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Spice Rubs with Allie

Everyday Food, July/August 2006

How-To with Allie
Allie Lewis is the deputy food editor for Everyday Food

Spice Rubs
You'll love how foods taste when you season them with these simple spice mixtures before grilling. Start with my basic recipe, then adjust it to your own taste.

What Are They?
Spice rubs are simple mixtures of salt, sugar, spices, and dried herbs used to season meat, poultry, or seafood before cooking, especially grilling. Homemade rubs are quick and easy to put together; they can also be more flavorful and economical than the commercial varieties. Once you apply a rub, you can cook foods right away or wait a while; either way, the rub will add a burst of flavor. Spice rubs mean less time in the kitchen and big taste from the grill -- just the way summer cooking should be.

Try Allie's Spice-Rubbed Grilled Chicken.

Now, Try Your Own
Experiment with your favorite spices and dried herbs; just keep the quantities of coarse salt and light-brown sugar the same as in the all-purpose recipe. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Southwestern Rub
Replace some of the paprika with cumin, coriander, and chili powder.

Indian Rub
Replace the oregano and thyme with turmeric, curry powder, ground ginger, and cardamom.

Mediterranean Rub
Replace some or all the oregano and/or thyme with dried tarragon, marjoram, rosemary, dill, or basil. Omit the cayenne pepper.

Down to Basics
For each pound of meat, poultry, or seafood: First, coat with 2 to 3 teaspoons vegetable oil, then 1 to 2 tablespoons spice rub. After applying the rub, you can either grill foods immediately or let them sit and develop more flavor. If preparing ahead of time (up to 24 hours), you can apply the rub to chicken and turkey parts, steaks, pork chops, lamb chops, ribs, brisket, or pork shoulder. (The larger the cut, the more it will benefit from a long coating time.) Cover and refrigerate; bring to room temperature before grilling. Fish and shrimp are best grilled within an hour of rubbing. To prevent foods from sticking, oil grates well, and don't move the food for the first minute or so of cooking; this will allow a solid crust to form. Rubs are not just for grilling. They're also great for roasting and broiling.

Note: Before handling raw meat, measure out the amount of rub you'll need, and set it aside; this way, you'll avoid contaminating the unused rub.