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How Do I Choose the Best Brisket Rub?

By Eugene P.
Updated May 16, 2024
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There are a number of different brisket rub recipes, most of which are simple and contain largely the same ingredients — including salt, pepper and garlic powder — in different amounts. For a very high-quality cut of brisket, a simple salt and pepper rub might be the best choice, because it will let the taste of the meat stand out. A traditional Texas-style brisket rub is made from salt, pepper, garlic, paprika and a few other spices; it goes well on brisket and on most other cuts of beef that will be cooked over low heat for a long time. Some more distinctive types of brisket rub include an Asian variety that uses coriander, a hot Tex-Mex type that uses hot red pepper for intense heat, and some recipes that include freshly ground coffee for a smoky flavor when the meat is finished cooking. Although making a rub mixture at home is generally easy to do, there also are many premade commercial brisket rub mixes, some of which contain several dozen spices and have won nationwide barbecue contest awards in the United States.

A very simple type of rub, sometimes called a Dalmatian rub because of its color, is made from equal amounts of coarse kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper. The rub can be applied to good-quality brisket from 30 to 60 minutes before cooking. This type of rub might be the best choice when the flavor of the meat is intended to stand out or when aspects such as the flavor from smoking, a mop sauce or a marinade is supposed to be the main taste component.

The best brisket rub often is one that imparts some traditional barbecue flavors to the meat. A Texas-style or Memphis, Tennessee-style rub can do this without requiring a huge list of ingredients. These rubs generally include salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, oregano and cayenne pepper, all in various proportions. Some variations on the basic Texas-style brisket rub recipe include adding brown sugar to accent the meat or ingredients such as cumin, chili powder, mustard powder, onion powder and lemon pepper.

For a more distinct, less traditional brisket rub, an Asian-style rub can be made from turmeric, cumin, coriander, salt, cinnamon, onion powder and sesame seeds. Freshly ground coffee can be included in rubs so the grounds slowly roast and develop an earthy, smoky flavor that eventually passes into the meat. If all else fails, a premade, commercially sold brisket rub might be a good choice, because it most likely will be well balanced and the label likely will indicate exactly how the finished brisket will be affected by the rub.

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