Homemade Rub maken? Hoe begin je eraan… #start2bbq
Anyone who delves into the BBQ world will soon discover that in many dishes rubs are used to season meat, fish or vegetables. There are numerous options available ranging from classic spice mixes from the supermarket to specially developed and award winning BBQ rubs developed by BBQ teams. However, those who like to know what they are eating and want to influence the result optimally may want to develop their own homemade rub. But how do you start that now? In this post I hope to give you some more insight in how I develop my own homemade rub at home and vary on a certain basis that works for me. Who knows, with some searching and fine-tuning you might be able to develop your own homemade rub as well.
WHAT’S A RUB?
For those of you who are wondering what a rub is, you could say in short that it is a mixture of herbs and spices that is used to flavor the meat. The term rub is derived from the english verb “To rub” which means rub. This refers to how to apply the rub to the meat. Unlike moist curing and marinades, rubs are dry and should be rubbed on the meat to get a nice spicy flavorful crust. If you rub the meat with this rub some time before, the flavour can also be absorbed into the meat. Although this often goes less deep than people think and there is also a risk involved.
In a way, the composition of a rub can be interpreted very broadly. You can use almost all herbs, spices, flowers, … in it. As long as you can dry the product, there are no limits to your creativity. Nevertheless, it is important to explain some of the ingredients and how they work. These will have an influence on the end result and can also cause unpleasant effects if used incorrectly. Within this section we distinguish 4 basic ingredients that can be found in almost all rubs:
You will seldom encounter a rub without salt and this has its reasons. The salt in a rub is an essential part of its functioning. Salt has the property that it extracts moisture from its environment. When the cured rub comes into contact with the meat, it will initially extract moisture from the meat surface. This moisture will mix with the other ingredients which will draw the taste of the herbs and spices into the meat for a delicious taste. In addition, it is a very rewarding product for producers to optimize their profit margin. Salt costs almost nothing compared to the other ingredients. Cheap commercial rubs will therefore often contain a high amount of salt to reduce the price. This also explains why qualitative rubs are often a lot more expensive. Only a few leave out the salt completely (for those who have to eat poorly) but also because they can choose in which proportion they add salt to their food.
Attention: Although the salt can enhance the flavour and integrate into the meat, it also removes moisture from the meat. If you rub the meat with the rub too early, the meat can also lose moisture, which can lead to a tougher result. If you put the rub on too late, it often doesn’t get the chance to penetrate the meat (this can also be a conscious choice). Ideally, use a rub about 1 hour before you are going to prepare the meat.
In addition to salt, sugar also plays an important role in a rub. Again, critics will rightly point out that this ingredient is also excellent to reduce the price of a rub. Others will point to the unnecessary sweetening of all kinds of products to feed sugar addiction. Although I won’t exclude both, there are important aspects to adding sugar. When you heat sugar, it melts and a layer of moisture is formed on the meat. This moisture will mix with the juices from the meat so the spices can pull into the surface of the meat and form a nice crust. If you then cook a piece of meat on the BBQ at a slow temperature for a long time, this moisture will dry up and form a nice crust. If you work at a higher temperature, the sugars can caramelize, which in itself has a very tasteful effect.
Attention: From a temperature between 150 and 180°C (depending on the type of sugar), sugar can start to burn. This not only tastes very unpleasantly bitter, but is also not very healthy. When using a high-sugar rub, make sure that the meat is not cooked at high temperatures for a long time. Stop before your rub starts to turn black, although it can easily tolerate a few minutes of heat to achieve caramelization. Also make sure that the taste of your rub remains balanced. Too sweet rubs can be compensated with fresh ingredients such as lime zest, lemongrass, ginger, …
3. FLAVOURINGS (OFTEN SWEET PEPPER)
A rub consisting only of sugar and salt will probably not give your meat any strong added value. By adding extra flavourings you can add extra strength to the product you are working with by adding herbs, spices, … that match the flavour profile you have in mind. You will find peppers in the majority of rubs. The reason why paprika powder turns out to be so successful is unclear to me for the time being. However, I do suspect that both the colour aspect and the universal use play a strong role. The addition of sweet pepper gives your rub a nice red color, which adds extra strength to the color of the flesh. But a more important reason seems to me to be the universality of the product. Almost every kitchen in the world uses peppers powder in the most successful dishes. Think of the Asian “curry”, the European “goulash”, Mexican “Fajita”, …
I doubted for a long time whether or not I would add pepper as a 4th basic ingredient in this list. Personally, I am not convinced that pepper should be in a rub! Although I am convinced of the added value of a dose of pepper to a dish. Pepper adds a high entertainment factor to your meal. At least, if you can find the right proportions. Too spicy and the fun is gone. But balancing at the limit, it elicits a boost of endorphins that stimulate reward centers and make us long for more. Personally, I prefer to offer pepper in its varieties separately in a “finishing spice mix” so that everyone can determine the level of spiciness for themselves. Although it can be useful to add some pepper in a large batch of basic seasoning, don’t exaggerate.
