The procrastinator’s guide to spicing your meat
By Susan Reilly firstname.lastname@example.org
It is said that 72 percent of households in the U.S. have an outdoor grill. With that, and given our propensity for last-minute cooking, it is no wonder rubs are the seasoning of choice when it comes to playing with fire.
Rubs are either wet (with oil) or dry. The beauty of a rub is that it can be applied at the last minute, right before the meat hits the grill, and still impart maximum flavor.
At Surf in Nashua, chef Matt Lavigne uses a blackening rub for tilapia. When using a rub on fish, he warns, it must be put on right before cooking or it might dry out the fish because it will draw out the moisture.
Also, be careful not to overpower the natural flavor of the fish with too powerful a rub or an acidic rub.
“Rub should be treated as one spice. It should be balanced. One flavor should not overpower the others,” Lavigne said. At Surf, Lavigne makes his own rub, using a careful blend of 15 ingredients.
What is a rub? Despite its name, you don’t rub a rub, you pat it. When applied with the right amount of pressure, a rub will stick to the meat. When cooked, a rub will seal in juices while creating a crispy outer crust.
A rub with an acidic base of wine or citrus can also act as a meat tenderizer, but be careful not to marinade. Rubs are truly meant to be last-minute applications and not marinades.
Except at Buckley’s Great Steaks. Michael Buckley mixes up a rub of brown sugar, cayenne and fresh diced garlic and rubs it all over the steaks.
Buckley lets the rubbed steaks sit for 24 hours in the cooler, and then brushes off the excess sugar before grilling. Not a marinade, but a process that works best with time.
“The end result is amazing. The sugar becomes a liquid and seals in the juices from the beef,” Buckley said.
Buckley’s also uses a blackening rub that the kitchen makes fresh.
“It is a traditional rub, full of flavor and lots of spices,” he said.
It seems there are as many types of rubs as the imagination can dream up.
At Toro in Milford, chef and owner Arthur Martel uses everything from a simple rub of good olive oil, salt and pepper to a house blend herbal rub on steaks.
“Arthur’s rub is very front-forward on the tongue. It is very aggressive, not spicy, but full of great flavor,” said Erin Martel, co-owner.
At KC’s Rib Shack, an aggressive rub is used on ribs and chicken. According to Scott Popplewell, it is the only way to season meat.
“Our rub is awesome. It is a dry rub and it gives the meat a great flavor,” Popplewell said. KC’s Rib Shack rub is available for $3 for 5 ounces for fans who want to try it at home.
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