Rub basics

Rub basics

One of the most common methods of adding flavor to food, whether it be meat or anything else, is using a spice rub. Almost everything we cook at ATBBQ and in our team members' homes will include a rub. This can be as simple as just salt, pepper, and garlic or as complex as an Italian seasoning full of herbs and other flavors folded into a butter or cheese spread. Spice mixes that are most often called rubs are one of the simplest ways to add flavor and they can even help to retain moisture when used as a dry brine. 

A spice rub is a combination of seasonings that create a desired flavor profile that is applied to the outside of meat, vegetables, or anything else you want to add flavor to. Many barbecue rubs will include a base of salt, sugar, and paprika for its sweet, yet distinct flavor while more savory rubs will often include a base of salt, black pepper, and garlic for its bolder flavor. Rubs can be flavor specific, protein specific, or even connected to flavors found in certain geographic regions, but you don’t have to follow any rules, if you like the flavor don’t be afraid to try it on your favorite dishes. The combinations and uses are nearly endless.

To apply a rub, spread it over your food from above by using a shaker, a grinder, or your hand. The rub then lands on the meat and if given enough time will absorb moisture and form a darker red or brown layer that will become the bark. We recommend letting your meat sit with rub on it for at least a half hour to fully set up as the moisture is being absorbed into the rub and binding to the meat. The longer the rub sits on the outside prior to cooking, the more the salt can penetrate and break down protein walls inside the meat allowing your food to retain more moisture during the cooking process and making the meat more tender. During cooking, your bark is formed when sugars caramelize, and browning occurs that adds wonderful flavor via the Maillard Reaction. Fat is also being rendered and passing through the layers of spices which amplifies flavor. You can also add rub after your food is cooked for additional seasoning if desired. It is often recommended that lighter meats like seafood, chicken, or pork use brighter flavors while more dense meats like beef use more bold flavors. But don't be afraid to break the rules, be creative.

You will never see our team turn down a good spice mix. Rubs are a simple way to add flavor and they allow the opportunity to experience flavor combinations that we either may not think of ourselves, or we do not have the resources in the cabinet to create at home. A good rub should always be included any time you are grilling. And because they are a mix of seasonings, they can also be included in all your other cooking as well. Most of all, they allow us to easily try something new without spending a lot of money on individual spices. So don't be afraid to try new rubs, you never know when you might find a new favorite combination. 

3. Cast Iron Pan

You can cook much more than just T-bone steaks and pork chops on a grill. With this 12" Lodge cast iron skillet, you can saute, sear or stir fry, and you can do it anywhere on any kind of grill. If you're new to cast iron, check out our guide to caring for cast iron and our 5 everyday cooking applications.

Our staff is filled with home cooks who use our products every day and would be happy to answer your questions.

Go and rub some meat!

Some of our favorite rubs


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