A BBQ rub recipe goes hand in hand with a good mop sauce. Together, they are the key to good slow smoking.
Dry rubs are used to coat the surface of the meat. They create a great tasting crust. Some rubs, such as jerk, can be in the form of a paste. They serve the same purpose, though... flavor.
Many times rubs are used as marinades. They can be left on the meat from a few minutes to 24 hours before cooking. Again, their purpose is to flavor, not to tenderize, as with a marinade.
One of the important things to remember is that there needs to be enough salt in the rub. Salt will cause moisture to be drawn out of the surface of the meat.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the amount of sugar should not be too high. Too much sugar will cause burning, not to mention a bad taste.
Some folks say not to use salt or sugar at all in rubs. Well, I can see their point. Salt does draw moisture. And sugar does burn.
But, I always use both. Not just to be contrary, but because each one adds tremendous flavor dimension. And, if you don't go overboard with either one, and find a good proportion, you get much better tasting meat than without them.
Keeping the temperature at 225 degrees isn't that hard to do. That's where it needs to be anyway, with or without sugar. And what little moisture is drawn from the meat by the salt, gets absorbed by the rub and helps the seasoning flavor the meat even better.
A BBQ rub is like a BBQ sauce. They are both available, ready-made, commercially. There are recipes available in books and online. They can both be easily made to match your own unique tastes.
Many of the seasonings used in a BBQ sauce can also be used in a BBQ rub recipe. Remember... you can always take the easy way out and just buy a ready-made rub at the store. But, that would take the fun out of it, wouldn't it? When you get it right, you will guard your own BBQ rub recipe the way the pros do.
The right proportion of salt and sugar will make your rub a good one.This proportion will change too, with different cooking times and styles of cooking. If you want to grill food and use a rub (nothing wrong with that), then don't use any sugar at all.
It will burn... remember? Always avoid that.
You will be able to use more sugar when you slow smoke, because it is done with indirect heat. And the temperatures are lower than grilling. I wouldn't let the temperature get above 225 degrees, though.
The combination of salt and sugar will affect the taste, but also the amount of moisture, caramelization, and (of course) burning. Some of the other ingredients may have some sweetness in them. They are all in it for the flavor, though. They won't really affect the sugar content of the BBQ rub recipe.
When you are ready to apply the rub, start by coating all surfaces of the meat with Worcestershire sauce (my favorite). If you don't like Worcestershire sauce, you must be wierd... um... uh... I mean... use another liquid. Yeah... yeah, that's what I mean.
Rubbing the meat with liquid will assure that all of your dry seasonings stick and stay there. This may turn into more of a paste, but... that's OK, isn't it? Remember if you don't like an ingredient, don't use it in your BBQ rub recipe.
Now, I'm not trying to give you orders, just making suggestions. If you prefer not to use a liquid, that's OK, too. Some of your rub may fall off and be left behind, that's all.
If you are going to grill, you may want the rub to sit on the meat for a while so you get some extra flavor transfer. But, if you've got a big brisket that you're going to smoke for 10 or 12 hours, get after it.
These ingredients can make you a very nice rub.
Use the same measure of each ingredient. Make them all 1 tsp, 1Tbs, or 1/4 cup, your choice. It's just a matter of how much you want to make or how much meat you need to rub. Since you haven't tried it yet, just make a small batch. You will probably want to adjust it for your taste anyway.
You may want a little more paprika and a little less cayenne. You may want a little extra chili powder, like we do in Texas. You may even want to trade out dry mustard for the cumin. I don't know what you like, but you do. Make it into your signature BBQ rub recipe.
Here is another one to get you thinking.
1/4 c brown sugar
1/4 c vinegar
1/8 c salt
1/8 c onion powder
1/8 c paprika
1 Tbs black pepper
1 Tbs chili powder
1 Tbs dry mustard
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp ginger
Notice this recipe has vinegar in it. Since it is a wet rub, you won't need to put Worcestershire sauce on the meat first. You are better off in this case to pat the meat dry before applying the wet rub.
Naturally, this is here for you to manipulate any way you want. Add additional ingredients like garlic powder, tarragon, allspice, etc. Or maybe make changes like dry mustard for cumin, or whatever floats your boat.
Please enjoy this as you experiment. If it's no fun, find something that is. Zero in on something you are passionate about, and enjoy the ride. For all of you enjoyable fans of BBQ out there... get another drink, and try again.