COMPOSE YOUR HOMEMADE BBQ RUB
How do you develop a homemade rub? In a way when making a rub I always start from a basic idea of what I want to make in order to choose a combination of flavors that suits the kitchen I have in mind. Since most of the recipes contain the basic ingredients I start making a basic rub consisting of:
1 part salt (e.g.: 1 tablespoon)
1 part paprika powder
1 part sugar
1/2th part pepper
As you might suspect, different kinds of salt, sugar, paprika powder, … are for sale. Here you can already create your own touch. If you replace the paprika with smoked paprika or sweet paprika, the taste can already vary a lot. Also try lemon pepper (pepper supplemented with lime zest) instead of your usual pepper or use cane sugar instead of brown sugar, … If you want to play it safe, start by replacing half of the pepper with szechuan pepper. Some products can have a completely different profile, so the combination of types of peppers might suit you better than just the use of e.g. szechuan pepper. Szechuan.
You might also be shocked by the sugar/salt ratio. Keep in mind, however, that this base is supplemented with other herbs and spices, which makes the ratio a bit more balanced in the end. Moreover, you can also choose to sprinkle less generously or add extra parts of the basic ingredients. You can also always choose to leave out one of the basic ingredients if you deem it necessary. An important rule in creating your own business is that rules are there to be broken. This is also an excellent starting point for developing your homemade rub.
FURTHER DEVELOP TASTE PROFILE
To further develop the flavor profile you can add extra flavorings. The possibilities are endless so you can play with flavor combinations as you like. Attention: certain ingredients can taste stronger than others (think of cumin, cloves or chili pepper). If you want to play it safe, add extra flavors per 1/4th part and work with small portions where e.g.: 1 part = 1 teaspoon. This way you can easily double your basic rub if a product tastes too fierce and you don’t have to waste huge amounts of herbs to achieve the right balance. In the next section you will see some suggestions based on different kitchens and which herbs can play an important role here.
- Note: Italian rub development works more on pure green herb flavors like oregano, thyme, rosemary, sage … but also garlic and onion.
- Mexican style: cumin, coriander, coriander seed, lime zest, cayenne, garlic, onion …
- Asian: star anise, cinnamon, chili, ginger powder, cardamon, cumin, clove …
- African: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, clove, laurel, peanut …
Then you also have tastes that go better with certain products than others:
- Beef: thyme, rosemary, garlic, oregano, onion, sage, mustard powder, coffee powder
- Chicken: Thyme, rosemary, coriander, sage, marjoram, ginger, basil, parsley, cinnamon, …
- Fish: dill, fennel, chili, ginger, coriander, celery, parsley, turmeric,…
- Lamb: basil, thyme, sage, mint, oregano, cinnamon, garlic, marjoram
- Pig: Rosemary, sage, thyme, mustard powder, garlic, star anise, caraway seeds, fennel seeds, onion, …
- More special ingredients
Do you want to go next level? Think about flavors that are less obvious such as coffee powder, chocolate powder, lemon / lime / orange zest, ground nuts, ground chicharon, kombu …
TEST YOUR HOMEMADE RUB
You may be a daredevil in everyday life, but immediately testing your rub on a solid portion of meat is risky. Keep in mind that some ingredients may soften in taste when heated or combined with other flavors, which may cause your rub to lose its balance when it tasted just as good when you tasted it dry. Adjusting during or after your session is often not easy. To prevent that you kill a nice portion of meat, you can test your rub beforehand. How do you do this?
Provide a thin piece of bacon, a small piece of chicken, some minced beef, … and mix it with the herbs. Then fry this piece of meat in a pan or on the BBQ and taste if the flavours are warm. Next to the proportions of your developed rub, make a note of the findings and adjust if necessary. Repeat this step until you feel that your homemade rub is in balance. This will not only save you a lot of time to come to a recipe that will give you satisfaction, but will also not kill you a nice expensive piece of meat.
Hopefully you can use this information to develop your own homemade rub. I’m curious what you think of this post. If you have succeeded in making a delicious rub, don’t hesitate to share it. It’s always nice to be able to see the creations of others and to be inspired again. A nice and inspiring book for saltless rubs by the way is “Spice Wise” by Michel Hanssens. There are a lot of nice rubs from all over the world in this book that you can also rely on when making your own rub. Enjoy experimenting!