Rub Me Tender
by Kate Heyhoe
By now, every outdoor grilling fanatic knows the value of a spice rub to impart flavor to barbecued ribs, chicken, and briskets. But the same spice rubs can play an equally tasty function within the confines of a kitchen. Spice-rubbed meats, fish and poultry can be baked, broiled, or pan-fried, and the results range from succulent crisp coatings to tender, moist roasts. But don't stop there: Sprinkle the rub in stir-fries, on vegetables, and in stews. Doctor up canned soups and packaged sauces with a pinch or two, and even a fresh salad can profit from a touch of the rub, added just before tossing with your favorite dressing.
Creating your own custom spice rub takes just a few minutes, and if you make enough to store, it can save lots of prep time later down the road. I keep several rubs around to use straight from the jar, or for variety, I tweak them with a few additional ingredients as I use them.
If you plan to make and store spice rubs, keep these pointers in mind:
* Use only dry ingredients. Moisture may cause dry seasonings to diminish in flavor over time and ingredients may clump.
* Store tightly sealed in a dark, dry place, just as you do with all your other spices. Don't refrigerate.
* Use a spice grinder to pulverize whole seeds. Sometimes a handblender's chopping attachment works well, too, or a food processor. Or, a mortar and pestle for grinding by hand.
* When using dried herbs, make sure they still have potency. Crumble them in your hand and smell. If there's no aroma, there's no flavor. Pitch old spices and buy new ones.
* Add the rub to foods that are either completely dry, with no excess moisture, or coat the food with a little oil before adding the rub. You may also mix the rub with a small amount of oil before coating the food with it. Be sure to massage the rub into the flesh, so it's more easily absorbed.
* Rubs can be added right before cooking, or for more flavor, coat the food and let it rest refrigerated for a few hours or as long as overnight. Tightly wrapping and sealing the food with plastic wrap helps hold the rub in place.
* Decide whether or not to add salt. If you've already brined the chicken, or other food, then skip the salt in a rub. Unsalted beasts profit from a splash of salt in the rub. But if you want the rub to be versatile, don't add salt to the mix—you can always add it later to the food as you rub in the seasonings.
* If you're going to make a custom rub, don't hold back. Many commercial spice rubs of good quality are available, so create a formula that's more unique, especially if you plan to give it as a gift. Seek out unusual ingredients from ethnic markets and focus on sassy flavors.
Spice rubs make good gifts for cooks, and even the kitchen-phobic will appreciate a no-brainer seasoning in a bottle, when the occasional urge to fry up a fillet hits.
The rubs below are especially versatile, because even though the ingredients are exotic, they're tempered with milder flavors to balance them. You'll taste a hint of the Middle East or Greece in the appropriately named Exotic Rub, and a taste of the Orient in the Asian Coconut Rub. I've included recipes for using them on ribs and chicken, but try them on roasts, chicken, turkey, shrimp, and wherever else you want an extra blast of flavor.
Kate's Global Kitchen for October 2003:
10/03/03 May I See the Beer List, Please?
10/10/03 Cozy Dinners with Lora and Leslie
10/17/03 Rub Me Tender
10/24/03 A Kinder, Gentler Halloween
10/31/03 I Ain't No Vampire ('Cause Garlic Tastes Good to Me)
Copyright © 2003, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This page created October 2003