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Brisket: What came first : the Rub or the sugar?

ReeltachyReeltachy Posts: 54
edited 9:40PM in EggHead Forum
I have a 4.25# brisket I'm going to be cooking. I pulled a recepie from one the Wise One cookbook from 2007. He puts favorite rub over nite then applies sugar the next day right before cook. I see other post with sugar overnight then followed by rub prior to cook. Anybody tried both ways? Since mine has already had the rub and sat I'm obviously going to try sugar right befor cook. Unless, someone tells me I'm crazy. Thanks,


  • i wouldn't add any sugar at this point. .. i think the purpose of adding sugar the night before (or at least a number of hours before) is to help tenderize the meat some (at least thats my understanding)....i don't think it adds any real benefit right before the cook other than as another flavor and/or to help build up the bark. ..

    also, check your rub ingredients. might have a rub that includes sugar already so it will be helping with the park already. .. . if you are going to add sugar now, i wouldn't add a lot, because it will unbalance the rub.. ..
  • That makes sense. My rubs first ingredient is brown sugar. Think I will take your advice and hold the sugar. I might add a little more dry rub and let er go low and slow. Thx,
  • no problem. ...if you were using somethng like dizzy cowlick (which has no sugar) then you might want to add some, etc. ...

    next time, try doing the sugar thing the night before.'ll be amazed when you unwrap it the next day, and you see no just disappears into the meat. ...
  • stikestike Posts: 15,597
    you'll be fine with or without sugar or saly in your rub overnight.

    there's not enough salt to truly make it hammy, and though i have heard the claim before too, i honestly have never seen anything to corroborate that sugar or salt "break down" collagen, muscle, or anything.

    keep in mind, if this were a penetrating marinade, you'd MAYBE have a quarter inch penetration into the meat.

    salt or sugar on the surface, in small amounts, overnight, ain't gonna do nuthin....

    both sugar and salt will pull some moisture from the meat, but this will not at all dry out the meat. in fact, after the pork goes on the BGE, i usually pour the sugary syrup into a sauce pan and build my bbq sauce from it (adding a bunch of stuff, of course).

    in short, there's nothing that will happen to it either way. don't fret.

    had to leave rub on ribs once for a WEEK due to some scheduling mishap. no issues. no "ham", no dry mat, no nuthin but damn good ribs, albeit a week later than i wanted
    ed egli avea del cul fatto trombetta -Dante
  • "hammy"? ..."pork"?. did realize he's cookin a BEEF brisket and not pork, right?? ....

    you know me, i have no idea of anything having to do with science (nor do i care). ...just visual and textural experience....but when you sugar a brisket for 8-20 hours prior to cooking, the sugar completely disappears. ..i have no idea how far into the meat it gets absorbed, but it is most certainly getting absorbed somehow. . .i've found that doing this certainly adds to the tenderness of the final product. ...again, how, i have no idea....however, the last few competitions, we went back to basics and simply trimmed and rubbed our briskets at shortly before cooking and our results have been extremely good, so it led us to question the benefits of the sugar at all. ....
  • stikestike Posts: 15,597
    i'm just talking about salt and sugar in general. the claim is often that salt on pork will make it hammy if left overnight... i was referring to a similar example. if salt made pork hammy, it would cure the beef as well. it doesn't, not in the small amounts used in rubs, and in the short time it's on the meat anyway

    the sugar gets into the the meat the same way salt does. water. sugar is even more hygroscopic than salt. you leave sugar on it, it draws out water. just as in brining (with salt), the concentration outside the meat is higher (more sugar in this case), and the meat draws it back in. that water gets drawn back in, and brings the sugar with it.

    although i have heard the claim that sugar tenderizes the meat, i haven't ever heard it as anything other than a claim from someone who heard it from someone else, etc. there's a lot of confused science surrounding barbecue. i'm no scientist, but if you see no difference now (not using sugar versus the way you used itpreviously), i'd ask why anyone thinks it's more tender?

    pretty difficult to carry the memory of one brisket in a person's head to the next cook a few weeks later, and attribute the (perceived) difference in tenderness to ONE factor. these things would need to be done side by side, for any real confidence.

    there are so many other factors involved, it'd be impossible to attribute improvements (or detriments) to the change of a single ingredient

    CWM used to say the he heard the sugar broke down the collagen in pork. some say it's the proteins, the muscle fibers that get broken down.... i just know that i have never seen any actual scientific evidence. it's always "i knew a guy at a barbecue competition who said..."

    i'm not saying that that guy doesn't know how to cook good food. but he doesn't have to know WHY things turn out the way they do. trial and error is an excellent way to learn how to produce something. but it doesn't necessarily mean that the mechanisms or science behind it are understood.

    i'm not trying to debate you. i just find it odd that you say adding the sugar before hand definitely tenderizes the meat. and the you end up saying that lately you have had excellent results even without the sugar though, leading you to debate why even do it.

