Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Rubs > Marinades

Tools of the trade.

Over the summer, I had a friend ask me how to address a common problem:  he found his chicken dinners less and less inspiring.  This is nothing to be ashamed of.  It can happen to anyone.  The best solution is to spice it up...literally.

I can relate to running out of inspiration.  For those of us who restrict foods because of food-reaction, diet, or food-quality reasons, it's good to have an arsenal of flavorings ready.  I've come to eating hamburger steaks very often during the week because it's a satisfying carb restricted meal, and because I can afford the grass-fed ground beef - more than steaks, anyway.  So, I've been relying heavily on different spice rubs for the burgers.

Costco BBQ rubbed hamburgers.

As a general rule, I think rubs, both dry rubs and wet rubs, also called pastes, are far superior to marinades.  Dry rubs taste great when you cook the meat immediately after applying the rub, but they also get better with time.  Putting a dry rub on meat the night before is spectacular.  Marinades, on the other hand, seem to need an unnecessary amount of time to do their work.

The most important thing, though, is that rubs consistently accomplish what they are supposed to do - impart a desired flavor.  Marinades are alluring, they immediately make you think of garlic infused chicken breasts or  juicy lemon-pepper fish, but they rarely come through for me.  My marinades always result in bland-tasting, albeit well salted, meat that doesn't brown well due to the extra moisture.  Rubs always deliver.  Jerk rub will taste like a Jamaican vacation, and an herbed garlic paste will make your palate sing.

Now, that's not to say that marinades never work.  They just don't work as often as I would like them to. So instead of marinading the same old chicken, here are a few of the rubs that I like to employ.  Also great on pork, and some will work on beef (Jerk rub and Costo BBQ rub).

Multi-pepper rub (during last minute of grilling, brush maple syrup on meat to add a touch of sweat):

3 tbsp sweet paprika
3 tbsp ancho chile powder
1 tbsp ground black pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

Multi-pepper rubbed pork tenderloins.  Finished with maple syrup.

Herb-garlic paste:

3-4 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp dijon mustard
3 garlic gloves, minced
1 tbsp fresh thyme, minced
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, minced
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp pepper

Jerk Rub:

2 tbls brown sugar
1 ½ tbls ground coriander
1 tbls ground ginger
1 tbls garlic powder
1 ½ tsp ground allspice
1 ½ tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground nutmeg
¾ tsp ground cinnamon

And don't forget, you can always buy rubs at the store.  I like Costco's mesquite rub - smokey, spicy, and sweet.  Yes, it's very strong.  So it's great to use on pork and beef, or dark-meat chicken, rather than fish or white meat chicken, and it does well with a healthy dose of lime juice after cooking.

Costco Mesquite BBQ seasoning.

Hopefully my friend will recover from his chicken-woes.  Although I can't help him with his first resistance to using rubs, as astute as the observation is, that raw chicken is gross to touch.


  1. Just a quick question regarding your jerk rub ( my all time favorite), is the allspice and black pepper measured in teaspoons or tablespoons?

  2. Whoops! Definitely teaspoons. I've corrected that in the recipe. I also changed the weak to week - thanks for the sharp eye!

  3. Looooooooooooooooove the Jerk rub!! I can't get enough of that stuff...