Mad BBQ Scientist - Rub ingredients
Barbecue-rs are nuts. Mad, at least. Chris Baker, The Mad BBQ Scientist over at the BBQ - Brethren just finished an exhaustive series of experiments on the burn point of many common barbeque rub ingredients. I haven't experimented directly like this, but I don't find many, if any, of his observations off the mark.
So here for your enjoyment and for the betterment of your barbecue, is Chris Baker, AKA The Mad BBQ Scientist's, Burning Rub Ingredients experiment and results. Take it away Chris....
There are 3 general categories of ingredients I am compiling information on.
The first category is Sugars. Sugar is somewhat controversial, because it has been said and written that sugar will burn when used as a rub ingredient because of the long exposure to heat. In stark contrast however, it is known that in candy making and baking that sugar does not burn until it reaches temps around 350 degrees. In the 250 degree BBQ range sugar is in the soft-ball stage, far from burning. Knowing that is what prompted me to first start these experiments. From there it went on to other ingredients.
The second category is Dry Herbs, Spices and Powders. Many ingredients are thought to burn, or lose flavor when cooked, so some people avoid certain ingredients or favor others due to this. I had never seen a good descriptive list of what happens to these ingredients on a case-by-case basis, so I set out to make one. I hope this information will be as useful to you as it has been to me. My rubs immediately improved after lessons I learned from the experiments I did last year.
The third category is Sauces and Pastes. Some people use slathers or pastes to help hold a dry rub on. In many cases, they use a particular ingredient because it does not burn, maintains (or loses) its flavor, among other reasons. I decided to test some of these ingredients out on their own merits to see what would happen to them when smoked at 250 degrees until the whole piece of meat it was covering was 200 degrees internal.
I used pork Country Style Ribs for the experiments. I cut the ribs into thirds or quarters depending on the size of the rib, and used these smaller portions of meat for the experiments. In the end, it took roughly 6 hours on average of cooking at roughly 250 degrees for each piece of meat to be ready.
Here are the ingredients, categorized by section, along with their results.
SUGARS (20 total)
For each ingredient, I mixed 1/2 tbsp of the sugar or syrup with 1/2 tsp salt and applied to the meat. I did not let the rub set in, I put in the cooker as soon as possible.
- White Cane, granulated (C&H) - Tasted kinda hammy. Very good, not burnt at all.
- White Cane, powdered (C&H) - Tasted exactly like the granulated white sugar one above.
- Dark Brown Cane, granulated (C&H) - Had a sweet taste a bit different than the white sugar, with a touch of a burnt flavor. It was good and made what I would call a fine bark.
- Light Brown Cane, granulated (C&H) - Had a sweet taste that was still different from the white sugars, but less so. No burnt flavor.
- Splenda - Had a complex sweet flavor, no burnt taste at all. Me likey! Ate the whole piece.
- Turbinado Cane Sugar (C&H) - Lightly sweet. No burnt taste. Nothing too exciting flavorwise to be honest.
- Cane Juice Sugar (Whole Foods, bulk) - Lightly sweet with a certain yummy aftertaste that I couldn't pinpoint. No burnt taste. Not bad at all. Fairly good actually.
- Maple Sugar - Lightly sweet, couldn't taste any maple. Barely a hint of a burnt taste, but it was there ever so slightly. Not bad.
- Date Sugar - Sweet flavor, had a noticeable burnt flavor. Least favorite so far.
- Fructose - Complex sweet flavor making a hammy taste. No burnt flavor. Really good bark.
- Dark Corn Syrup (Karo) - Not sure how to describe it. Definitely had a burnt taste, strongest burnt flavor so far. There was a sweetness there, but I didn't like this at all. Took a while to cleanse the palate.
- Light Corn Syrup (Karo) - Hammy flavor with a hint of a dark sweetness. No burnt flavor. Good, but not the best tonight.
- Maple Syrup (Grade A Dark Amber) - Wow, this was good! Kind of a bacony flavor. No burnt flavor. I think this is my favorite so far.
- Maple Flavored Syrup (Aunt Jemima) - Salt overpowered the sweet. No burnt taste. Difficult to taste anything in this one.
- Honey - Very different, in a fairly good way. Lightly sweet and imparted a taste I don't think I can describe. It doesn't taste like honey. No burnt taste. Good, but only a little above average.
- Molasses - Lightly sweet, good BBQ flavor. No burnt taste. Pretty good.
- Sorghum - Sweet and different. No burnt taste. It was good.
