Costco was selling choice, trimmed tri-tips for $6.95/lb with two in a package. I thought it would be a good time to test the importance of rubs. My main question: do rubs really contribute much to the flavor of the end product?
I pre-heated the MES-30 to 225F, got the AMNPS going with two separate rows of hickory pellets, and lit both rows.
I prepped both tri-tips with yellow mustard. On one tri-tip I applied Jeff's Original Rub, and on the other used Jeff's Texas rub. I figure most of you have purchased his recipes so you are familiar with both of them. I've been using the Original on pulled pork, and the Texas rub on tri-tip.
I then immediately put both tri-tips on the middle shelf. I smoked for three hours, turning the shelf front to back halfway through the smoke. I used a little water in the tray because tri-tip is such a dry cut, and therefore exudes almost no moisture. My MES was acting up and getting too hot, according to my remote thermometer, so I turned down the heat about sixty minutes into the smoke, and the last two hours were done at temperatures between 160 to 180 degrees. I turned it back up to 250F at the end for about fifteen minutes.
When the meat hit 140 degrees, I brought it inside and let it rest for an hour while my baked potatoes finished. I used a toothpick to indicate the Texas rub. I didn't tell my wife which was which, but asked her if she could tell a difference, and which one she preferred. My taste test was totally unscientific because I knew which was which.
The difference between these two rubs was very, very subtle. I wish now that I'd smoked part of the meat without any rub at all. My wife had a slight preference for Jeff's Original rub, and indeed it was a little sweeter, and of course, if you look at his recipes, it does have more ingredients then the Texas rub and therefore imparts more flavors.
I'm sure this will come as no surprise to anyone in this forum, but about 95% of the seasoning comes from the smoke, and my conclusion is that the contribution from the rub, at least in this instance, was extremely small. While I have never before done a side-by-side test, I've used a lot of commercial rubs, and the only time I ever tasted the rub much was when it contained some really weird ingredients not usually found in a BBQ rub, and therefore detracted from the taste of the meal.
Of course, marinating and brining -- neither of which I did for this test -- alter things other than flavor (texture and moisture), so they represent another variable in the equation, and I suspect the difference might be much larger and less subtle.
Oh yes, here is the Q-view. These are the remains of both tri-tips, cut into five 10-oz servings. I will freeze and then vacuum pack these. When it is time for leftovers, I will slice these pieces deli-thin and serve on a sandwich bun with my favorite tri-tip sauce, and possibly some sauteed onions.
I actually much prefer the tri-tip sandwiches to eating tri-tip as a roast, as we did this evening.
I wish there was some clever way, with whole cuts of meat, to estimate 10 oz. without having to cut it into several chunks. There must be a way ...