Chipotle Applewood Rub


Ingredients: granulated honey, applewood smoked sea salt, paprika, garlic, onion, chipotle powder, black pepper, chipotle flakes

This Chipotle Applewood Rub is destined to become one of our most popular blends. We’ve used this on everything from chicken to salmon to ribs. Any great rub for the grill or smoker tends to have three things to form the foundation - sugar, salt and paprika.

If you’ve ever tasted truly great barbeque, it is most likely that a dry rub was used. Dry rubs give meats (especially chicken, fish or pork) a memorable flavor. If you’re not familiar with a dry rub it is a seasoning blend of dry spices, herbs and sometimes salt. The seasoning is shaken onto the meat and then rubbed (or more likely patted) evenly on all sides before cooking. This helps to form a tasty crust that contains tremendous flavor.

Now, we know that there are two opposing views on salt and like our politicians in Washington their opinions on the matter are not even close (you might as well call them polar opposites). One side is looking to avoid salt at all costs (usually due to valid health related issues) as Americans consume well above the daily recommended amounts of sodium. The other side either is practically addicted to salt or truly believes that salt really brings other spices together and is essential to a great rub for meat (whether pork, beef or chicken)

While we tend to gravitate towards seasoning blends that rely more on the flavors of the spices being highlighted (by nature these blends are either very low in salt or are salt free), I also know that some blends are almost magical when a little bit of salt is blended in.

We also tend to believe that the real argument should not be “does this rub include salt” but instead “how much salt is in the dry rub”. Most dry rubs purchased commercially contain way too much salt. There is a business reason for this - salt (even sea salt or Kosher salt) is the least expensive ingredient in the spices and herbs used in blending the commercial dry spice rubs. So the more salt used means more profit for the company.

We love to experiment with seasoning rubs and always have something working in our test que. Sometimes it may take 4 or 5 versions to get it just right and some blends just never make it out of the testing phase. After just 3 tries on this Chipotle Applewood Rub we were hooked.

So for this Chipotle Applewood blend we wanted to follow the basics of a good rub (sugar, salt and paprika) but of course we also had to give it a unique flavor personality.

For the sugar (to provide the sweetness) we decided against the most popular sugars used in competition rubs - brown sugar, white sugar or turbinado sugar. Instead we opted for granulated honey. It gives a different flavor profile and provides a wonderful caramelizing effect (a.k.a forms the signature crust) on the chicken, fish or pork to help lock the juices in.

Next up - which salt to choose? In my test kitchen I didn’t reach for a plain sea salt or a Kosher salt instead I again wanted to be a bit outside the box and went with a Smoked Applewood Salt. Barbecuers love using lots of different woods when they smoke their ribs, pork shoulders, pork butts or chicken and applewood is one of the most popular. This smoky salt gives you hints of the mild fruity flavor of applewood without spending hours smoking.

Stage 3 - for the paprika instead of going with something exotic like a smoked sweet paprika, smoked hot paprika or a Hungarian paprika I went with a sweet domestic paprika.

Time to create the true essence of the blend - there was already enough flavor in the rub that we didn’t want the smoked paprika competing with the smoked salt. For the blend's soul and personality we used one of our favorite chiles - chipotle. We used both the ground version as well as the chipotle flakes (to provide additional texture and some nice periodic blasts of smokiness and heat).

As a rule of thumb you should use about 1 tablespoon of dry rub per pound of chicken or pork, for fish we prefer using about ½ that much to start. We always recommend using a bit less the first time your experimenting with any new rub as you can always add more but can’t take much away if you over season.

We've seasoned both chicken and pork with this rub and have then let it sit in the refrigerator for 8-24 hours to allow the seasoning to work its way into the meat before smoking or grilling. For fish we only tender to let the seasoning sit for 30 minutes to 2 hours before cooking.


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