Sunday, January 6, 2008

RANT: The Rubdown

The Lowdown on the Rubdown I.

Let’s call part one of this series on BBQ rubs ‘Confessions of a Hypocrite’. In an earlier post I went into some detail discussing how hard it is for me to understand a competitor using a store bought sauce in a cook-off. The basic reasoning was, if you’re are going to spend up to twelve hours on a brisket, why wouldn’t you spend twenty minutes making a sauce?

The odd thing is in spite of my qualms at using a commercial sauce, I’m more than happy to use a commercial rub. The story gets stranger. I enjoy making rubs much more than I enjoy making sauces. I’m hyper-critical of any sauce that I make but in an odd way I’m never concerned about a rub. I’m always under the impression that I can find a use for a rub or find a way to fix a perceived problem, but with sauces I’ll throw out one of every five batches that I experiment on.

There is somehow something more artistic about the creation of a dry rub for me. I don’t know why. It doesn’t make sense, but it’s true. I’m often just as happy with a batch that I will use once and throw it in seven months as I am with something that I use on a weekly basis.

All that being said, creating a good rub is not as much of an accomplishment for me as creating a good sauce. And I think that may be the key. Creating a quality sauce is hard work. Although it’s enjoyable and satisfying, it’s not ‘fun’. It is much more rewarding when I offer friends and family a quality sauce than when I can offer them a quality rub.

Maybe it’s that sauces are more unforgiving than rubs. After 5 to 10 hours in a smoker your highs will be lowered and your flaws will be ameliorated. Rubs are also more monomaniacal. They serve one purpose. Sure, you can stretch things and use a rub on potato chips or popcorn, but their primary purpose is to be adhered to a meat prior to it’s smoking to add depth of flavor and a crust.

Sauces can be used to enhance a flavor, modify a flavor, used as a dipping sauce, cooked onto or into a food, used to create a crust or bark and provide an added aesthetic.

Coming up next in the Lowdown on the Rubdown; a spicy/sweet rub designed for ribs.

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