What differentiates a BBQ owner from a certified, honest-to-goodness grillmaster? It’s not the $1000 grill, or the artisan hickory charcoal imported from the mythical forests of Shambala. Rather it’s that personal blend of spice that gives meat a full flavour and a delcious crust – I’m speaking, of course, of the spice rub.
A spice rub, simply, is any combination of ground spices that is to be rubbed on raw food before it is cooked – usually on a grill. Some choose to leave their spice rubs on for hours before cooking, some right before cooking, and some incorporate herbs, garlic or oil to make a paste.
Rubs vary from culture to culture, and some are very closely guarded secrets. Here are a few tips for creating your own spice rub mixture. First, and probably most important, never start a spice rub mixture from the pre-ground bottles of spice that you buy at a grocery store. The way to get the best flavour is to buy your spices whole, toast them in a pan over medium-high heat until they smell amazing, and grind them in a coffee grinder - preferably one that you reserve specifically for spices, unless you like a hint of southwest flavour in your morning coffee.
Salt and pepper are very important parts of a spice rub, both for the flavour and their ability to slightly tenderize and seal in juices, but don’t just go with the old standbys – challenge your palate and knowledge a little and try some herbs that you’re not used to. Things like lemongrass, marjoram and allspice go well with chicken. Check out some other spice rub recipes and hack them to make them your own – like this Coffee and Cocoa Grilled Chicken recipe.
Getting the right spice combination takes a little experimentation, but once you find that combination of herbs and spices that would make the Colonel jealous, it’s a great way to put together a quick meal, and they make a great gift.