I’m trying out a new home-made barbecue rub. Yes, I still have more shelf space devoted to jars of commercially-made rubs than I care to admit to, but I’ve got some good reasons for venturing out on my own:
Availability – as much as I love the rubs by folks like Dizzy Pig, John Henry, and Tasty Licks, I always feel bad when I recommend a specific rub in a recipe because I know that not everyone has ready access to them. If somebody gave me a recipe that specifically called for Uncle Crunchy’s Pecan Butt Rub, and Uncle Crunchy wants $12 for a jar of rub plus $6 shipping, I wouldn’t be jumping up to make that recipe. My goal is to have a couple of stock rub and sauce recipes on this site, so folks can just make it themselves.
Experience – the more I learn, the less I know. Combining herbs and spices to create a specific flavor combination is a whole lot harder than it looks. Working out my own spice blends helps me learn more about how the individual ingredients work together.
Versatility – ultimately, I’d love to come up with a base rub that can be used on almost everything, and then create a half dozen variations that can be made with that base. Want a poultry rub? Take X amount of base and add these poultry-specific ingredients. Want an Asian barbecue sauce? Take that same base and add it to so much hoisin sauce. Stay tuned for more on this work in progress.
That said, here’s my General Purpose Rub 1.0 on some chicken thighs.
3-5 pounds chicken thighs, bone-in, skin-on
2 tablespoons raw or turbinado sugar
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon Hungarian sweet paprika
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon allspice
Combine everything but the chicken in a shaker jar. Stir to combine and break up any lumps. Makes about 1/2 cup.
At least 2 hours before cooking, dust the thighs heavily with the rub (1-2 tablespoons per pound of chicken), then lay them out in a single layer on a sheet pan and let them sit uncovered in the fridge. This lets the seasoning work its way into the thighs and also helps to dry out the skin a bit to make it crispy.
Set the grill up for a raised indirect cook over medium-high (400°F) heat. On the Big Green Egg, I used the plate setter to diffuse the heat.
Put the thighs on the grill skin side down, close the lid, and let them cook for 20. Flip them and let them go another 20 minutes.
Check the thighs for doneness. Chicken is technically done when the juices run clear and the internal temperature hits 160°F, but I like my thighs cooked a little longer to at least 180°F.
So leave the thighs skin side up and continue to cook until they hit 180°F, then remove them to a warm plate and let sit 10 minutes before serving.
The chicken turned out tasty and crispy, but the rub could use some more work. It had plenty of heat, but almost all of it was at the end, nothing up front. There were lots of individual flavors going on, but it needed a little more sugar and salt to unify them. So it’s a good rub, but not a great one, yet.
This is one of the first times I’ve used turbinado sugar (raw sugar crystallized from the initial pressing of the sugar cane), and I can highly recommend it. Raw sugar is a different beast than regular brown sugar (which is just highly processed white sugar that’s had some molasses added back into it). It has an almost floral aroma to it and a nice caramel flavor that’s more complex than the strong molasses flavor of brown sugar.
Chicken thighs are 4 Weight Watchers point a piece (3 points without the skin, but who wants to live without crispy chicken skin)? As for the rub, even at 2 tablespoon of rub per pounds of chicken, there is so little raw sugar in it that it doesn’t even merit a point.