Cooking Class with Chef Ivan Flowers: Lesson Twelve-Dry Rubs

By Chef Ivan Flowers,

In the last cooking class we covered salad dressings and I hope you all discovered the deliciousness of a homemade dressing. This week we are going to learn about dry rubs. Summer is grilling season and a dry rub can add so much flavor to the things you grill. But the beauty of a dry rub is that you can use it to enhance flavor with practically any cooking method.

Except braising. Don’t use a dry rub and then braise. Why? Because the liquid will remove all that wonderful rub.

Now just like salad dressings, you can go out and buy it in the store and there are some good ones out there, but why not make it fresh and control what goes into it, like how much salt or sugar. Also, when you make it at home, there are never any preservatives.

In this lesson I will teach you how to make three dry rubs; one for meat, one for chicken and one for pork. Okay, I know what you are thinking, “Where is the seafood?” Well, in my opinion, dry rubs have too strong a flavor profile to rub on a fish, it simply kills it. It is like caviar on vanilla ice cream, it is all you taste.

Before we go into the actual dry rubs, let me give you a few tips on how to use them. First, how long to let the rub sit on the meat before you cook it. For red meat you can keep the rub on from six hours to overnight. The larger the cut of meat, the longer you let that dry rub work its magic. For chicken, I recommend two hours. It is a more delicate meat and you don’t want the chicken to JUST taste like the dry rub, you want to also taste that chicken. Finally, for pork I recommend five to six hours, again, depending on the cut of meat. Another tip is that once you combine all your ingredients, put them in a coffee grinder or blender. This will really marry all the flavors and create a uniform texture so every inch of the meat has every element of the rub. When using the rub, make sure you completely and evenly coat the meat, this way you will get flavor in every bite.

Now, lets’ get cooking.

The first rub we will create is the one for red meat. In a bowl combine two tablespoons of each of the following: smoked paprika, garlic powder (not garlic salt, please), brown sugar, onion powder, kosher salt and black pepper. Next add one teaspoon of cayenne. That’s it! Mix well or put into a blender or grinder. Make as much or as little as you will need, simply keep all the ratios the same.

The next dry rub is for chicken. It is different than the one for red meat because we want to use those herbs and spices that enhance the natural deliciousness of the chicken, not over power it. In a bowl combine two tablespoons each of the following: sweet paprika and brown sugar. Now add one tablespoon each of the following: kosher salt, ground garlic and ground cumin. Finally add one teaspoon each of ground thyme, ground oregano and lemon pepper. Combine well or put into a blender/grinder.

The final dry rub is for pork. Again, the elements have changed to enhance the flavor of the pork. In a bowl add two tablespoons each of smoked paprika, ground garlic and brown sugar. Next add one tablespoon each of Coleman’s Dry Mustard (you should be able to find this in your grocery store, if not, any dry mustard you have is fine), chipotle powder, onion powder, cayenne (less if you are sensitive to spices), ground coriander, kosher salt and black pepper. And last but not least, one quarter teaspoon of ground sage. Why so little? I find that while I like the flavor of sage, if you add too much to a dish it becomes ALL about the sage. So this amount will add a nice herb element, enhance the flavor of the pork, but you won’t have a dry rub that tastes predominantly of sage. Again, combine or blend and you have a rub.

Now that you have a template, use your imagination and have fun! Remember a good rub is balanced with salty, sweet, herb and spice. As with any technique or recipe, the most important component is the cook’s heart. The heart is what creates delicious.

Chef Ivan Flowers brings 25 years of fine cuisine experience to Top of The Market, San Diego. Prior to becoming Executive Chef at Top of The Market, Chef Flowers owned Fournos restaurant in Sedona, Arizona, named a top 25 restaurant in Arizona. He was also Executive Chef at L’Auberge de Sedona, the AAA Four-Diamond, Four Star award winning restaurant. Flowers has created extraordinary cuisine for some of the finest restaurants in Arizona, including T. Cooks at Scottsdale's Royal Palms Resort and the Phoenician's Mary Elaine's and Different Pointe of View.

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