Chapter 3: Improving flavor with rubs and sauces

Chapter three of five from Jeff’s online smoking/grilling class.  From: email course.  See also Grandma Pat’s rib rub on this blog.

Chapter Three

Improving the Flavor with Rubs, Sauces, Etc.

Smoking meat is a little more involved than just placing meat in a smoker and letting it go. The process and preparation of getting the meat ready is over half of the battle and will go a long ways toward determining the resulting flavor of the meat.

There are many ways to bump up the flavor of the meat and while much of this is personal taste, few people would eat smoked meat if nothing was added before hand such as marinades or dry rubs. Many people will not even eat smoked meat without barbecue sauce so knowing how to increase flavor is very important to your smoking meat education.

Let’s cover these flavor enhancements one by one and talk about what each one does and how to do it correctly without over-doing it.    


When I say marinades, I am thinking of a flavorful liquid that meat sits in, usually overnight. The liquid would be of a high flavor profile and soaks into the meat as it sits there in the fridge. It may also have properties that help to tenderize the meat.

Many people just buy some type of marinade from the store while others will just mix together things from the fridge such as soy sauce, Worcestershire, orange juice, and even soft drinks such as Coca Cola.

I don’t get into marinades as much as some folks but when I do, I usually prefer a simple bottle of zesty Italian dressing. It works well and is extremely easy.

All in all, you can use whatever you like and chances are, if it is a flavor that you like, you will probably like the way it tastes in the meat.


This is a process that has gained a lot more popularity over the last few years and is simply soaking meat in a salt/water solution for a number of hours to draw moisture into the meat.

There is quite a bit of argument as to what actually happens during the brining process and why it works the way it does but I am not so concerned with that as I am that it actually does work and it works very well.

The main type of meat that I brine is poultry. A Thanksgiving turkey placed in water, salt and sugar along with some other flavorings for ten to twelve hours will end up being the most juicy bird you have ever tasted. Even if it is slightly overcooked, it will still be moist and juicy.

Somehow, moisture is drawn into the fibers of the meat and trapped there. Anything else that is in the water will be drawn in with it which is why I like to add flavorings to the water such as molasses, Worcestershire, Tabasco, wine and even a little Zatarain’s crab boil occasionally for a really flavorful and juicy turkey.

To read more about brining and to see my very own recipe for brining, check out my page at


Simply put, injecting is using a needle and syringe to inject flavored liquid down into the meat right before cooking it. It is a good way to add lots of flavor to the meat very quickly.

I see this a lot from people who enter competitions.. they don’t have a lot of time to sit and brine things for hours on end or spend a lot of time letting things soak in marinades so they inject. It’s fast and it’s easy.

If you look in the sauce aisle at your supermarket you will find any number of bottle of injection liquids and any of them are probably pretty good. It would also be fairly easy to create your own from what you have in the fridge. Things like soy sauce, hot sauce, Worcestershire, juices, wines, etc. mixed together will work great.

If you mix something up, just keep playing with it, write down what you do so you can adjust it later, If it taste good to you it will probably taste good injected into the meat.

For instance, I like to mix wing sauce and butter together and inject that into chicken legs and/or thighs for some really souped up hot wings.

How to Inject

You will need an injector such as the ones made by Cajun Injector. Apply a little olive oil to the rubber parts on the plunger before attaching the needle to the plunger assembly. Pour the marinade into a clean container to prevent cross contamination and fill the injector by placing the injector needle into the marinade with the plunger pushed all the way in. Slowly pull the plunger out to allow the marinade to be drawn into the injector.

Each type of meat is different so you will have to use your own best judgment as to needle placement. I recommend 1-2 ounces per pound of meat. Place the injector into the meat at a 45 degree angle and slowly depress the plunger as you pull the injector out of the meat. Depending on the size of the meat you are injecting, evenly space the injections so that you have the correct amount evenly placed all over the meat.

Just to give an example, In a 12 pound turkey, I would place 4 ounces in each breast, 2 ounces in each leg, 2 ounces in each thigh.

Dry Rubs

I love dry rubs on meat.. this is my preferred way to add lots of flavor to every bite. Rubs are generally a combination of ground and powdered spices mixed together and rubbed onto the outside of meat either the night before or right before it goes onto the smoker.

The supermarket will have tons of rubs and you can find tons of them online but my problem with most of them is that they are too salty. I just don’t think a rub should be based on salt.

If you have the time and the patience, you can invent your own just make sure to write everything down accurately. Every time you add something try it out and continue this process until it gets perfect. Be sure to get advice from other people.

I went through this process several years back and came up with a real prize winner.. this is the same rub recipe that I sell along with my sauce recipe and I get many raving reviews on it.

Just a side note: if you are interested in acquiring this recipe along with my barbecue sauce recipe which is amazingly good, you can get it here as an ecourse subscriber for only $14.95

You will find yourself using it time and time again and you can feel good that it supports this website immensely. which is a really great deal.

To apply my rub or any rub for that matter, I recommend a light coating of regular yellow mustard on the meat. The mustard acts as a sticking agent for the rub and once the meat is cooked you will find that the mustard flavor is no longer there but the rub remains.

You can also use olive oil, butter or other wetting agents to create a better surface so the rub will stick to the meat.

Barbecue Sauce

I usually prefer barbecue sauce to be served on the side and warm but some people like for it to be added to the meat.

Let me just make one thing clear.. adding barbecue sauce to meat does not make it “barbecue”. I stopped at a restaurant, which will remain unnamed, a while back after seeing a huge sign that said, “All You Can Eat, BBQ Tonight”

Temptation got the best of me and I stopped only to find that it was indeed all you can eat but that the only thing barbecue was the sauce. It was all cooked in the oven no doubt and had barbecue sauce dumped all over it but it was most certainly not barbecue.

Just thought I would mention that.

If you do like a little sauce on ribs or other meat while they are cooking then do so toward the end of the cooking process for best results. Barbecue sauce added to ribs about thirty minutes before they are finished cooking will have time to caramelize and get all good and delicious by the time they are served.

I like to mix a little honey with my barbecue sauce if I am using it as a glaze. The honey will add a nice sheen to the meat and make it even more beautiful that it already is.

As I mentioned above with dry rubs, you can make your own sauce, you can use a store-bought sauce or you can do yourself a favor and order the recipe for mine along with my dry rub recipe which also helps support this site and all of the services that we provide.

If you do decide to try your hand at making something up.. be sure to write down everything that you do in case you need to make some changes to it later.

You can find out more about my rib rub and sauce recipes at


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