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July 7, 2008 - Eric Paddock
Dean Wells, a guy who knows more than a little bit about meat, swears by it.

Watch the Food Network for more than a couple days, and you’ll see it performed by celebrichefs hither and yon.

These are people who get very familiar with their beef, pork, chicken, even fish — familiar in a tactile sense.

Most serious purveyors of barbecue start with a rub before applying either smoke or heat. But don’t think that rubs are exclusive to the smoking pots from which great barbecue emerge.

Those rubs are generally reddish in color -- after all, only a fool eats green barbecue — because somewhere in the ingedient list is paprika and red pepper.

No matter what the rub, don’t forget to “RUB.” I mean get in there with both hands with whatever stuff you’ve pulverized in your blender or crushed in your mortar and massage that meat. Believe me, the meat loves it.

Rubs are great media for experimentation. And, experimentation is what makes cooking such a great hobby.

Just keep in mind the unique properties of a number of standard ingredients, and like a painter with a pallet of colors, consider which ones compliment one another and which ones clash.

Here are a few:

• Cumin is a great rub ingredient. Common especially in Tex-Mex, it has a subtle smokey undercurrent.

• Brown sugar: Yeah, you guessed it — sweet. But it’s more than that. Brown sugar in a rub will glaze up and produce a maleable crust when handled correctly. But be careful, too much heat and it’ll burn. I don’t like the smell nor the taste of burnt sugar.

• Mustard seed. Grind it up fairly fine. It’s a kind of perk-me-up for other ingredients.

• Garlic. A must. I am convinced that garlic is the most versatile of all food stuffs. Always use fresh. Do as I say, not as I do.

• The Herbs: Rosemary, goes with beef the way basil goes with tomatoes. Thyme, include it in any savory rub for chicken. I throw a few sprigs of fresh inside a chicken when I’m roasting it, but that doesn’t qualify as a rub, so disregard this entry. Mint, yes, mint. Experiment. Mint can add a whole new layer to a rub, particularly with chicken and fish.

• Salt and Pepper. Of course. I use course salt and grind peppercorns. When you add course salt to a rub when you’re grinding in a mortar, it helps to break down the other ingredients, especially the herbs.

A few minutes of throwing stuff together, a couple minutes of actual rubbing, and a couple more of just letting the meat relax and absorb, is a small price to pay for really great tastes.

Next: Dr. Peppers.


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