A Successful Spice Rub

Between football season and the desire to take advantage of beautiful autumn weather, we always feel compelled to fire up the grill this time of year. To help us serve up a flavorful fall feast, we asked the experts at Baton Rouge’s Red Stick Spice Company to share their secrets to a great spice rub; here are their recommendations:

The basics. We consider a good grilling blend to be a combination of:

  1. A sweet component. Most grilling blends have a sugar component because sugar caramelizes (think: crème brûlée). But sugar also burns, so it’s important to watch the flame and heat to be sure you’re getting tasty, brown deliciousness, not bitter, burnt edges. Our favorite sweet ingredient to use is granulated brown sugar, which was brought to our attention by a champion competition griller.
  2. A savory base. We use onion, garlic, mustard, coriander, and paprika.
  3. Heat. We derive heat in our blends from black pepper and/or chiles.
  4. Salt. Kosher salt is a must.

From there, you can throw in some twists—cinnamon, coffee, curry powder, cilantro, lime zest…the possibilities are endless.

When and how. Applying a spice blend as far in advance is always beneficial. The day before you plan to cook, apply the blend to the patted-dry protein, rub in thoroughly, and refrigerate. Bring the protein to room temperature and apply a little more blend to the surface just before cooking.

In vs. on. Consider the size and surface area of the protein. Rubbing a thick coating of rub on ribs works well, but a larger cut like an eight-pound pork shoulder calls for a different technique. In addition to rubbing the spice blend on the shoulder, consider whisking the blend into some stock and injecting. A favorite technique of ours is to mash the blend and several cloves of garlic into a paste, pierce the shoulder or brisket several times, and stuff with the mixture.

TSG Tip  125 from Anne Milneck, owner of Red Stick Spice Company in Baton Rouge, LA.