I just use water, a slight amount rubbed onto the meat to make it damp. For me it’s just that simple.
First thing, sprinkle salt on all sides of the meat. Use ½ teaspoon of Morton Kosher salt per pound, ¼ teaspoon if you’re using table salt. If this seems heavy, you can cut these measures in half and still achieve good results.
Getting the rub on:
Sprinkle the rub on the meat to give it an even coat. I like to use a coffee spoon for this. Load up the spoon and gently tap it with your index finger to knock the rub off as you go. Feel free to use a spice shake (dredge), your bare hands, or whatever works well for you to get an even coating without caking the rub on. Then give it a gentle rub with the tips of your fingers to even it out like a nice coat of paint.
To the cooker or the fridge:
Now that the spice is on, you can take it right to the cooker or leave it to sit in the fridge for a few hours or even overnight. Spending time in the fridge will help the salt work its magic a bit but will NOT help the spices work down into the meat at all. It just doesn’t work that way. Only the salt can migrate inward. Once again, that’s a story for another day.
Making your own spice rub is cost-effective and fun. Remember the “lots of ways to get to Chicago” saying and get your self some spices to see what you can create.
Thank you so much! Until next time…
**Affiliate links have been used in this post, which means I could make a small commission if any products are purchased. I only recommend products that I personally use and endorse. (Robyn)
Jon Solberg, Contributor