When to apply a rub?

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Master of the Pit
Original poster
OTBS Member
Jul 9, 2005
Santa Rosa Beach, Florida
Recently, I've read several recepies calling for the application of a rub. I'm still in the "forming" phase of becoming a pit master and don't know all I need to know about the application of a rub.
In some cases, the application of a rub is "an hour or so" before placing the meat into the smoker. In other cases the application of the rub is called for the night before the meat goes into the smoker and in other recepies, it may be applied two or three days before smoking.
My question is: is there a general guide line for applying a rub or does it vary with meat types, personal preference etc. The benefit of your thoughts is much appreciated.

Bill Smith
Bill on larger cuts of meat like brisket and pork shoulder I'll apply the rub the night before cooking and refrigerate over night. These cuts will be alright even up to 24 hours (I personally haven't tried it any longer).

For chicken, ribs, and smaller cuts 30 minutes to a couple of hours is fine. I have done some whole chickens overnight without any problems but didn't notice any extra flavor in the meat.

Steak, fish, chicken parts & other thinly sliced or small meats can be rubbed and immediately cooked or allowed to set for 20-30 minutes.

There's not real hard and fast rules for how long to let rub set on meat but some folks are concerned about the salt drawing out excess moisture if left in contact with meat too long before cooking. I like to lower the amount of salt in my rubs and apply it when it is served (if needed).
Missed this, so I'm adding my .02. Bob's points are dead on, but if I might...

Anyone ever hear of Dales Marinade? Dales main ingredient is soy sauce, followed by sodium, so you you can imagine that this tastes a little "salty" :)

So the original question was when to apply the rub. Bob had some sage advice, which I agree with.

But I also like to experiment, so I did this.

Took an 8# brisket flat and soaked in Dales for 36 hours. The sodium content was like a brine and it really opened up the pores of the meat. Rinsed in water. Soaked for 2 hours in water. Patted dry with paper towel.

Then rubbed down heavy with John Henry's Cherry Chipotle rub, and let it sit 24 hours.

I think the sodium (opened up) the meat for deeper rub penetration.

I can tell you that the smoke ring was DEEP.

Over all, a great experiment
Chi Bill,
I'm faviliar with Dale's. I can't say I've ever used it but I like your experiment. I'll certainly put this one into my list of things to do. Thanks for the information.

Fl. Bill
I like DEEP smoke rings. :D. That John Henry's Cherry Chipotle rub sounds great, where do you get it?

Thanks for share this Chi Bill, it's going on my list of "Must try".
Thanks for the link Bill. I should have thought to google "John Henry", but I haven't had my morning caffeine yet and the ol brain is still half a sleep. :roll:
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