How to shine at the backyard barbecue

St. Louis-style ribs come alive with flavor using a simple, but effective rub.

One of the pleasures in life is being invited to a backyard barbecue. From ribs and chicken to beef and seafood, it seems that every American has his own tasty, unique, closely guarded secret when it comes to outdoor cooking.

On the East Coast, pork is king when it comes to slow smoked meat. From cooking a whole hog to dressing up pork chops to making fall-off-the-bone ribs, the following recipe is a great, simple spice rub that a person can put their own, unique mark on. The rub is also tasty on beef and chicken, but is tailored for pork.

The easiest way to make a simple rub is to employ the 8 + 3 + 1 + 1 method.

Simply put, the formula works out to eight tablespoons of brown sugar, three tablespoons of kosher or sea salt, one tablespoon of chili powder and one tablespoon of a secret ingredient. The last tablespoon is up to the cook’s imagination. Want to give the meat a Caribbean taste? Add one tablespoon of ground allspice.

Want to fire up the taste buds? Consider adding one tablespoon of cayenne or white pepper. Consider mixing two — 1/2 tablespoon ground allspice and 1/2 tablespoon of cayenne or white pepper. Other spices to consider and combine would be Old Bay, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, Greek seasoning, soul seasoning and black pepper. Want to use four ingredients? Use in 1/4 increments. At this point, the possibilities are endless. Regardless of the spices you choose to use, just maintain this ratio.

For a larger quantity of spice rub, substitute tablespoon with cup(s) in the recipe.

One note about spices: The fresher the spice, the better the rub. Old spices in the cupboard lose their flavor over time. Look for spices in bulk — stores that sell in bulk tend to be cheaper and have fresher products. Amish markets and food co-ops are great places to buy bulk spices.

Take the spices and brown sugar, put in a mason jar and shake until thoroughly mixed. Brown sugar tends to be moist and clumpy. To counter this, take brown sugar, lay it out on a metal pan and let air dry for a while. When dry, the brown sugar can be sifted with the fingers into finer granules, allowing a better mixing of the spices.

Keep rub mixture in a tightly closed container and in a cool, dark place to keep fresh.

This recipe is for slow smoking meat. As it contains a great deal of sugar, this rub will burn to a char if cooked over an open flame.

When ready to use, liberally spread rub all over the meat. Let sit for an hour or two (or overnight) to let flavors penetrate meat. Cook meat using the indirect method — one side of grill hot with coals — placing meat on the cool side. Close the lid and periodically check coals every 45 minutes. The rub will combine with the fat, creating an unforgettable flavor. When the meat is finished, take off of grill to rest for about 5 to 10 minutes. Then let your party tear into your creation.

After the feast is over and there is nothing left but a few scraps and a couple of clean bones, pat yourself on the back for a job well done (no pun intended).

Welcome to the world of great barbecue. The secret to greatness on the grill is simplicity.

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