Five Rules for the Spice Rub
Tony Gimellaro from The Beard and the BBQ, Australia’s self-styled ‘Sauce-Lord’ is known for his big personality and his line of signature BBQ sauces, hailed by many as the best in the country. In a recent interview for the Smoking Hot Confessions Podcast, he also shared loads of tips on preparing rubs. I’ve sifted and sorted these down to what I like to call the Five Rules for the Perfect Spice Rub.
First up, if you’re new to BBQ, you might not be entirely sure what a rub is. A rub is a combination of seasonings that you put on the meat prior to cooking. Depending on the seasonings, they can help to develop a nice ‘bark’ around the outside of the meat. The flavours will also penetrate down into the meat, up to a maximum of 10mm. Pretty cool huh?
And without further ado, the rules…
Rule #1: Sweet for White and Savoury for Red
This first rule is something Tony was very clear on: he doesn’t like sugary rubs on his beef. In his experience, Tony find that sweet rubs work best on white meats like chicken and pork and savoury rubs (read ‘salty’) work best on red meat.
Rule #2: Skip the Mustard
When researching recipes on the internet, you’ll find most recommend coating the meat in Dijon mustard to help the rub stick to the meat. Tony has long since dumped the mustard and uses either peanut or olive oil. I actually don’t even use that and just rely on the moisture of the meat to hold the rub on. I keep putting on the rub until it stops sticking to the meat – I allow the moisture of the meat to tell me when enough is enough.
Rule #3: Sprinkle & Pat
When applying rubs, Tony prefers the sprinkle and pat approach to the dump and rub approach as it saves a lot of wastage and clean up later. On this one we totally agree: I’m definitely a sprinkle and pat guy.
Tony’s top hint: keep one hand clean to do the sprinkling and let the other had get dirty with the rubbing – if the hand that’s touched the raw meat goes into your rub container, you won’t be able to use it again later. The rub that is, not your hand.
Rule #4: MYO Rubs
One of Tony’s top tips for competitors is to have a crack at making your own rubs, to ensure you’re not handing in the same flavours as the people next to you. For white meat, start with a basic rub of one part each of salt, sugar and pepper, and a half part each of onion and garlic powder. For red meat, just start with salt and pepper. These will give you a great base from which you can start customising.
I like to add some heat to mine too. Not a lot though, just enough to give you some warmth in the aftertaste. I use smoked, powdered chili that I make myself. It’s flippin’ awesome!
Rule #5: K.I.S.S.
In this case, K.I.S.S. stands for Keep It Simple (for) Service. Tony’s brisket comp rubs have ten or more ingredients while his service rubs (for catering etc) has only three. He also uses significantly more rub on his competition cuts. The reason for this is that judges take just one bite of your hand-in before passing judgement on it. You need to get as much flavour in that one bite as possible. You’ll often find it difficult to sit down to an entire plate of competition meat. That’s not to say we don’t all do it anyway…