Heat, Meat, and the Power of Rubs
When our cavemen ancestors set meat on fire for the first time, little did they know that this simple cooking method would transcend the barriers of time and culture. Eons later, here we are: Folks from all over the world still finding ways for grilling and smoking meat to perfection and searching for the ultimate BBQ experience. No matter where we come from, or where we live, the quest for great BBQ is basically universal.
Yet, along with the perfect cooking, goes the perfect seasoning. Going back to the Stone Age example, it is historically accepted that thousands of years ago people created herbal concoctions to preserve meat.
These ancestors also aimed to bring out the taste of meat and, perhaps, even add variation to their daily diet. Therefore, seasoning rubs have passed the test of time, from era to era, with flying colors.
Why Go Dry?
The dry rub, or spice rub, is the best medium to infuse flavor into meat due to the grainy, dry texture of the mixture, which incorporates itself into the porosity of the meat. This happens without compromising texture or dissolving any tissue from the surface of the meat. This latter issue could happen with other flavoring methods such as marinating or soaking in liquid smoke and vinegar.
The Right Rub for the Right Meat
One of the unwritten rules of BBQ is: “The more succulent the meat, the more intrinsic the seasoning.” Case in point, brisket and rub.
Brisket is one of the meatiest, smokiest, and most tender cuts of meat readily available in the market. It is perfect for slow cooking and smoking because the fat of the meat contains its natural juices and tenderness within. This said, the perfect match for brisket is an equally smoky, sweet and tangy rub.
In this tutorial we will see why the Texas brisket rub is the absolute champ in the quest of the best flavoring for meat.
Texas Dry Rub, or Texas Brisket Rub: The Basics
Texas has a reputation for “all things bigger and bolder.” This is why it is important to differentiate two popular cuts of meat: the traditional brisket, and the “Texas brisket.”
The traditional slab of brisket, available at grocery stores everywhere, is often used for crock pot and Dutch oven meals such as pot roasts, corned beef, and other similar recipes. Traditional brisket usually comes trimmed at the edges, with some of the fat also trimmed out, and it is flatter and smaller in size.
In contrast, the “Texas” brisket is the entire cut of brisket; the whole “she-bang.” It has both the point and flat sections, is thicker and longer in size, and it can weigh up to 12 pounds.
The fat content in Texas brisket is also higher because its fat layer is thicker. Still, this cut of meat is a pitmaster’s dream come true. It allows for us to work with more meat, more fat to melt and caramelize and, of course, more rub to infuse.
This piece will cook on indirect heat for over 8 hours, at a maximum of 250 degrees. Therefore, a piece of meat this big deserves an equally banging, bold, and spicy rub to match it.
The Step by Step Guide to Making the BEST Dry Rub Texas Style!
List of Ingredients:
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup paprika
- 1/4 cup cumin
- 1/4 cup pink Himalayan salt, ground
- 1/4 cup fresh ground black peppercorns
- 4 TBSP cayenne pepper
To make it a bit deeper in flavor add: 1 TBSP each: oregano, rosemary, cumin, and cinnamon
To make it smokier, add: 3 TBSP Hickory powder and 3 TBSP dark cocoa or ground coffee.
You may want to use a pair of rubber or latex gloves (mind your allergies and those of your guests). This is because you will be rubbing the spices into the meat. You will need to rub deep and long enough for it to permeate and seep through the skin surface.
Mix the spices prior to starting to rub and make sure they are combined evenly. Wear your gloves.
- Look at the brisket and follow its “grain.” This means to look at the direction of the lines and crevices in the meat. Using your gloves, grab a generous amount of rub and start pouring it on top of the surface, minding to fill any porosity on the meat.
- Slice the thickest parts of the slab to make “spice pockets” where you can add extra rub and stuff it inside.
- Massage the meat through. Use all of the rub, if possible. Remember to rub the entire slab.
TIP: If it is way too dry outside, or you feel that the dry rub is not sticking, spray the meat with butter or olive oil prior to rubbing.
The taste of your finished product will depend on which route you took when deciding your spices.
Smoky, salty- For these flavors, stick to the original rub recipe. Add extra hickory powder, adobo, or garlic salt if you do not get the flavor that you want from the original rub.
Smoky, salty, sweet- To achieve these flavors, choose cinnamon, extra brown sugar, a dash of adobo, and ground cocoa. Do not worry- all of these flavors will bind onto the meat, creating something altogether different.
Salty, Salty, Spicy-To achieve this finish, crank up the cayenne pepper, paprika, and ground fresh pepper. Try not to do too much spice on the rub to avoid it becoming too pungent once it is exposed to the prolonged, indirect heat.
Tip: Do not forget that adobo is a rescue spice seasoning that combines garlic powder, salt, pepper, and a myriad of other strong flavors. If in doubt, adobo can fix all your plain-flavor problems.
A beautiful, thick cut of meat, like the Texas style brisket, should have an equally deserving match in the form of seasoning rubs. You can transform the flavor of your brisket by simply switching some key ingredients from the basic rub recipe. However, with Texas brisket is different.
The meat itself is edible enough without any need for seasoning. Still, when you go the extra mile, and add a nice rub to it, the explosion of flavors in your mouth will be totally worth it.
Texas brisket rubs are not expensive, and are actually a lot of fun to put together, depending on the end result that you want. So, go ahead, start experimenting, and get the best flavor you can get from this very ancient method of seasoning. Sound off your own tips in our comments section, and happy grilling!