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Rub me up the right way

Rubs, sauces and marinades create fantastic flavours – condiments to complement and pimp your barbecue food. JEMIMA NELSON finds herself well-seasoned

 Jemima Nelson   Summer 2021

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 #Rubs #Sauces




Norfolk Smoke Pit started as the name of Poppy Hewitt’s Instagram account and was a place to put all her barbecue pictures, so she didn’t have to keep scrolling through her phone to show people the cooks she’d done on her ProQ smoker.

“Friends and family had pushed me for years to sell my barbecue food or buy a food truck but it’s just not something I fancied. I decided the next best thing was to sell the rubs we were making at home,” says Poppy Hewitt.

“The inspirations for the rubs and new flavours come from the foods we enjoy cooking the most at home. Our Good Ol’ Rub BBQ seasoning goes back the furthest and is an old recipe for the pulled pork I used to cook at my parents’ pub back in 2010 for poker games we hosted for customers. More people played poker for the pulled pork rolls at the break rather than the poker game prizes!”

Norfolk Smoke Pit has a range of six rubs, from its classic BBQ Seasoning Good Ol’ Rub used for pork ribs, rotisserie chicken and wings, to more global flavours such as Mexican seasonings and Jamaican jerk.

“We also have a new rub, which is a honey and mustard glaze powder. It works really well with chicken and pork. The process for making our rubs is very small batch artisan-style in my mum’s kitchen as ours is too small for food production even in small batches. We have no fancy machinery; everything is blended by hand in buckets with big spoons,” says Hewitt, who also has a coffee-based rub called Brew & Brisket.

“It creates the most stunning bark on brisket and beef ribs. It might sound bonkers, but it just works. The coffee is not the main flavour profile but just adds an earthy tone in with the oak smoked paprika, cayenne, coriander and a few other spices including cinnamon giving it a slightly warm hit.” 

The Smokey Carter started out as a hobby for Howard Carter in 2013. “At the time there weren’t many UK barbecue companies producing rubs and making your own required dozens of different spices. The idea of producing a pre-made blend soon came into fruition. We developed a number of barbecue rubs and sauces and started selling these to friends and family,” says Howard Carter.

“Today we have 11 sauces, 20 rubs, a number of gift sets and are stocked in over 80 independent farm shops, butchers and delicatessens. We also have a select few products from our gift range stocked in Selfridge’s and House of Fraser.”

Carter’s wife Samantha now works with the business full time, with the couple having met while working on cruise ships travelling the world. “I was a photographer and Samantha a perfumist and this was where the inspiration for our range of world-inspired barbecue rubs and sauces originated.”

Among the company’s popular rubs are a Mexican-inspired Al Pastor rub, a Chinese-style Salt and Pepper rub, a Texas ranch rub, which is perfect for rotisserie pork and chicken, an Indian spiced Mango and Lime rub and the recently launched Tandoori Masala rub for chicken skewers or lamb chops on the barbecue.

The Rusty BBQ Company is a small family run business, based in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, which started creating British-inspired rubs and seasonings six year ago.



“We pride ourselves on translating our expertise and passion for food, flavour,

and cooking with fire, into our blended seasonings and barbecue rubs,” says Russell Gill, a wine buyer by trade, ensuring an expert palate when it comes to identifying and matching flavours.

The Rusty BBQ Company has also created a mental health awareness campaign withing the barbecue community under the hashtag #cuetogether.

Among its rubs are a Cherry Cola Sweet Wing & Rib Dust with its chilli kick, a Louisiana Hot stuff Rub & Seasoning to smother on wings, a Korean Gogi-gui Rub & Seasoning in homage to Korean barbecue techniques, while the Hog Wash Rub & Seasoning was born of experimenting with medieval herbs and spices to complement pork and its IPA Rub & Seasoning gives a craft ale hoppy flavour.

White Men Can’t Jerk is a London-based catering company bringing bold and vibrant dishes inspired by the flavours of the Caribbean.

