Before you grill that meat, give it a good rub

Because the topics of barbecuing and grilling incite plenty of debate and foster a fair amount of personal pride, I thought readers would clamor to share their best recipes in time for Fourth of July.

Three weeks of pleas, however, turned up nary a response. Thankfully, local barbecue master Roscoe Moore was game for an interview. And recipes gleaned from The Associated Press hopefully provided a few new ideas for cooking over the holiday weekend.

Still puzzling over the void I anticipated would be filled by readers’ favorites, I had to believe everyone was simply in the same boat as me, that is lacking precise recipes for all things grilled and barbecued. It’s not laziness but the laid-back ambiance of cooking outdoors that frees us from plodding through printed instructions for delivering a meal to the table.           

Firing up the Weber kettle at my house isn’t so much about replicating a favorite dish as about using whatever meat is on hand. Marinades usually include mustard, maple syrup, lemon juice, vinegar and woody herbs like thyme and rosemary, but they certainly change depending on the season and my mood. Yet even that nonchalance requires some forethought if meat is to marinate long enough to absorb any flavor. 

So for the sake of speed, I often compound dry spice rubs. Rubs, as barbecue acolytes know, not only add another dimension of taste but help meat form a crisp crust. Without the aid of a single recipe, a repertoire of rubs can jazz up any cut.     

One of my favorites for lamb chops is simply a blend of sea salt, white pepper and dried lavender flowers ground in my mortar and pestle. I’ve also experimented with toasted cumin seeds, allspice berries, cinnamon and nutmeg.

It’s a knack for putting together successful flavor profiles, not quantities of ingredients, that matter. So in that spirit, here are a few more ideas for barbecue rubs courtesy of The AP. And because I know there’s a contingent out there that still appreciates a recipe, I’m including one for an unusual, coffee-based rub.

1. Salt, black pepper, paprika and brown sugar form the basis of just about any American barbecue rub.

2. For an expanded, yet still all-American flavor, add celery seed, onion and garlic.

3. If Southwestern flavors are preferred, add to the original four ingredients, cumin, onion powder, garlic, oregano, thyme and cayenne pepper (or other pure chili powder).

4. Cajun-spiced foods replace some of the black pepper with white pepper and also incorporate cayenne, thyme, onion, garlic, file powder (also called gumbo file) and ground bay leaf. 

Java Blend Dry Rub

1/2 cup packed dark or light brown sugar

1/4 cup ancho chili powder

1/3 cup finely ground espresso (not instant)

2 tablespoons garlic powder

1 tablespoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon coarse sea salt

1 tablespoon black peppercorns

Combine all ingredients in a spice mill or blender and grind to a coarse powder. Store in a clean, airtight container. Store, frozen, for 3 to 4 months.

 Makes about 11/2 cups.

— Recipe adapted from “Marinades, Rubs, Brines, Cures & Glazes,” by Jim Tarantino.

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    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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