Reduce by Half Episode 11: Make Your Own BBQ Rub with Brian McAlister

Want to make a BBQ rub that’s perfectly customized to your own taste? Listen to Brian McAlister, culinary genius, share his tips on how you can make a delicious BBQ rub at home. It’s easy, you just need to follow his simple instructions. Brian tells us how he got interested in making his own rub, the three elements that make up a good rub, and shares a little bit of BBQ seasoning knowledge too. You can listen by using the player below or click here to listen on iTunes. Enjoy!

The Three Parts of a Good Spice Rub

A good spice rub has three equal parts – salt, sugar, and spices. Mix a cup of each part for a small batch, or mix in larger quantities for batches to store and use multiple times. Here’s what each part entails.

Part 1 – Salt

Salt is the basis of any great spice rub. We recommend using either kosher salt or sea salt for your spice rub, not table (iodized) salt. Salt will boost flavor in the finished dish, and if you place the rub on the meat before cooking, will help dry brine the meat. Dry brining is a process that allows salt to change the protein structures in meat so that it better retains moisture throughout cooking. Salt is key!

Part 2 – Sugar

Sugar balances out saltiness and spiciness, and is an overlooked part of many spice rubs.  Brian recommends using a mixture of white sugar and light brown sugar in a 1:1 ratio for this part of the rub. By using light brown sugar, you’ll help achieve caramelization on the surface of the meat you’re rubbing. The beautiful brown color will help with the overall enjoyment of the meal!

Part 3 – Spices

There are so many types of spices that we further split this part into subparts. Within the 1 part of spices, you need to further split it into a further 3 parts. Or, if it’s easier for you, you can think of 3 parts salt, 3 parts sugar, and 1 part of each of spice’s sub-parts. Each subpart plays a role in the final blend, and to make the most complex and delicious rub poossible, you shouldn’t overlook any of them. Here they are:

  • Herbs add a rich mouthfeel and earthiness to the rub, plus help your meat smell delicious. Brian likes to use dried herbs like:

    • Oregano
    • Rosemary
    • Sage
    • Thyme

    Feel free to experiment with your own favorite herbs!

  • This is a broad category that encompasses things that aren’t hot additions, but also aren’t herbs. This essential category includes:

    • Black Pepper – freshly cracked!
    • Garlic Powder
    • Onion Powder
    • Paprika – used smoked for a smokier flavor.

    These items are really the “glue” that holds the rub together, so don’t forget them.

  • There are plenty of peppers to use, so pick a level of spiciness you like. Possible peppers to use in your rub include:

    • Ancho
    • Cayenne – Brian’s favorite!
    • Chipotle
    • Red Pepper

    And if you don’t like spicy, feel free to omit this category!


What’s your favorite rub to make? Do you agree with our guidelines? Leave us a comment below and let us know what you think. We’re looking forward to your suggestions and recipes!

We apologize for the delay in publishing this episode – we took a bit of a hiatus for Brat-Tober Fest at the store. We’ll be back on track with an episode featuring Duckhorn wine next week! Our thanks to Brian McAlister for being our guest, we’ll have him on again soon. We hope you enjoyed this episode, and if you did, you can subscribe on iTunes. Just follow this link. See you soon with Episode 12!

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