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The Anatomy of a Rib Rub
Rib rubs are an intriguing subject for me. I am always surrounded by the smells of individual spices, seasoning blends and (sometimes unfortunately) the hottest chiles in the world. I guess it all comes with the territory. I take advantage of the fact that our blend creators can quickly and easily create a batch of rib rub that could easily win in competitions (and has in the past). But what goes into these blends? How do you know how to balance the sweet, heat, spiciness and whatever other elements you want to incorporate? First you must keep in mind that every blend is based on ratios. This is how you know that your flavors will be balanced. Secondly, you must know what ingredients complement each other, along with the meat that you are cooking, in this case pork.


Ratios Matter
Making a rib rub is an art, but it is more importantly a science. Once you have your basic ingredients down, you can add almost any ingredient to really personalize your blend -from chile powder to cacao or even tea. You may have heard of Alton Brown’s 8:3:1:1 method before or this may be the first time you are being introduced to it. Either way, it is the science behind making a good balanced rub and the one thing you should absolutely remember from this entire post.

The 8:3:1:1 method refers to the amount of sugar, salt, paprika, and any other ingredients you want to add to your rub. It may sound a little boring, but trust me it is not! Even when it comes to salt and sugar, there are quite a few ingredients to pick from.


8 Parts Sugar
Some meat rubs contain more salt while others contain more sugar. In the case of pork, your rub should be 8 parts sugar. Many people might go straight for the white, refined sugar to make their rub, but this is the first place that you can begin to make the rub uniquely your own. Your options other than white sugar include Demerara sugar, brown sugar, Turbinado sugar, granulated honey, granulated molasses or pure maple sugar. Each one will give your finished product a distinctly different flavor.


3 Parts Salt

The next ingredient in your rub is salt. You could use plain and boring white iodized salt, but where’s the fun in that? Salt comes in different sizes, shapes and flavors and each one could possibly make your rub look and taste different. This is when you should be thinking about how you would like your final product to come out. If you plan to use larger herbs and spices to customize your rub in the last step, you may want to use a bigger flake salt, like kosher salt. On the other hand, it you are using all ground ingredients you may want to stick with regular sea salt or one of our best selling smoked salts. These are referred to by our customers as “campfire is a jar” and work extremely well to give you that freshly grilled taste even without the fire.


1 Part Red
Most recipes for an 8:3:1:1 that I have come across say that this part should be chili powder. Although this is the recommended ingredient, we almost always like to use paprika instead. Either chili powder or paprika will work to give you a depth of flavor and a deep red color for your rib rub. One reason that we like to use paprika is because you have the option of either sweet or hot. This can be very helpful when making a rib rub that the whole family will enjoy.


1 Part Individualization

The last part of this recipe is really up to you! At this step you can add as many different flavors and combinations as you would like as long as they add up to one part. Some of our pork rubs contain as many as 13 or 14 ingredients!

We have some suggestions of ingredients that complement the flavor of pork, but this is where you get to add your signature flavor. Some ingredients that can be added to this part include black pepper, white pepper, coriander, garlic, ginger, onion, mustard, thyme, rosemary and sage. This is also where you can add your cacao powder, ground coffee or any other personal touches you would like to throw in.

Now that you know the basics of the 8:3:1:1 method you are ready to start making your own rib blend. The only thing that is limiting you from here is your imagination!



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