Pop, Bob, Bobert, Robert, Dad. Whatever you knew him as the odds are if you knew him at all, then at some point you’ve had his famous ribs. After all, he loved to feed a crowd, even if that meant wrapping them in aluminum foil and finding the crowd to take them to. If you weren’t lucky enough for those stars to align, not all is lost. You can still get a close approximation of those highly requested racks. They start with a good rib rub seasoning.
Pop’s rib rub seasoning is simple and unassuming. He used no fancy ingredients or high-end brands. So, if you’re hoping to replicate the original as closely as possible, you should do the same. As uncomplicated and understated as the rib rub recipe is, it works. And the resulting ribs are anything but understated.
Pop favored seasonings that could be easily found on the grocery store shelves. Namely, Morton’s salt and McCormick’s seasonings. While you can use other brands if necessary, it won’t quite be Pop’s rib rub.
The one ingredient that threw me off when I first got my hands on Pop’s rib rub recipe was Ac’cent Flavor Enhancer. I’d never heard of it. At first, I thought I was misreading his chicken scratch. But after double checking with my step-mom that this was, in fact, a thing, I set out to find it in the store. Sure enough, it was there on the baking aisle nestled between the other lesser known ingredients- kitchen bouquets, bouillon cubes, etc.
It turned out to be glutamate, the G in MSG and a naturally occurring amino acid that contributes to what we perceive as savory flavor or umami. No wonder my dad’s ribs taste so good!
MSG has gotten a bad rap for many years, but the available scientific evidence suggests that it’s an unfounded one. MSG simply breaks down into sodium (salt) and glutamate (an amino acid). So don’t hesitate to use its flavor-boosting capabilities to your culinary benefit. There are plenty of other glutamate-containing foods that are used to enhance savoriness, like the parmesan rind added to this pasta dish. No one bats an eye at parmesan!
If you can’t find it in your local grocery store (as has happened to me on occasion), try online!
Keeping It Fresh
Back in the day, Pop would make enormous batches of the stuff. In fact, there are remnants of rib rub seasoning made by the man himself in a big paint bucket in his pantry. We still draw from it. Despite his passing away years ago, we fill our little containers to take back home, being extremely careful not to spill any precious remaining granules.
Obviously, the seasoning loses some potency the older it gets. Smaller, fresher batches are generally recommended for this reason, and your rubs will thank you for it. Eventually, that’s what our family will do too. But for now, we use the last of Pop’s handmade batch- because we can.
It’s a somber thing, dipping into that dwindling rib rub. And cathartic too. One day, that bucket will be empty. When it is, at least we can recreate his rib rub seasoning anytime we need.
Robert's Rib Rub Seasoning
My family's favorite dry rib rub seasoning is loaded with umami and a burst of heat. Make a big batch to season your racks of ribs and other meats!
- 26 ounces (1 box) table salt
- 4 ounces mild paprika
- 4 ounces black pepper ground
- 4 ounces Ac'cent seasoning
- 2 ounces red pepper (cayenne) ground
Mix all ingredients together thoroughly and store in an airtight container.
Before you apply rib rub, pat the meat dry and apply a dark brown sugar coating.
This recipe makes a lot of dry rib rub. You could easily season 12 racks of ribs or more with this amount. While my dad sometimes quadrupled this recipe and kept the seasoning in a five-gallon paint bucket, you'll have fresher rib rub when it's made in smaller batches.
This rib rub can get pretty spicy on some bites. Adjust the cayenne down if you prefer less heat; however, don't completely omit it. You'll want at least a little!