Looking for a well balanced rub

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by nbnorcross, Apr 25, 2016.

  1. nbnorcross

    nbnorcross Newbie

    Meat smoker and BBQ message board newbie here, and I apologize if I've posted this in the wrong place.

    I purchased my first ever smoker about 3 weeks ago and intend on making some delicious treats, however I'm having difficulty finding a well-balanced (sweet, salty, spicy, savory) rub. I smoked a pork butt last weekend and BB ribs this weekend and both times I've come away with thinking the rub was too spicy, and not in a good way.

    The pork butt rub I used was 4 parts salt, 2 parts black pepper, 2 p garlic powder, 2 parts chili, 2 paprika, 2 cumin, 2 cayenne, 1 part orange peel, 1 part lemon peel.  I used hickory chips every two hours for the first 6-8 hours or so.

    The ribs I used a rub recipe that was:1/4 cup paprika, 4.5 teaspoons black pepper, 4.5 teaspoons brown sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, 1.5 teaspoons celery salt, 1.5 teaspoons cayanne, 1.5 teaspoon garlic powder, 1.5 teaspoons dry mustard, 1.5 teaspoons cumin.   I used a mix of hickory and apply chips for the first 4 hours and nothing after that.  I used a mop of the rub and apple cider vinegar. I did wrap them in foil the last two hours until they hit a internal temp of 188.

    In both cases the rub turned out too overpowering with the cumin and the cayenne.  I was hoping for something sweeter with the ribs considering I used brown sugar in the rub, apple chips and the apple cider vinegar.  The vinegar added an unnecessarily acidic component to the ribs.

    Do any of you smoking veterans have any suggestions of what I can try for a more balanced rub?  I have loved the rubs I've had at a couple of local places and at a fantastic smokehouse in St. Louis (Bogart's Smokehouse).  If I could only replicate it...

    Seriously, any suggestions of how to improve my rub or flavor of the meat would be appreciated!!


  2. gearjammer

    gearjammer Master of the Pit

    You might try going out into the main forums list, go down 

    through the list to recipes then follow that to rubs and sauces.

    That way I'm thinking you could kind of look in there and

    decide by looking at the ingredients if you wanted to try it.

    Last edited: Apr 25, 2016
  3. joe black

    joe black Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    You can't go wrong with Jeff's rub and sauce. The recipes are available here and the proceeds go toward the maintenance of this site. The rub and sauce are very good just the way they are, but they are very user friendly and can be tweaked to suit your personal taste. Give them a try.
  4. damon555

    damon555 Smoking Fanatic

    I've been using this stuff for several years....it always gets rave reviews. You can get it at Lowes

    Last edited: Apr 25, 2016
  5. foamheart

    foamheart Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Here's my take on home made rubs. 8+3+1+1, 8 parts and 3 parts are easy they are the most basic building blocks. 8 parts sugar, of your choice but I like raw sugar being from sugar cane country. I am sure you guessed then that the 3 is 3 parts salt. Again I am sure you know of the health reason, I would use sea salt or kosher. Easy right.

    Now for the first +1, pick an herb, pick 20 herbs, use whatever you like but it total can not except one part. 

    The second +1 is spice, pick any or pick 'em all, but only equal to 1 part total again.

    The sugar and salt although there are some few varietions, they are just sugar and salt. These are the fluid transfer items. I have heard they tenderize and we all know they have a flavor modifer. But the sugar and salt temper each other also.

    I would try and start minimalistic as to the 1+1's. Too many flavors become lost except upon on the most trained palete, not many of those in the BBQ community. 

    What herbs and spices do you like? What goes with the meat you want to use it on, must like picking a patiicular smoke. If you like it, cances are that those around you will agree.

    Just my two cents if you need to make a rub. 

    Me, its sea salt & crackled black maybe papricka or garlic or onion. I just want to sell the smoke flavor.

    Good luck.
    bauchjw likes this.
  6. cliffcarter

    cliffcarter Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    This link is to rub recipes I posted in the Articles section of the forum-


    The first one is what I use on ribs. The second has possibilities as a good starting point for an all purpose rub, I don't use white pepper in it any more.

    For the butt-

    If you add raw sugar, at least 4 parts but I would double that to 8, increase the paprika to 4 parts, lose the cumin, orange and lemon peel and cut the cayenne pepper in half you will have a decent butt rub IMHO.

    Forget about the mop, instead sauce the ribs for the last 15-30 minutes, if you like sauced ribs.
  7. rabbithutch

    rabbithutch Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Before hijacking your post . . .

    Let me do a plus 1 vote to what Joe Black said. Get Jeff's recipes. The rub is great as is on beef, pork and poultry. Haven't tried it on fish but I did put some on some shrimp once. It was good too. As someone else also said, it is a great base for further gastronomical experimentation on your own. I've only tried the sauce once 'cause I'm not particularly fond of them, but on pork ribs it was great.