“We began life as a monthly party and cook out in 2013 – an excuse for us to get all our friends and family together, play some records and enjoy dinner together in our local boozer,” says Steve Byrne, who founded the business with Dave Olszak,

“Since then, we have grown to become a regular on the London street food scene at Street Feast markets across the city and as an event caterer, and hold long kitchen residencies in south London at The Duke of Edinburgh in Brixton and The Prince of Peckham.” Try its jerk paste, or pineapple and scotch bonnet jam.

Spirit of Aloha 65 from Big Wave Brands has a sweet and spicy Sun on a Beach hot sauce. Sun on a Beach is just hot enough to spice up chicken wings, sausages, burgers or vegetables. The roasted pineapple blends with the ginger, the scotch bonnet chilli, coriander, cumin and nutmeg.

The sauce works as a topping or marinade or mixed in with yoghurt or mayonnaise to make a dip for your barbecue food. Aloha has also got the canapes and cheese board covered with its Detonators – scotch bonnet infused pineapple chunks.

Last year, Big Wave Brands launched

its BBQ Box complete with spirit drink, sauce and detonators, as well as other barbecue essentials.

Salt & Spice based in Faversham, Kent, creates and retails its own herb and spice rubs and blends – single origin herbs and spices and chillies, gourmet salts and salt blends. These include everything from curry masalas and traditional spice blends from around the world, to a great selection of BBQ rubs - Texas, Memphis, Kansas, Boston, Montreal and Cajun, Creole, Caribbean are all on its global menu.

There are rubs and blends for fish, poultry, all meats, low and slow, dry rubs, steak rubs and seasonings. They are all hand blended in its own blending room and also have blends for baking breads and pies.

Angus & Oink was started by husband-and-wife team Scott and Malissa Fraser seven years, when they returned from working overseas in South America and the Middle East and started developing sauces and seasonings inspired by their travels.

“Cooking has been a consuming passion and especially grilling, soul food and wood- fired BBQ in all its glory. Discovering sauces and grilled meat combinations all over the continent changed our world,” says Scott Fraser, who used to work in the oil industry.

“We source ingredients based on authentic flavours and develop layers of flavour within our products that we hope deliver a taste experience. Our dry seasonings are really versatile as marinades, mixed with oil, or even mayonnaise for dips.”

The couple has competed in BBQ championships across the world and there is little they have not tried in terms of live fire food around the world, even taking an offset smoker from Texas down to Argentina for low and slow cooks.

When back home in Scotland they started a hot chilli sauce company from their garden shed and the business has grown from there. The Angus in the name links to their home near Aberdeen, with the Oink from the sausages they originally made in Saudi Arabia.

Scott’s favourite rub currently is his new Sriracha rub, as well as their popular Texas Torque for steaks.

Firefly Barbecue won best BBQ sauce in 2019 at the American Royal in Kansas City, the first company from outside the US to do so and last year it was awarded best international sauce at Sauce King NYC for its Korean BBQ sauce and has also picked up a collection of Great Taste awards.

“What started as a personal endeavour to improve our barbecue home cooking, quickly turned into a thriving business of sauces and rubs,” says Noel Bateman.

“Our passion for authentic flavour led

us on a journey to the USA, where we discovered the distinct styles of the southern regions.”

Sea Crack was born of lockdown. The original concept from Dan and Jo Collins was spice, herbs and rubs, but they soon embraced the world of sea salt with their range, including black truffle salt and Hawaiian black flakes to Pink Himalayan and onion salt.

Sauce Shop started with the creation of a small batch of Smoky Chipotle Ketchup to enjoy at home with friends.

“It went down so well, we decided to make a few more flavours and started selling them at our local farmers market,” says James Digva.

“We cooked big pans of sauce in our home kitchen after work and spent the weekends selling them on markets or delivering to shops. Word spread, business grew and by 2015 we left our jobs working in the mass production side of food. Based in Nottingham, we now produce thousands of bottles and jars every week to be shipped all over the world.”

Sauce Shop’s South Carolina BBQ sauce is a mustard sauce with picante pepper and smoked paprika, enriched with butter. It works very well with pulled pork or a glaze for chicken.

