17

Up to this point when preparing steaks, ribs, or any sort of "meat" I would apply my spices in sequence: first adding salts, followed by a pepper-based powders, and lastly some sugars (if applicable). I often see cooks combine these spices into a bowl to make a rub. Is there any advantage to doing the latter?

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    Let's answer in answers, not comments, folks. (And while some now-deleted comments made reasonable points about disadvantages are true for a rub that you save, the OP isn't necessarily asking about that - they don't mention storing it, and you can certainly make a rub just for one use.) – Cascabel May 1 '17 at 18:10
45

If you premix to make a rub, it's easier to apply spices evenly. Otherwise, you must individually apply a small amount (for example, 1/4 tsp) of several spices evenly. With a rub, you make the spice mixture with the desired proportions, and there is a larger aggregate amount to spread.

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    You also don't run into the problem of the later additions not sticking well. Well, you can, but then it's the blend not sticking in the same proportions, rather than the last flavoring not sticking well. – Joe May 1 '17 at 17:05
  • This is also why I add salt to the rub - so that salt is also applied more evenly. – LMAshton May 4 '17 at 3:55
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An additional factor is prep time. You can make a large batch of spice mix quickly, spooning tablespoons rather than quarter teaspoons and then it's made ready for many portions. Dry mixes keep as well as unmixed spices so you really can make big batches even if you don't get through it very fast.

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    As long as it's more than a couple spices, it's also faster even if it's all going on one piece of meat. Sprinkling a dozen things separately takes a while, but mixing them is fast no matter how many different things you're mixing, and then you only have one thing to sprinkle. – Cascabel May 1 '17 at 18:08
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    It's certainly common for Indian cooks to make up "their" curry mix in advance; when one is adding several spices in a particular proportion, it's much easier, as you say, to premix larger quantities. This also allows one to use whatever quantity of the spice mix seems appropriate for the amount being cooked. – Joe McMahon May 1 '17 at 18:52
  • @Jefromi that's certainly true. Mine was a rather quickly written answer but I thought "individually... evenly" in mattm's answer implied that benefit. – Chris H May 1 '17 at 19:18
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    Paraphrasing from someone's now-deleted comment on the question: no big surprise, but the downside if you do big batches to save is freshness. (But my response would be that this is mostly a side point: the question's just about combining before or after sprinkling, and either way, you can grind just what you need or extra.) – Cascabel May 2 '17 at 17:27
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Another advantage: it helps prevent contamination of the larger containers of spices.

You don't want to get raw meat in to your larger containers of spices, or coat your pepper grinder with it, etc. This is especially important in professional kitchens where you might be required to discard the big container if it happens (and even if its safe, do you want raw meat juice splashed in your salt or sugar?). You can of course (if you're careful) use one hand picking up measuring spoons, scooping, pouring and the other for any handling of the meat, but it's easier (and far less error prone) to just measure out the amount you need first. And at least my pepper grinder requires two hands. Same with many spice grinders and most (all?) mortar and pestle sets.

So, you could measure each spice into different small bowls or ramekins. Sometimes you do—like if you're going to put salt and pepper on something by sight, not by careful measuring. Or if they're being added at different times in the prep.

Otherwise, it's easier to use one bowl. Fewer dishes to wash! And that means you've made a spice mixture.

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