June 23, 2013

Spice up summer cooking with flavorful rubs

Just as grilling season heats up, Maine spicemeisters offer ideas and recipes for making homemade rubs.

By Meredith Goad mgoad@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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Buy the best quality ingredients you can. If you have the ability to grind your own, even better. Roast the spices a bit, DennyMike Sherman says, "and all those intense flavors will be transformative. Really."

If you're grinding spices yourself, use a coarse grind so you get more texture and spikes of flavor.

Think about balance. Oregano, for example, isn't going to go well on pork ribs because it has such a strong flavor. If there's a flavor combination you haven't heard of before, there's a good reason for it.

Be generous when you add the rub to the meat or fish. Cover the dish and let it sit for a little bit.

The rub should always be wet. Usually the natural juices of the meat will be enough, but if not, pour a little beer or wine on the meat first, then add the rub.

Don't serve anything to your guests that you haven't already tried yourself.

If you already have some spice blends on your shelf, don't be afraid to combine them. Sherman mixes equal portions of his Pixie Dust (which contains ancho chile powder), Sublime Swine (which contains turbinado sugar) and Chick Magnet to season chicken. ("It is fabulous. Holy cow.")

Always write down what you're using and how much of each ingredient so it will be easier to replicate a successful blend later.

If you're considering using smoked paprika in your rub, consider trying a ground Mexican-style chile instead. Moore says it has a richer flavor with sweeter tones that hit you in the back of your palate -- instead of "tomato-ey sweet," it's "chocolate sweet."


Hey, this is Maine, so why not try substituting a maple sugar for the regular stuff in your blends? It's got a coarser texture than maple sugar or brown sugar.


These peppercorns have matured longer on the vine, so they have a richer flavor.


A base blend of black pepper and coffee has become popular in grilling circles; it's a take-off on red-eye gravy. Add some chili powder for a little kick. This is good on game, steak and brined pork.


Too simple? DennyMike Sherman calls this the "royal twosome." "If you go to Texas and get brisket somewhere, you're very likely to have nothing but kosher salt and a very coarsely ground pepper as their seasoning of choice," he said.

Be sure to use kosher salt or sea salt, not table salt.


Sherman prefers using this over brown sugar for pork and chicken rubs.

"I like the granularity and the fact that it's not as moist as brown sugar," he said. "Brown sugar is going to have a tendency to cause your rub to clump, especially in humid conditions, so you're not going to end up with as even a distribution as you'd like."


This always works well on fish and chicken, and it balances the strong flavors of lamb.

Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:


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Additional Photos

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Mix spices and herbs with salt, sugar – perhaps, since it’s Maine, maple sugar – pepper, coffee and cocoa to create your own rubs for grilling. Making homemade rubs allows you to customize blends based on your own personal taste.

Shutterstock.com photo


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