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Grilling & Barbecuing

How to Prepare Meat for Barbecuing

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How to Prepare Meat for Barbecuing

The most commonly barbecued meats include:

  • Chicken and poultry (breast or whole)
  • Pork spare ribs
  • Pork shoulder
  • Beef brisket
  • Fish

Some of these meats, such as pork shoulder, ribs, brisket, and some poultry, may benefit from being trimmed of fat before being barbecued. And, if you desire, dry rubs can be applied to any type of meat (explained below).

Trimming the Meat

If the meat you’re planning on barbecuing has flaps of excess fat on it, you may want to trim them to about 1/4–1/2 inch, using a sharp chef’s knife.

If you’re barbecuing pork spare ribs, definitely remove the white connective tissue, called silverskin, located on the back of the ribs. To remove the silverskin:

  1. Use a butter knife to pry under the silverskin.
  2. Grab a section of the silverskin with your hand and pull it off in one smooth motion.

The Dry Rub

A dry rub is a mixture of spices applied to the exterior of raw meat several hours, or the night before, it’s cooked. Though many cooks swear by their dry rubs, others prefer to let the smoke alone flavor their meat.

Sample Dry Rubs

To make any of the sample rubs listed below, simply combine the listed ingredients.

All-Purpose Barbecue Rub

  • 2 Tbsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp cayenne pepper
  • 4 Tbsp paprika

Rib Rub

  • 2 Tbsp paprika
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp mustard powder


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Brisket Rub

  • 2 1/2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp dry mustard
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp ground bay leaves
  • 3/4 tsp ground thyme
  • 3/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 Tbsp paprika
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 3/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt


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Apply the Dry Rub

  1. Sprinkle a liberal amount of the dry rub until the surface of the meat is covered in a layer of spices. If you’re working with chicken or other poultry, carefully lift the skin from the flesh without ripping it, and apply the rub directly to the flesh of the bird. Also remember to add the rub to the inside cavity of the bird.
  2. Work the dry rub into the meat with your fingers or palm. Working it in thoroughly will help to break down the connective tissue in the meat. Skip this step if you’re working with delicate foods like fish.
  3. Wrap the meat thoroughly in plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator.
  4. Remove the meat from the refrigerator one hour before you begin smoking so it loses its chill.
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