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Kind-OT The Average Rub (long)

gdenbygdenby Posts: 5,539
edited 8:15AM in EggHead Forum
Hi, all,

Hope this isn't too boring...

Some time ago I made a small database of rub recipes, so I could examine what the common ingredients are in BBQ rubs. Recently, I was looking over some more recipes, and it seemed that my general notion of what is common among rubs was not accurate. I expanded the database to include 84 recipes found at various web sites. I included those that would work for traditional lo-n-slo cooking of pork or and/or beef. I did not rule out ones that could be used for poultry or other meats, but passed on ones specifically for other than beef or pork.

There is a lot of variation between the recipes, and a fair amount of imprecision. For instance, some recipes will call for chili powder, but stipulate that the powder is only to contain ground chilis, whereas other recipes make no stipulation, and may be calling for chili powders that are blends of capsicum, garlic, cumin, and Mexican oregano. Or, is red pepper synonymous with cayenne, or is it referring to some other powdered capsicum?

Also, because the recipes are in volume measures (cups, tablespoons and teaspoons) there is not an easy way to have an accurate comparison between recipes that call for Kosher salt as opposed to plain salt, or raw sugar to packed brown sugar.

So, here are some numbers. The simplest recipe was just 3 ingredients, the most complex 15. The average is 8.

There are at least 52 different ingredients that might be used in BBQ rubs. Because some of the ingredients are composites, such as curry powder, or seasoned salt, the list is probably longer than 52.

24 of the 84 recipes have a single ingredient making up more than 40% of the volume. The big player is sugar, which makes up at least 50% of 10 recipes. Chili powder and paprika make up more than half the volume a few times. One peculiar recipe has more than 50% cocoa powder.

There are 6 ingredients that are used in more than half of all recipes. They are:

black pepper 74
sugar in some form 72
paprika 66
salt of some kind 66
garlic powder 61
onion powder 46

and half of all the recipes use:

chili powder 42.

I had hoped there would be some easy to remember set of proportion numbers for an average recipe. Some recipes do have rather regular portions. For instance, Elder Ward's pulled pork rub is 2-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1. Unfortunately, there isn't any easy to remember ratio.

What I did to come up with an average recipe was to make a weighted average of each ingredient. I divided the ingredients into classes, those appearing in at least half the recipes, those appearing in a quarter, those appearing in less than a quarter, and those occurring in less than one eighth. I gave the classes a "weight" number, 1, .75, .5, .25 I multiplied the average percent used for each ingredient times the number of times it appears in recipes, and then by the weight number to give an "importance" number.

Here's what I'm going to call the "Mr. Average Rub." Note that the first 5 ingredients appear in more than half of all recipes.

In teaspoons:

19 brown sugar
15 sweet paprika
9 Kosher salt
8 black pepper, freshly ground
5 garlic granules
4 chili powder blend
3 onion powder

and, just one place out of order, it would have been 10, because it seems to be a strong flavor component

1 cayenne pepper

A Mr. Not-average Rub may contain any of the following besides,

adobo, allspice, basil, bay leaf, cajun seasoning, celery salt, celery seed, chili flakes, chipotle, cinammon, cloves, cocoa powder, coffee, coriander, cumin, curry powder, file powder, garlic salt, ginger, jalapeno seasoning, lemon peel, lemon pepper, lemon powder,, marjoram, molasses powder, msg, mustard powder, mustard seed, nutmeg, old bay, onion salt, oregano, poultry seasoning, red pepper, rosemary, sage, salted meat tenderizer, savory, sazon, seasoned meat tenderizer, seasoned salt, tarragon, thyme, white pepper


  • Good info! Is your list of rub recipes available on line?