    This might be a chicken and egg question; so please be kind. What is the difference between a herb and a spice? I get confused on this and I think many do. I've read that herbs are from the leafs, stems or roots of plants and that all spices are from seeds. That's well and good, but do you know what every product in your 'spice' pantry is made from? My understanding is that paprika is made from peppers that have been dried to dessication then ground up, but I've always seen it referred to as a spice, not a herb.

    Anybody care to throw down on this subject? I can use all the help I can get.
  8. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    Here is my Go To Rub. Sweet with a touch of heat. My kids steal the leftovers for topping Popcorn...JJ

    Cajun Rib Tickler

    1C Tubinado or Dried Brown Sugar*

    1/4C Paprika**

    2T Kosher Salt

    2T Garlic Powder

    2T Onion Powder

    2T Mustard Powder

    2T Chili Powder

    2tsp Black Pepper

    1-2tsp Cayenne

    2tsp Dry Oregano

    2tsp Dry Thyme

    2tsp Cry Celery Flakes

    1tsp Celery Seed

    Grind the Oregano, Thyme, Celery Flake and Seed. Mix all and store in air tight container, up to 3 months...


    * Leave out the Sugar for a Cajun Blackening Spice.  Spinkle a lot or a little, on whatever meat, dip in melted Butter or Olive oil and saute in a very hot pan until cooked to your desired IT.

     ** If you wish you can use Smoked Paprika in the recipe. This will give a seasoning that will add some "Smokey flavor" to Grilled, Sauteed, Fried or Roasted meat, not just stuff you smoke.

    Give these a shot in your Foil and on Pulled Pork...

    Foiling Juice / Sweet Pulled Pork Finishing Sauce

    Foiling Juice

    For each Rack of Ribs Combine:

    1T Pork Rub, yours

    1/2 Stick Butter

    1/2C Cane Syrup... Dark Corn Syrup...or Honey

    1/4C Apple Cider...or Juice

    1T Molasses

    Optional: 2T Apple Cider Vinegar (Recommended). Add 2T Mustard and 1/4C Ketchup to make it more of a KC Glaze.

    Simmer until a syrupy consistency.

    Allow to cool for 5 minutes, pour over foiled Ribs and

    run your 2 hour phase of 3-2-1. For the last phase return

    the ribs to the smoker BUT reserve any Juice remaining

    in the Foil. Simmer the Juice over med/low heat to reduce to a saucy thickness. Glaze the Ribs for presentation or service.

    For a Sweet Finishing Sauce for Pulled Pork:  Make a Double batch, skip the Butter.

    If you plan to Foil the meat, add 1/2 the batch to the Foil Pack or place it in a Pan with your Butt, when the IT hits 165*F.

    Cover the pan with foil and continue to heat to 205*F for pulling.

    At 205* rest or hold the Butt in a cooler wrapped in towels until ready to serve.

    Pull the Pork and place it back in the pan with the pan Juices and any additional reserved Foiling Juice to moisten, the meat should be shiny and juicy but not swimming in sauce. Serve while hot...OR... Bag and refrigerate until needed.

    If you choose to Not Foil or Pan the Butt. Add the Finishing Sauce to the pulled meat before serving. Add the hot Finishing Sauce a little at a time until the Pork is moistened, again the meat should be shiny but not swimming in sauce.

    When re-heating place the Pulled Pork in a Pan or Crock pot and add reserved Foiling Juice or Apple Cider, as needed to make up the Juice that was absorbed while the pork was refrigerated. Cover and re-heat in a pre-heated 325-350*F oven or on High in the crock pot to 165*F and Serve.

    I was AMAZED...No additional sauce needed. ENJOY...JJ

    Tangy Pulled Pork Finishing Sauce

    This is more of an Eastern North Carolina style Finishing Sauce...

    2 C Apple Cider Vinegar

    2T Worcestershire Sauce or more to taste

    1/4C Brown Sugar

    1T Smoked Paprika

    2 tsp Granulated Garlic

    2 tsp Granulated Onion

    2 tsp Fine Grind Black Pepper

    1 tsp Celery Salt

    1 tsp Cayenne Pepper or Red Pepper Flake. Add more if you like Heat.

    1/2 tsp Grnd Allspice

    Combine all and whisk well. This is a thin sauce, bring just to a simmer and remove from heat. Adjust sweetness by adding Brn Sugar or additional Vinegar as desired...Makes about 2 Cups.

    For a Lexington Style Dip  add, 1/2C Ketchup and 1-3tsp Red Pepper Flakes...JJ
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2016
  9. foamheart

    foamheart Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I am not a trained chef but here's my opinion. Herbs are leafs, everything else is a spice. Roots, barks, stems, seeds, drupes, pits, stones nuts are all spices, not sure where a flower falls. But you should know which items are leaves. parsley, cilantro, rosemary, basil, thyme, sage, dill, etc.....