- Barley Malt Syrup - Did not have a burnt taste, but the taste it did have I did not find pleasurable. My least favorite so far.
- Brown Rice Syrup - Very light sweet flavor, not bad. No burnt taste. Nothing special.
- Agave Nectar - Not much sweet flavor, or any other flavor. No burnt taste.
For each of these I mixed 1 tbsp Kosher Salt with 1 tsp of the ingredient and applied to the meat. I did not let the rub set in and put on the cooker as soon as possible.
- 5-Spice Powder (Tones) - Flavors came through fine, no burnt taste.
- Allspice (Tones) - Allspice flavor came through loud and clear. No burnt taste, no flavor loss.
- Anise Seed, fresh ground (Tones) - Flavor still strong, no burnt taste.
- Basil, flakes (store brand) - Flavor still strong, no burnt taste.
- Bay Leaves, turkish (Penzeys) - Flavor still strong, no burnt taste.
- Caraway Seed, fresh ground (Tones) - Flavor definitely survived just fine, no burnt taste.
- Cardamom, black (local ethnic market, fresh ground) - No flavor was left, no burnt flavor either.
- Cayenne Pepper (Tones) - Still has that Cayenne heat! No burnt taste.
- Celery Seed, fresh ground (Penzeys) - Celery flavor very pronounced. No burnt flavor.
- Chile Powder, Ancho (ground my own) - Chile flavor pretty much totally gone, no heat that I could tell but I don't find Ancho's that warm. No burnt taste.
- Chile Powder, Chipotle (ground my own) - Could just barely make out the chipotle flavor and it was hardly noticeable, hardly any heat from it either until about 30 seconds later a very mild warmth was noticed. No burnt taste.
- Chile Powder, Kashmir (ground my own) - Kept a little bit of its sweet chile flavor but it was heavily diminished. The heat was less than the cayenne, but it was quite noticeable! No burnt taste.
- Chile Powder, New Mexico (ground my own) - Chile flavor was retained very well, and rather good. Actually retained most of its warmth too. No burnt flavor.
- Chili Powder (Tones) - Not much flavor remained at all, and what did remain did not taste like Chili Powder. Slight hint of a burnt flavor, but not much.
- Cinnamon, ground (Tones) - Cinnamon flavor reduced considerably but was still there. Very slight burnt taste.
- Clove, fresh ground (local ethnic market) - Clove flavor diminished, but still distinctively clovelike in flavor. No burnt taste.
- Cocoa Powder (Hersheys) - Couldn't really taste the cocoa anymore. I thought I got a hint of it but I was trying so hard to taste the cocoa in it I may have fooled myself. Very mild burnt taste.
- Coffee grinds, ground to fine powder (Maxwell House) - It definitely imparted a flavor, but it didn't really taste too much like coffee. It had a bitterness you would expect from coffee, but the taste was more "meaty". It was decent but could have used some other flavors. No burnt taste.
- Coffee, instant (Folgers) - Imparted a good taste into the meat but didn't taste like coffee. Was pretty similar to the ground coffee above, but the flavor was not as strong as the ground coffee. No burnt taste.
- Coriander, fresh ground (Whole Foods) - Considering how strong a flavor coriander is, the flavor diminished a lot but was still obviously coriander. It was a rather mild coriander flavor though. No burnt taste.
- Cumin Seed, fresh ground (Penzeys) - Cumin flavor still very pronounced. No burnt taste.
- Dill Seed, fresh ground (Tones) - Very subtle flavor, but was there. I'm not sure someone who doesn't know that it is dill in there could identify it. No burnt taste.
- Fennel Seed, fresh ground (Tones) - Flavor still there, though a bit diminished. No burnt taste.
- Garlic, granulated (Tones) - Very noticeable roasted garlic flavor. Very, very subtle burnt flavor but was very good despite that.
- Ginger, dried, fresh ground (local ethnic market) - Flavor was pretty much gone, a very, very slight aftertaste of ginger but hard to notice. No burnt flavor.
- Mace, ground (Tones) - Flavor mellowed out a lot but was still there. No burnt taste.
- Marjoram, flakes (Penzeys) - Flavor came through but a bit diminished. No burnt flavor.
- Mint (Spice Islands) - Mint flavor subdued but still there. Slight burnt taste.
- Mustard, powdered (Colmans) - No flavor left. No burnt taste.
- Mustard, Oriental, powdered (Penzeys) - No flavor left. No burnt taste.
