How to Choose Rubs for Smoking Meat – Smoking Rubs 101
When it comes to smoking, this is a very hands-off approach to preparing meat. Other than monitoring the temperature, there's not much to do once your meat is on your pellet grill and smoker. The real chance for barbecue chefs to create flavor comes before the actual smoking process through the use of spices and other seasonings.
Creating delicious rubs for smoking meat isn't as easy as it appears. We've put together this guide to help both beginner and advanced smokers create the seasonings of their dreams! Welcome to “Smoking Rubs 101.”
Why Seasoning Is So Crucial to Smoking Meat
Smoking is fairly hands-off, especially with the Brisk It Origin Smart Grill, which is why the prep work is so important. Unlike cooking in the kitchen where you can taste, monitor, and season as you go along, smokers need to remain closed as much as possible to maintain the proper temperature. Despite the great flavor profile created by smoking, foods cooked on a smoker can still taste bland without adequate seasoning.
On the other hand, a well-seasoned piece of smoked meat produces layers of flavor: spicy, savory, or even subtly sweet or earthy. Different rubs will react and transform when exposed to heat and smoke, and are especially critical to the formation of high quality bark. Think of it as a way to put your stamp on the blank canvas that is your brisket, chicken, veggies, sausage, or other smoked delicacies. Seasoning can also play a critical role on a chemistry level, with basic seasonings like salt that can change the nature of your dish inside and out.
The Best Meat Rubs for Smoking
When it comes to choosing meat rubs for smoking, we have a few favorites to pick from. In fact, some of the best spices for smoking meat are common household ingredients you’ll already have. Here are our picks for the best rubs for smoking.
There's no seasoning more important than salt, no matter what style of food you're cooking. It's a fundamental ingredient in every smoked meat rub. Salt helps accentuate the flavors of whatever it's applied to, making them pop in a way otherwise impossible.
It also works on a chemical and scientific level. Salt actually modifies the muscle fibers of the meat, helping tenderize them and creating juicier final products. For vegetables, it draws out water, making flavors more vibrant in the remaining food. While too much salt can be harmful to your health, it's critical to use it (in moderation) in just about every dish you prepare.
After salt, fewer spices are more commonly used in smoking rubs than black pepper. Its characteristic combination of spiciness and earthiness is a foundational ingredient in many barbecue rubs, especially Texas-style ones. Black pepper is best enjoyed freshly ground from peppercorns, which preserves the most vibrant flavors. If you are looking for the classic blackened Texas-style bark, black pepper is your best friend.
In many cases, rubs for smoking meat can benefit from a bit of sweetness to balance out the savory and spicy elements of other seasonings. Brown sugar is among the most popular choices due to the additional complexity of flavor compared to standard white sugar. Furthermore, it is an excellent catalyst for brown caramelization which not only adds a ton of flavor, but looks great as well.
Among the best spices for smoking meat is chili powder, a general term that refers to the pulverized, dried powder of a chili (or chile) pepper. Depending on the pepper used, the resulting flavor can range from pleasantly zesty or earthy to mouth-scorchingly spicy. Chili powder can provide some much-needed heat to your smoking rubs.
Not every pepper is spicy, and the sweet variety can become paprika when it's dried and turned into powder. Paprika can add sweetness, smokiness, or sometimes even a unique spiciness to your meat. It's a complex flavor that shouldn't be ignored (especially if you desire smoked spices and rubs).
There are few more popular savory flavors than garlic, and garlic powder is the best way to add a little punch to your smoker rubs. Use with care, as a little can go a long way in imparting a sharp, distinctive flavor to your meat.
Depending on your taste, experiment with other spices you're familiar with! Some enjoy the distinctive flavor of cumin or curry, the herbiness of rosemary, thyme, or oregano, or the additional zest of dried citrus. There's also a whole world of international spices just waiting to be explored.
How To Choose The Right Meat Rubs for Smokers
Taste is a highly personal thing. One person's all-time favorite combination of spices might be stomach-turning to another. Still, just about every rub should start with a healthy amount of salt. From there, you can experiment with various combinations of savory spices, sweeteners like sugar, or more exotic rubs.
Feel free to look up different recipes, which you can tweak through trial and error. There are also numerous pre-made rubs for smoking meat available both in your local grocery store and from more high-end shops and online outlets. These can be an excellent choice for those with limited prep time or who want to ensure they're getting the same combination and proportion every time.