    Captain Paul
    Sparks, Nevada
  • fishlessmanfishlessman Posts: 21,333
    what, no tomato powder :laugh: did you try the ave rub, was it good
  • stikestike Posts: 15,597
    i think you just described my rub...

    i mix mine by hand, with no measurements, but that's probably a pretty close proportion. i think i started with elder ward's recipe, because i never knew what a rub was, and his was the first rub i made from scratch. and though i am pretty sure i have strayed, i do think his recipe (if i remember correctly) is basically those ingredients.

    i'll add that i ALWAYS add cumin. and that i think i do not have nearly as much salt as your average.

    but other than that, it is a familiar looking rub to me.

    which means, of course, that my own rub is just "average" :laugh:

    at various times i'll try other things, maybe hints of allspice, even cinnamon... but i'd be willing to bet the container of rub i have on th shelf matches your numbers fairly closely

    FWIW, i know that a couple times drBBQ has demonstrated that anyone (i think it's folks plucked from an audience) can make a decent rub just by mixing a few basic ingredients, to taste, and with a little guidance.

    specialty fine tuned rubs (like Dizzy Pig) are one thing altogether. but decent day-to-day rubs can be made at home too
    ed egli avea del cul fatto trombetta -Dante
  • gdenbygdenby Posts: 5,539
    No, I just Googled around. It includes some from well known 'Q'ers like Dr. BBQ, Steve Raichlen, Paul Kirk, Mike Mills, etc, and less well known folks just sharing. I stopped collecting when the ingredient list seemed to be repeating ones I already had.
  • gdenbygdenby Posts: 5,539
    I started mixing some this morning, but won't be doing any pork till this weekend. I suspect it will be, erm, just average.
  • gdenbygdenby Posts: 5,539
    Cumin is used a lot. I only bumped it because it might be represented in the chili powder, and tho' used in greater quantities than cayenne, cayenne was used in 39 recipes, and there were 8 others with red pepper, jalapeno, or chipotle.

    Elder Ward has sage as his special ingredient. To un-average a recipe, I'd add something else. For my taste, I'd add something like ginger and lemon grass powder, or thyme and marjoram.
  • Capt FrankCapt Frank Posts: 2,578
    I am pretty sure it was Steve Raichen in his book "Beer Can Chicken" that said a basic rub was equal parts brown suger, paprika, and salt. Add flavor ingredients [onion powder, galic, black pepper, etc]. I have done just that with great success although these days I pretty much let Chris and the gang at DP mix my rubs for me B) :laugh:
  • gdenbygdenby Posts: 5,539
    That is indeed what he does. I have five categories for the rubs, one of which is "General All-purpose," and Raichlen's is in it. His "special" flavor is celery seed, which shows up in a couple of other recipes.

    One of the things that surprised me was that some recipes called for very large portions of one ingredient, such as dry mustard, or cocoa powder, or black pepper.

    One reason I worked out the "average" was for those times when I open up the cabinet and find only about half an ounce of Dizzy Dust, and need to improvise quick.
  • How many recipes include msg? I'm going to guess 5.
  • gdenbygdenby Posts: 5,539
    You are right. It 4 for sure. However, the last time I bought chili powder blends, I noticed at least one had a glutamate addition. Likewise, Goya brand sazon. So any recipe that does not avoid commercial blends might have a bit.

    Seems kind of like gilding the lily. 'Q is already so savory, why push it any farther?
  • What's wrong with a gilded lily? ;) Sounds like a case for a blind taste test!
  • SundownSundown Posts: 2,964
    and was it included in your samplings?

    For a lot of years JJ's was a sort of unofficial standard for everyday use.

    There were some venomous wars fought over the origins of the rub and many people left the forum because of the fighting but, for "everyday" use we keep a jar of JJ's right beside the Dizzy Pig and Chris doesn't seem to mind. ;)
  • gdenbygdenby Posts: 5,539
    What I've noticed making my own chili, soup stocks, and such is that non-msg foods can have as strong savory flavor, but it is a little less "sharp," kind of like keeping salt to a minimum.

    Also, takes about 3 times longer cooking.
  • gdenbygdenby Posts: 5,539
    No, I haven't come across it. I see that it is similar to Jim Goode's rub, and I do have that in the database. Both have quite a few different ingredients, and must be very subtle. I'll have to add JJ's to the table.

    I've tried a few mixes with a bit of everything, and haven't found a good balance.
  • DavekatzDavekatz Posts: 763
    Thanks for doing this! That's how Megnut did her Mean (as in average) Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. Average doesn't need to be bad ;).
    Food & Fire - The carnivorous ramblings of a gluten-free grill geek.
  • gdenbygdenby Posts: 5,539
    Your welcome. I expect the rub to be a pretty good base.

