Ingredients: granulated honey, orange zest, smoked sweet paprika, habanero chiles, mesquite smokes sea salt, garlic, onion
Over the past several years, Americans have become increasingly fascinated with “sweet and heat” flavors. We first watched this trend emerge when we introduced our Honey Chipotle Rub about 5 years ago. Proving that “sweet heat” is a trend and not a fad was evident with the introduction of two of our newer blends Bourbon Molasses and Pineapple Serrano Rub, which have quickly become some of our most popular rubs.
Now, heat is subjective, as “burn your face off hot” to one person may be relatively mild to a more experienced chile head (who has a higher threshold for heat). Some chile heads are only interested in crazy hot heat that lingers - think something with Carolina Reaper Chiles (1,400,000 - 2,000,000 SHU), while others are more fans of a quick hitting heat that doesn’t linger. For this type of heat, we're big fans of Habanero Chiles - a quick heat (150,000 - 325,000 SHU) that dissipates quickly.
Sweet, of course, is equally important in a rub. Many companies will take the boring, tired approach of using just highly processed plain white sugar, maybe some brown sugar, or if they are really feeling adventurous a raw sugar like demerara in their blends. We like for our sugar bases to be a bit more out-of-the-ordinary - honey, pineapple and molasses being some of our current favorites.
When creating a rub for chicken or pork, sugar is essential; as it helps in forming the critical "bark" or crust that can really lock in the meat’s juices. We are very aware that excessive use of salt and sugar has directly led to a slew of health issues in the U.S. (rising obesity rates, diabetes, high blood pressure etc.), but we also know that salt and sugar play starring roles in the most spectacular rubs for the grill or the smoker. So how do we balance this? We have chosen to only use salt and sugar in our blends as a way to enhance flavor, and not as excessive fillers to drive down the cost of the blend.
In our continuous quest for the next rub, we typically have numerous rubs "in the works". So we consistently have three stages going on - the next idea, sourcing and testing. We are always on the lookout for our next inspiration. It might be from an article one of us read, a recipe we found or a new product in a related category. An idea might also spring forward from a new product we’ve sourced (we are sourcing new products just about every day). In our kitchen we constantly have a variety of new seasoning blends in the works. Some will be in the recipe development stage, while others are further along in the process and are being tested on the grill or in the smoker on chicken, pork or fish.
If you've been buying from us for a while you've probably read somewhere along the way that some rubs go through multiple tweaks in the kitchen before we hit just the right blend of spices, while some never make it out of the kitchen. Over the years, the kitchen failures aren't quite as frequent as they were in the early days, but that has more to do with spending more time in the research and inspiration phase and also having a better knowledge of what spices and ingredients work best together.
Now for this particular rub, we knew that the Habanero was going to be our base chile (looking for quick heat), but it was up in the air as to what was going to be our sugar base. We've been spending a lot of time experimenting with our Granulated Molasses but could never quite get the flavor profile of the Molasses and Habanero just right. After a couple of test versions using either Granulated Molasses or Granulated Honey we found the right flavor with the honey.
What we've found over the years is that the citrusy flavor of orange zest tends to play well with the Habanero. For the light amount of salt that we added to this blend we wanted something just a bit smoky, so we went with a Texas inspired Mesquite Smokes Sea Salt.
The general rule of thumb with the majority of our rubs is to use about 1 tablespoon of dry rub per pound of chicken or pork. If you’re using our Habanero Honey Rub on fish or shrimp use about half that amount to start. We typically recommend using a bit less the first time you experiment with a rub, as you can always add more flavor if desired, but you can’t take flavor away if you over season.
We’ve seasoned both chicken and pork with this rub, and have then let them sit in the refrigerator for 1-24 hours to allow the seasoning to marry with the meat before smoking or grilling. 3-4 hours seemed to work best for us, but you should experiment until you find what works best for you. For fish, we only let the seasoning sit for about 30 minutes and for shrimp about 15 minutes before cooking.
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