Its Cherry Bourbon BBQ sauce is sweet and intense, based on a Kansas City recipe, and is a 2020 Great Taste award winner. Its slight sharpness makes it an accompaniment to fatty meats, as well as a great finishing sauce for short ribs and also as a glaze.

Reuben’s was born four years ago. Having spent time on America’s West Coast, Jon Mears was drawn to the Old Bay Spice mix and returning to the UK started looking at spice mixes for pulled pork but couldn’t find the right blends. He developed his own blend and, working with the Dorking Butchery in Surrey, it was soon on the butcher’s pork ribs and shoulders. Meanwhile, Reuben’s House Rub inspired a gin called Gutsy Monkey from the Dorking-based Gin Kitchen.

Now the Reuben’s range extends to jerk rubs and a Chilli Con Carne mix, as well as Mum’s Brownie Rub, inspired by his mother’s chocolate brownies and similar to Mexican Mole in flavour. As well as Dorking Butchery, Reuben’s rubs are also available at South Downs Butchery in Henfield, Sussex and The Guildford Butchery in Surrey.

Rogu creates a range of products such as Negroni marmalade for a salad dressing and Dark & Stormy marmalade for an orange glaze on ribs. Founder Asher Flowers also produces a Bravado Chilli Pepper jam, with its red peppers, scotch bonnet and chillies – the perfect spread for a cheeseburger; while the spiced carrot chutney has shredded carrot, ginger, chilli and Asian spices; and a Kickin’ and Smokin’ sauce – red pepper, chillies, garlic, apple and red onion, which works well on wings.

LumberjAxe, like all these featured businesses, evolved from a love of barbecue and grilling and, in the case of Jaydon Manders-Young, based in Birmingham, bringing the flavours of the USA to the UK. His rubs include the T-Bone Rub, with its twist of dried onion flakes alongside coriander seeds.

“BBQ is all about bringing people together and that includes surprising them with different flavours,” says Manders-Young.

Otter Vale is a family-owned and -run business, producing hand-crafted gluten-free chutneys, preserves and condiments at its factory kitchen in Cullompton, Devon. Its products are made from the finest ingredients, sourced locally where possible, and with no artificial colours or flavouring.

“Some of our standout products perfectly complement BBQ and live fire classics, such as pairing our tomato chutney with sausages as a great alternative to ketchup, or topping off your perfect burger with our Red Pepper Salsa,” says Julian Laxon of Otter Vale.

​For the more adventurous, Otter Vale’s Devon Fire Chutney is a blend of zesty fruity onion and orange with just the right amount of scotch bonnet heat; ideal to spice up chicken fresh from your grill, while eight different mustards can be chosen from to go with a smoked or flamed cut of beef. Or try the Gooseberry & Elderflower Chutney with BBQ mackerel.

Ross & Ross Gifts produces a Smoky Chipotle Chilli BBQ jam. It is packed full

of smoky notes from the Chipotle, with a deep spicy flavour from the red chilli. The inspiration behind this jam is the trend for chipotle and the desire for a condiment that enhances flavour rather than masking it. This jam works as either a dipping sauce for burnt ends or burgers, mixed with sour cream to top a chilli, or try on slow cooked beef brisket by brushing all over and putting back on the barbecue to glaze and caramelise.

Alfie King, aged 11 from North Devon, is comfortably the youngest of our profiles, proving you are never too young to start BBQ. 

Alfie began cooking with his mother aged just two. He then started shadowing his father Dave cooking on the barbecue and also took inspiration from watching the likes of BBQ magazine’s Marcus Bawdon and The Smokin’ Elk.

For his 11th birthday Alfie asked for money towards buying his own barbecue - a Weber Go-Anywhere and cooking chicken skewers on the beach was the catalyst for Alfie’s House Rub.

“I barbecue as much as a I can and have entered some KidzQ competitions and won a few times. When I cook it is for our whole family of six.” Among his favourites are chicken skewers with his own house rub and coated in Hogs Bottom Smokin’ Jones barbecue sauce, and boerewors, as he enjoys cooking South African food. “My dream is to have my own BBQ smokehouse.”


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