    I expect it will be very amenable to tweaking.
  • 2Fategghead2Fategghead Posts: 9,623
    I need granulated brown sugar for a rub recipe no substitute and can not find it in any grocery stores nor can they order it. As a matter of fact we have looked for it in a 50 mile radius and was told you can't get it any more. Does any body know how to get it? :ermm: Tim
    Hey gdenby, interesting post. Almost 2 years ago I did a similar search but did not bother to crunch the numbers. I made my rub out of what sounded good to me and am still playing with it. My basic rub is

    1/2 C paprika
    1/8 C fine Sea salt
    2 C Drk. Brown Sugar
    2 T Dry Mustard
    1/4 C Chilli powder
    1/4 C Cumin
    2 T Blk. Pepper
    2 T Garlic powder
    2 T Onion powder
    1 t Cayenne pepper
    2 T Nutmeg
    1 T Cinnamon

    It is mild and probably pretty average but gets the job done. My latest modification was to cut the amount of salt in half to this amount. You would never know the difference.

    I have a lot of respect for Chris and Dizzy Pig and anyone else that can develop a great rub or Big'un with Carnivore Sauces. Development of their recipes takes a lot of time and experimenting to get it just right.

    Hi Tim, Domino Brownulated Sugar is probably what you are looking for. This web page may help you find it, then again it may not. It didn't find any in my area. You can order it on line from THIS SITE as well but you have to buy six 14oz. bags minimum. I do not know what the difference is between it and a raw sugar like Demerara Sugar or Sugar In The Raw? It is probably just a slight difference in the amount of molasses left in it. I think substitutions are a good thing sometimes. :lol:

  • stikestike Posts: 15,597
    what's the matter with msg?
    ed egli avea del cul fatto trombetta -Dante
  • DavekatzDavekatz Posts: 763
    Some folks with celiacs can have a reaction to it (I do).
    Food & Fire - The carnivorous ramblings of a gluten-free grill geek.
  • 2Fategghead2Fategghead Posts: 9,623
    Blair, Domino is the brand we are using at the moment. We might have a half a cup left but, we just made a big batch so it will last a while.

    After I left that question in this post I remembered the Amish market about 20 miles away and I had their phone number so I called them and they did not have any. While we were talking Mike asked if he could call me back and when he did they decided to order 50 pounds and they will repack it in small quantities and hopefully it will be on the shelf by November 1st. So I am a happy camper. :)

    Thanks for your efforts Blair I will look in to them as well. Tim :)
  • 2Fategghead2Fategghead Posts: 9,623
    Blair, I called Domino 1 (800)729-4840 and talked to a rep. I have learned the same as you have said about ordering some...while I was speaking to the rep I asked if the brownulated was no longer made and was told they still make it in light brown and brown. I asked what the difference was in the brown sugar and turbinado and was told brown has molasses. Thanks for your help. Tim :)
  • gdenbygdenby Posts: 5,539
    LAst post of the day here.

    I was surprised to see the amount of sugar and paprika many people used. I see that those are the biggest parts of your rub. For my taste, just a bit more sugar than salt is good, and more garlic than paprika.

    I just finished making a batch following the averages I found. I mixed a half teaspoon with some butter, melted it and put it on a piece of toast. I also don't usually use so much black pepper, and that flavor was really strong. Perhaps it will be more mellow after hours on pork in the Egg.

    It is indeed extraordinary to come up with a well balanced rub that many will like. I have trouble just satisfying myself.
    Glad what little I did was of help Tim. :)


    Hahahahaha, It's not hard to tell what I like in or out of a rub. Sweet and smoky is more to my liking, I have been increasing the sugar and find it doesn't effect my pallet much unless I get heavy handed with it. If I could find an inexpensive source of maple sugar I would like to experiment along those lines but that stuff is like gold. I have always loved black pepper and the paprika, cumin and chili powder all add their own smokiness. Rubs are fun to play with, I often don't make it exactly the same from one batch to the next. I do keep notes in case I hit upon something. I have bookmarked your post and will probably re-read it before I experiment again. :)

  • LDDLDD Posts: 1,225
    this was a good read. thanks for doing it.

    I like to create my own rubs, and is always a combination of what was listed.
    context is important :)
  • WessBWessB Posts: 6,937
    I found long ago JJ's was little more "herby" than I cared I took his blend and cut the herbs in half and for the most part doubled the can find my blend in the "cooks" section of my website, and under the "babyback ribs and prep" entry...
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