Barbecue sauce gets all the attention but true Southerners know that the secret to great cooking is in the rub. While every chef has their own blends and special ingredients, simplicity is often the best kept secret.
The key is to limit the number of spices in your rub. Using high-quality beef is what will determine the results, so you don’t want to drown it in too many disparate flavors. Salt, pepper and a few other tried-and-true ingredients are all you need to enhance, not overwhelm, the profile of properly cooked meat.
Using sea salt rather than typical table salt is one way to add some subtle complexity to the finished product. Along with a few other flavor-packing spices, it will seep into the beef as the heat opens up pathways below the surface. Unlike sauces, which largely sit on the outside (and often burn if added too early), rub gets deeper into the meat and blends with its juices. The outcome is a more uniform taste in each bite, as opposed to a moist and messy exterior coating.
The below recipe leans on that concept and works great on brisket, tri-tip or ribs. Simply coat the outside of your beef an hour before it’s ready to cook, then lay it on the fire. You’ll be thanking the sea salt gods in no time.
Sea Salt Rub for Beef
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
In a large bowl, combine the salt, pepper, cumin, coriander and rosemary.
Just before you are about to use the rub, melt the butter in a small skillet. Add the butter to the spices and mix thoroughly, making sure not to leave any lumps. Apply the rub evenly to the surface of the meat, ideally using your hands like a true Southerner would. And that’s it — now you’re ready to cook.
Pro tip: While the recipe above should be sufficient for up to two pounds of beef, it saves time to make your rub in bulk and save some for later. To ensure you never find your pantry lacking a good rub, mix together the dry ingredients — say, five times the amounts listed above — and store in an airtight jar in a cool place away from sunlight. Just skip the butter at this stage to avoid spoilage. You can add it in as you prep the meat on grill day.