- Nutmeg (Tones) - Flavor mellowed considerably but the flavor of nutmeg did wind up coming through after a bit. No burnt taste.
- Onion Powder (Tones) - Onion flavor diminished but still there. No burnt taste.
- Oregano, Italian (store brand) - Flavor came through with plenty of strength. No burnt flavor.
- Oregano, turkish (Penzeys) - Flavor survived with plenty of strength. No burnt flavor.
- Paprika, California Sweet (Penzeys) - Flavor diminished and turned more bitter. Bark had a lovely red tint. Some burnt taste, perhaps causing the bitter flavor.
- Paprika, Hungarian Half-Sharp (Penzeys) - Paprika flavor pretty much entirely gone but a hint of it is still there. This one did not turn bitter. The heat of this paprika remained. It was not as red as the California Paprika, but did have a bit of a red tint, but overall was more brown in the end on the bark. No burnt taste.
- Paprika, Spanish (Tones) - Flavor greatly diminished, not very bitter just mostly flavorless. Bark had a good red tint poking through. There was a little bit of a burnt taste.
- Paprika, Sweet Hungarian (Penzeys) - Flavor greatly diminished. Good red tint showing through the bark. No burnt taste.
- Peppercorn, black, fresh ground (Tones) - Flavor survived just fine. No burnt taste.
- Peppercorn, white, fresh ground (Penzeys) - Flavor came through with no problems. No burnt flavor.
- Peppercorn Melange, fresh ground (Tones) - Flavor still strong. No burnt flavor.
- Rosemary, flakes (store brand) - Flavor came through very strong. No burnt flavor. Took a while to wash the taste out.
- Sage, rubbed (McCormick) - Flavor greatly subdued and nearly undetectable. No burnt flavor.
- Summer Savory (Spice Islands) - Flavor partially diminished but still there. No burnt taste.
- Tarragon (Tones) - Flavor was pretty much all gone. I could taste a little something, but then again I could have just been trying too hard to find a taste. No burnt flavor.
- Thyme, flakes (store brand) - Flavor diminished somewhat but distinctive thyme flavor was still there. No burnt flavor.
- Turmeric, ground (local ethnic market) - Flavor diminished considerably but was still there to a degree. It wasn't bad at all. No burnt taste.
- Worcestershire Powder - Imparted a very subtle and good flavor. I could not identify Worcestershire exactly, but there was a mild flavor there with some complexity.
I smeared on a coating of each ingredient onto the meat and then sprinkled with salt. I put on the cooker as soon as possible.
- Yellow Mustard (French's) - Outside of a mildly burnt flavor, I couldn't taste anything other than salt and smoked pork.
- Brown Mustard (French's) - Tasted the same as the Yellow Mustard above.
- Honey Mustard (Hickory Farms) - There was a touch of sweet in this one, and I swear I could faintly taste the mustard. No burnt taste.
- Sweet-Hot Mustard (Hickory Farms) - No flavor survived in this one. Very slight burnt taste.
- Hot Sauce (Louisiana brand) - Flavor did not make it through the cooking. The heat was almost completely gone but there was a very slight afterglow. Light burnt taste.
- Worcestershire Sauce (Lea & Perrins) - Not much flavor but there was a little zing in there that I think was from the sauce. No burnt taste.
- Soy Sauce - Soy flavor was there but was not very strong. No burnt taste.
- Teriyaki Sauce - It was not very obvious, but the Teriyaki taste was there. No burnt taste.
- Horseradish (Inglehoffer) - OK, this one was a little weird. I could taste the horseradish, but I'm not sure I enjoy the smoke flavor with horseradish. I didn't like it, but the flavor did survive. No burnt taste.
- Sriracha chili Garlic Sauce - I initially couldn't find the flavor of garlic or chili in there until the aftertaste hit. I could detect a little warmth and perhaps some chili, but there was also a decent amount of burnt flavor.
- Ketchup - Ugh! Nasty! Burnt!
- BBQ Sauce (KC Masterpiece Spicy Original) - Quite a number of flavors were coming through, none of them burnt. I could not compare the taste to the sauce, it had changed. It wasn't bad.
- Mayonnaise (Hellman's) - Bark was more firm than the others. I was wondering what it would do the the bark consistency. No burnt flavor or any other flavors were detectable outside of the salt and meat.
- Salad Dressing (Miracle Whip) - Bark consistency was a bit different from the others, but not as firm as the Mayo. No distinguishable flavor came through. No burnt taste.