One of the surest ways to flavor meat is with a rub. While most people (myself included) associate rubs with BBQ dry rubs, almost any kind of flavor enhancer added to food prior to cooking can be considered a rub. In fact I can recall years after the fact the chef in the one and only kitchen I ever worked in using a mustard based "wet" rub on large roasts before cooking them. Rubs can be as complex or simple as you want and many a pit master will take the specifics of his or her rub to their grave before revealing the specifics of what's in there. I have a few I keep around based on what I'm cooking including a poultry "shake" for when I do fried chicken, a spicy rub for spicy turkey or chicken tenders and a base rub/sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder for just about everything else.
Now when we're talking dry rub for BBQ (and we are) the rub needs to perform 3 primary tasks- 1) Drawing moisture from the meat. This moisture will form a saline solution with the herbs and spices that is then drawn back into the meat imparting flavor to the meat and partially tenderizing it 2) Enhance the flavor of the meat- I guess this goes without say 3) Carmelization- This will form the crust or bark that is so desirous in BBQ. So the way I see it every good rub needs at least salt (flavor and drawing moisture), sugar (flavor and carmelization), and herbs and spices (flavor). Getting the proportions right is really the key.
The base proportions of this rub are borrowed heavily from a few sources but mostly the Good Eats dry rub. The last "part" is exactly how I do mine (so no secrets there). The reason for parts versus exact measures is it makes it easy to make whatever volume is necessary as long as the proportions remain the same. In other words it doesn't matter if it's tablespoon, cups, mugs, or shoes. As long as the same size receptacle is used and you follow these proportions you can't go wrong.
The proportion is 8 parts light brown sugar, 3 parts kosher salt, 1 part chili powder and 1 part made up of additional herbs & spices. To make this simpler (I hope) I'm going to base this batch on 1/4 cups. So each part is one 1/4 measurement
Step 1- Add 8 1/4 cups light brown sugar to a lidded, air tight vessel. When you measure brown sugar make sure you pack it down to get the proper amount
Step 2- Add 3 1/4 cups of kosher salt. Avoid table salt. Most kosher salt has no additives and the flake shape tends to work better for drawing out moisture
Step 3- Add 1 1/4 cup chili powder- Chili powder is different then powdered chiles as it is a blend of ground chiles and other spices. I like making my own (future blog alert) or in a pinch one of the really good chili powders from Penzey's Spices. I like using a medium chili powder as opposed to hot as I will be adding some heat later
Step 4- Add 2 teaspoons each black pepper, smoked paprika, garlic powder (not garlic salt), onion powder, and cayenne pepper. Add 1 teaspoon each turmeric (I like it more for color then anything) and cumin. That's 12 teaspoons or 1/4 cup (see how that works out)
Step 5- Seal the container and shake the hell out of this mix. The brown sugar may clump into little balls. I like to break them up but it's not the end of the world either way. I store mine in the same container but you can also transfer it to mason jars or whatever you have on hand. Properly sealed and stored this will last for quite some time
So what do we do with this rub? I used this on pork ribs, brisket and pork shoulder for an awesome pulled pork! How do we make this pulled pork in an apartment with no backyard? I let you know next time!