Storing Dry Rubs: Ultimate Freshness in 4 steps
Spices and rubs are amongst the best investments you can make as a BBQ fanatic. They are inexpensive, open up a lot of options, and can last forever. That is, if you store them properly from the get-go.
Was there ever a time when you reached into your spice rack, excited about prepping up a nice piece of meat, and was met with a rub jar filled with what looks more like a brick than a rub? Yeah… We can all relate.
As you invest in spices and rubs, you’ll see, you’ll start to realize that they can add up quickly in your pantry, so you’ll grow an interest on how to extend their life and maximize your return on investment. When it comes down to it, storing your spices and rubs and extending their lifespan actually isn’t all that hard.
What’s in the rub
Understanding what’s in your rub will help you make strategic decisions early on.
If you find yourself using herb-based rubs, know that you have a 6 to 9 months window upon opening their containers to use them at their best. On that note, know that dried herbs contain a lot of oil and that these aromatic oils are what carry the flavors. So, although these oils don’t dry out like water does, they will slowly dull and dry over the course of the next month after you’ve opened their containers.
On the flipside, rubs can stay fresh a lot longer than herbs and pretty much stand the test of time as long as you control some variables. A good rule of thumb is that red-spice rubs, such as the Kansas City style rub, are low maintenance and long-lasting, whereas herb-based and Mediterranean rubs have to be used within 6 months.
Light and UV Control
Rub jars look pretty on your kitchen shelves, I get it.
What if I told you that it’s also the best way to waste good rubs? Would you reconsider their placement if I reminded you that you (most likely) bought these for cooking purposes first and foremost, and not so much for the added decor prop factor?
Just like it’s the case with olive oils and other ingredients, exposure to light can dull out flavors. Indeed, UV rays can alter spices and herbs and make them age much faster than they should. Hence, storing your rubs in opaque containers or jars with big dark wrapping stickers, such as the ones from House of BBQ Experts, and putting them in closed cabinets is a much better way to extend your rubs’ lifespan than putting them on your shelves.
Temperature and Humidity Levels
Following my previous statement, ambient temperatures and humidity levels are also variables to consider. They’re the most aggressive ones.
As much as it may sound dead obvious, shaking rubs over a BBQ is never a good idea as the moisture and steam from the meat will become trapped in the jar. This is, in fact, the number one reason why so many people end up with caked spice jars.
As you can imagine, humidity control is of the utmost importance when it comes to spices and rubs. You should always use them in a dry area, away from the heat and humidity. IF you need to add spices or rubs as you cook, it’s best to remove the meat from the grill or to put some of your seasonings in a bowl and to sprinkle everything with your hand. This will prevent you from getting moisture in your jars and allow you to make sure that you get every gram of what you paid for.
If you add up the moisture problem to high temperatures, you will then end up with caked spice jars or, even, in some extreme cases, moldy rubs, so plan everything carefully.
Storing rubs can be done in a variety of ways. For starters, commercial grade rubs often come in transparent plastic shakers, and by now, your reflex should be to transfer them in an opaque container and/or to put them away in a cool, dark and dry cabinet. That alone should help.
Then, there are also some plastic containers that often come with a factory seal on top. Do not discard it. A lot of times, people will peel off the seal, screw the shaker’s top back into place, and put the seal into the trash can. Putting the seal back into place helps with humidity control, provided that you didn’t draw moisture in the container upon usage. It’s true, once the top is screwed back into place, the seal will act as a humidity shield and prevent moisture from making its way into the container. It’s not perfect, but it can make a big difference.
On the other hand, if you are presented with the option of buying your spices or rubs in resealable bags rather than in shakers, you should consider it. Black, heat-sealed bags such as the ones offered by Oakridge BBQ or Kosmos Q are designed to extend the life of your spices and rubs, providing you with fresh rubs at all times and some of the best bang for your buck on the market.
If you really want to go above and beyond, there are even better ways to maximize the freshness from your rubs and spices. For example, if you like to buy in bulk, storing your rubs in vacuum-saleable bags and putting them in the freezer can double their lifespan. (Obviously, you don’t freeze the rubs for which you have a daily use.) Doing this will then force you to work without shakers on-the-go or, at least, to work with a better understanding of how much rub you actually need per cooking session.
Keeping these 4 key variables in mind next time you go on a shopping spree will allow you to have peace of mind and to make sure that you can enjoy your rubs for months to come. Wasting rubs means wasting good meals, which means being deprived of good times.