All posts by Ed

My Standby Rub

If you barbecue frequently, you probably have a few different rubs. But if you are like me, maybe you have one basic rub that is tasty, and good for almost anything, particularly when you have to slap it together at short notice. If not, then feel free to steal mine, which I refer to as 4-3-2-1.

  • 4 parts paprika
  • 3 parts coarse black pepper
  • 2 parts sea salt
  • 1 part garlic powder
  • Plus, optionally, anything else I feel like at the moment, such as celery seed, onion powder, cayenne, or whatever I have at hand.

It’s a simple recipe to remember, and flexible. It can be used straight up as a spicy rub, or mixed about 1:1 with brown sugar as a sweet rub.

I’d be curious to hear what others use as their standby, all purpose rub.


To Spice or Not When Grilling Steaks

In many things, I tend to be a bit of a purist. I don’t want lime in my beer, I don’t want soda in my scotch. I want whatever it is to stand as it is. So it was with steaks. I liked to grill steaks with nothing more than a sprinkle of salt or pepper, so I could taste the steak, not the spice. But recently I have changed that stance. I have decided that adding a little spice to a steak adds more to the experience than it detracts from the “purity” of the cut of meat. And when done right, it tastes damn good.

I have by no means perfected a spice mix – but here is a typical combination that I might use. Sprinkle both sides of the steak with, in decreasing order of amount:

  • Fresh ground black pepper. If you don’t have a pepper grinder, then course black pepper, not fine.
  • Coarse sea salt, or other coarse salt
  • Cajun spice, such as Tony’s or Slap ya Mamma
  • Garlic or onion powder

Basically, I am a little heavy handed with the pepper, gentle (just a soupçon) of the cajun and garlic to give a little complexity to the flavour without it being obvious (in other words, cheating). And the salt somewhere in between.

This simple combination, particularly on slightly cheaper cuts of meat, really elevates it from steak to Steak.

On Meat, Fire and Beer, or Why I Started this Blog

So, show of hands if you don’t like grilled food.

Thought so.

Growing up in Toronto, barbecued steaks, burger and chicken meant summertime, outdoors, relaxation, and all the good things in life. I don’t know if this is why grilling and barbecuing mean so much, or if it is just hard-wired in our DNA (possibly taking up a significant portion of the Y chromosome…), harking back to meat and fire meaning nourishment and security. But whatever the reason, there is something special about meat and fire.

I grew up enjoying outdoor cooking, and I could grill up some mean food, but it was only a few years ago that my eyes were opened to really, really good grilled food, and the difference between good and exceptional food. I was in Florence, Italy, and watched the chefs carefully preparing the fire for Florentine steak, and ate those steaks whole, as well as sliced thin over arugula (called “tagliata”). That’s when I decided I needed to learn to up my game on the grill.

The following year, we had a family reunion and I got to spend some time with my cousin Patrice, aka Chef Juke, and I learned a fair bit from him about low-and-slow smoking. So last spring, when I had some birthday money burning a whole in my pocket, I bought myself a smoker, and have been putting it through its paces for the last few months, to the point where I can reliably make excellent pulled pork and other delectables.

Over the last few years I have learned a lot about outdoor cooking, and much of that I learned from other enthusiasts online. So  wanted to give back, and share what I have found works for me, what doesn’t work for me, and generally help others along the path to mastering the art of meat and fire. I am by no means an expert yet, I still have much to learn, but learning is much more fun when you do it with others.

So there you have it. The back story of Meat, Fire, Beer.

Oh wait, the beer part…

Going back again to my youth, I was fortunate to be raised in a family that appreciated different types of beer, so sampling different beers and learning to appreciate the styles was part of my upbringing. I had the opportunity to try cask-conditioned ales in the UK, and exotic imports from all over the world. Eventually I tried my hand at homebrewing, and became an accomplished all-grain brewer and certified beer judge. I had to give up brewing when I moved to Europe for a few years, but the proximity to so much good beer made up for that (when I came back to Canada, two small children meant little time for brewing, but I am feeling that itch again, so I suspect it won’t be too long before I am at it again). And good beer is a natural companion to grilled meats and barbecue, so naturally it is part of this site as well.