    A perfect place to check if not sure.....  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_culinary_herbs_and_spices

    The pepper Paprika is not a leaf, hence its a spice. 
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2016
  10. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    [​IMG]  I will just add the Spices can come from Fruits of a plant. Paprika, coming from a variety of dried Red Chile, a fruit. is and example. Herbs are available Fresh or Dried. Spices with a few exceptions like Ginger, Galangal, Turmeric, Garlic, Onion, are always Dried. Then, when you got that figured out...There are the plants that give both! Coriander, aka Cilantro, the Herb and Coriander, it's seed is a Spice, same for Dill. Nutmeg is the seed of a fruit and it's hull is Mace. Green, Black and White Peppercorns all come from the same plant, Pink Peppercorns are the berry off a non-related bush. Green are unripe fruits that are freeze dried or pickled. Black are unripe and sundried, turning Black. Good Quality White Pepper is the Ripe Red fruit that is dried and had the black skins removed. However, to save time and make more money, some producers just remove the skins of Black Peppercorn and sell the inner White seed. Bet that clears things up.[​IMG]...JJ
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2016
  11. nbnorcross

    nbnorcross Newbie

    Thanks everyone for the input.  And sorry for posting this here instead of the rub and sauces section as I found after submitting this to the moderator.  To be honest, I was pretty discouraged after my second try this weekend but after reading many of your posts I'm ready to get back on the horse, er pork butt again.
  12. ristau5741

    ristau5741 Meat Mopper

    Ahh, NBD, it's all an experiment, find something you like and stick with it.  I've done at least 5 rub variants in the past year, and still not to my liking, but it'll get there. (it's fun getting there anyway).

    Wait till you start wanting to brine those butts and figuring out what goes into a good brine. that's a whole other world.  I suppose will leave that one for next week.  LoL
  13. I do love just salt and pepper, but rubs are like underwear. To each their own. A rub is something you need to develop according to your personal taste as you learn to smoke meats how you want them to taste.

    It's sometimes lost that less can be more.

    Consider I use herbox powdered beef bullion on all my meats at times. In the end I am looking for a finished product which taste and feels exactly as intended when envisioned.
    canuck38 likes this.
  14. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    I can agree. Bobby Flay did a show where he was making a Rub with 20+ herbs and spices. Looking at the combination, half would be lost and indistinguishable, with the overall flavor just kind of muddled. Less can be more...JJ
    canuck38 likes this.
  15. FWIW, I picked up a great tip (several actually) from Aaron Franklin. He uses a lot of pepper, but store bought, in the container, course ground pepper. This is great for the texture but fresh ground pepper would be too strong. I made a rub based on 4 parts course ground pepper 2 parts salt and 2 parts brown sugar. Added approximately 1 to 1/2 parts garlic and onion powder, chill powder paprika and cumin. Franklin uses equal parts salt and pepper for beef and 2 to 1 pepper to salt for pork and bird. I decided to try the 2 to 1 pepper to salt ration and it was fantastic. Not overpowering at all ( I used store bought pepper not fresh ground) and beautiful texture to the ribs, pulled pork and chicken I have used it on. 
  16. rabbithutch

    rabbithutch Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I agree, Chef!

    I have found that SPOG (salt, pepper, olive oil, garlic powder) work well on many a meat. It is especially good on poultry. Lamb and pork seem to want a bit more IME, but my palate is not all that good.
  17. wcboudreaux

    wcboudreaux Newbie

    I joined the forum just to post this rub recipe... Been a lurker for a while, loving the info available on this forum. Anyway, this rub is actually from Dinosaur BBQ, and usually I hate "BIG BBQ CHAINS" for a multitude of reasons... However, this recipe is dubbed 'All-Purpose' and it really couldn't be more accurate. I use it on pork, I use it on chicken, and I've used it to season a pot of corn the other night just to test the 'All-Purpose' aspect of it, and it was the best corn I've ever eaten. My wife even put it on buttered bread and shoved it in the oven on broil for a few seconds and it was great on that too...

    Forgive me if this has been posted before... Also, apologies in advance if every one and their brother has already tried it lol

    All-Purpose Red Rub


    • 1/4 Cup Smoked Paprika
    • 1/4 Cup Kosher Salt
    • 1/4 Cup Sugar In The Raw
    • 1 Tablespoon Garlic Powder
    • 1 Tablespoon Onion Powder
    • 2 Tablespoons Dark Chili Powder
    • 1 1/2 Tablespoons Black Pepper
    • 1 Teaspoon Ground Cumin
    • 1 Teaspoon Celery Salt
    • 1/4 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper


    Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. You will have leftover rub.

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