All Texas-style brisket rubs are 50% black pepper and 50% salt (by volume).
You’re still here? I already told you the recipe. Texas brisket rub is 50% black pepper and 50% salt. Or, is it?
Why do you use a rub?
- Flavor: The most direct benefit of a rub is the flavor it imparts. This combination of herbs, spices, salt, and sometimes sugars can dramatically enhance the taste of the meat. The type of rub used can vary greatly, allowing for an extensive range of flavor profiles.
- Bark Formation: When the rub is applied to the meat and then smoked, the heat and smoke cause the rub to form a crust, known as the “bark”. This bark is often highly prized for its intense, concentrated flavor. The sugars in the rub help to caramelize and create this flavorful crust.
- Moisture Retention: Salt in the rub can help to retain moisture in the meat by drawing the proteins in the meat closer together, which slows down the loss of moisture during the long cooking process. This helps to keep the brisket juicy.
- Color: Many elements in rubs, such as paprika or brown sugar, help to give a beautiful, appetizing dark brown or mahogany color to the smoked brisket.
- Smoke Adhesion: The rub can also help smoke adhere to the meat surface, adding another layer of flavor. The moisture that the rub brings out from the meat interacts with the smoke, allowing it to stick and penetrate the meat more effectively.
Why is a Texas brisket rub only salt and pepper?
The Texas-style approach to smoking brisket generally involves a very simple rub of just salt and pepper, often in a 50:50 ratio. This method is sometimes referred to as a “Dalmatian rub” because of the black and white appearance.
The philosophy behind this approach is about respecting the flavors of the meat itself and allowing the smoky flavor from the cooking process to shine. The salt helps to enhance the natural flavor of the meat and assists in retaining moisture, while the pepper provides a bit of spice and contributes to the formation of the flavorful bark on the exterior of the brisket.
In contrast to other US regional styles that use more complex rubs with a variety of spices, the Texas style emphasizes the importance of simplicity. The focus is largely on the quality and preparation of the meat, the type of wood used for smoking, and the careful control of temperature and time.
How do you create your own brisket rub?
Variety is the spice of life. Over a decade of smoking meats, I have learned that you need to experiment, taste, and try to find your signature blend. I have also learned that most Texas pitmasters used more than just salt and pepper.
- Learn the Basics: A basic rub includes salt and pepper. Try a basic barbecue rub to start:
- 1 cup of black pepper
- 1 cup of kosher salt
- Experiment: Start tweaking this basic recipe to suit your palate. Maybe you like a sweeter rub, so you add a little sugar (brown or white). Perhaps you want it spicier, add chili powder or add a hotter pepper. You could even incorporate unique ingredients like coffee grounds, cocoa powder, or dried herbs.
- Test: Apply your rub to a smaller cut of meat (not a full brisket) and see how the flavors develop when cooked. It’s important to try it on meat and not just taste the rub raw, as the flavors can change significantly during cooking.
- Take Notes: Keep track of your changes and your thoughts on each iteration. Did version 3 have too much heat? Was version 4 not salty enough? This documentation will be invaluable in guiding your future adjustments.
- Patience: Remember, creating your own special blend won’t happen overnight. It takes time, patience, and lots of practice to find the perfect combination.
- Feedback: Get feedback from family and friends. Sometimes, a fresh palate can provide valuable insight.
- Consistency: Once you’ve found a blend you love, make sure you record the final recipe so you can replicate it in the future. Consistency is key in producing great barbecue.
What is my brisket rub recipe?
I do like a basic salt and pepper rub for a brisket. I have found the little extra something that I love comes from using Lawry’s seasoned salt in my rub recipe.
- 1 cup of tellicherry black pepper
- 1/2 cup of kosher salt
- 1/2 cup of Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
Lawry’s is mostly salt with some sugar, paprika, turmeric, onion, garlic.
So, come up with your own signature rub and share your ideas with others. Or, start a food truck and keep it as a trade secret. I hope you find your trademark.