    that's contradictory.

    and even if it seemed more tender, how can you say it wasn't the meat itself, or some other factor, from a cook done perhaps weeks previous?

    until it's proven, it's speculation.

    i'm not trying to make anyone into a food scientist, but i find it strange you'd say you don't want to know why. because that's exactly how you might then use the information to produce consistent results. if 'X" amount of time was good, and you knew WHY it was happening, you might then figure out that additional time was better,. or maybe worse, for example.

    i dunno.

    my **** detector just red lines whenever i hear "i don't know why, but i wave a chicken feather over it and it's better...". that's what a lot of this stuff sounds like.

    one last defense of science. a person does not need to know what causes a smoke ring in order to get one consistently. but when the cause IS understood, like thirdeye understands it, it allows that person to then fine tune it. he suggests adding a briquette, for example, if you want to bump it up. or even to sprinkle it with tenderquick, if a deep ring is what a person is after.

    to arrive at those ideas by trial and error would take a lot longer. the guy who understand why something is happening often has a better shot at getting the result he wants.

    at the end of the day, i'll just say that i have done it a bunch of different ways and found zero detriment to salt in a rub, sugar in a rub, rub applied a day/hour/week in advance. but of course my barbecue might be crap, too.
    ed egli avea del cul fatto trombetta -Dante
  • for all those pixels, you and i are in agreement here. .. i first learned about sugaring briskets the same time that CWM did, from a BBQ team down in oklahoma. .. .we both started doing it at the same time. .. .i thought it provided better results. .. but i agree with you, with brisket (and i think more so than pork) you have so many different variables....type of cow, quality of beef (select, choice, prime, etc). ..waigu vs. CAB. ...length of cook (fast and hot, vs. lo and slo), etc. . .hell, we take two briskets to every competition, one american waigu and one CAB. .. and the difference between the two both before and after the cook is phenomenal, even though we prep and cook them the same way. ..

    do, did i contradict myself....yep, sure did. . .we just recently stopped sugaring the damn things and didn't notice any big difference. ..but that was also with high quality, expensive briskets. . .i think i agree with you that i'd have to do a side by side on my cheap 'select' briskets that i do at home to see if it makes more of difference on them before i quit doing it here too. .. .

    one other thing (question really). .is there even enough salt or sugar in most rubs to actually act as curing, or brine, agent on beef or pork, even if applied liberally and many hours prior to cooking? ...i can't imagine there is, but i'm sure no expert. ...i'm using rub as a flavor agent, not as something to affect texture. ..straight sugar i understand, but not a rub. . .just a question, not a challenge. ..
  • stikestike Posts: 15,597
    mad max beyond eggdome wrote:
    .is there even enough salt or sugar in most rubs to actually act as curing, or brine, agent on beef or pork, even if applied liberally and many hours prior to cooking? ...i can't imagine there is, but i'm sure no expert. ...i'm using rub as a flavor agent, not as something to affect texture. ..straight sugar i understand, but not a rub. . .just a question, not a challenge. ..

    that's what i said originally. might have gotten lost in all those words... i tend to say too much. but yeah, you can NOT cure anything by sprinkling salt on it. you have to sink it in salt, and let it sit that way for a damned long time. even then, it's just salty. you'd have to let it dry out and cure over a week's time at least (the duck prosciutto, much smaller than brisket or pork butt) takes a week minimum, and that's after 24 hours BURIED in nothing but salt.

    i really think there is a tendency for people to see one little thing ("gee, adding salt draws out water") and then the next time they have a steak that is dry, they blame it on its having being salted before the cook....

    it isn't possible to cure meat overnight just because there's salt in the rub. and that's why i am also willing to bet that sugar has no role in it either.

    even if the sugar tenderized (to the point of mush) the tiny eighth inch or so it penetrates, how would that affect the tenderness of the whole cut of meat itself?

    i once thought it would be a great idea to add pineapple juice and a little OJ to a marinade for some ribs. every guy seems to try OJ at least ONCE early on in their rib efforts.

    the papain (an enzyme i later learned was in the pineapple juice) and acid of the OJ turned the surface of the meat into mush. but a trillionth of an inch deeper and the pork was the same damn pork it always was. it THAT didn't tenderize the meat, how would a couple TBSPs of sugar or salt or pixie dust?
    ed egli avea del cul fatto trombetta -Dante
  • sorry, i did miss that in your original post. . .and again, i agree with you. back to that guy's original question. ...just put the rub on it and throw it in the egg!! :P
  • Great conversation! It appears that the answer to my question is as clear as; which came first, the chicken or the egg?
    Experimentation is fun and that is one of the reasons I like cooking on the egg and coming to this forum. I'm about 2.5 hrs into this cook and I'll let you guys know how it turns out.

    P.S. I will try the overnight sugar next.
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