My two favorite Pork Tenderloin Rubs

Coffee and Ancho rub

  •  3 Tbs coffee (fresh beans ground fine)
  • 2 Tbs ancho chile powder
  • 2 Tbs turbinado sugar
  • 1 Tbs kosher salt
  • 1 Tbs cumin
  • 1 tsp granulated onion
  • 1 tsp granulated garlic

Savory Smoked Paprika rub

  • 1 Tbs smoked paprika
  • 1 Tbs kosher salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp granulated onion
  • 1 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp turbinado sugar
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning (dried oregano,marjoram, basil, etc)

 A Few More Pork Tenderloin Rubs

Rub #1: This has a bit of a Southwest flavor.  For best flavor toast whole seeds and crush them yourself.  Crumple the dried oregano between your fingers as you add it to the rub.

  • 1 Tbls kosher salt
  • 1 Tbls ground coriander
  • 1/2 Tbls ground cumin
  • 1/2 Tbls turbinado sugar
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • ½ tsp dried oregeno

Rub #2: A very bold, savory rub.  I actually prefer to use granulated onion and garlic but it is sometimes hard to find and I end up using the powdered product.

  • 1 tsp kosher
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp mustard powder (Coleman’s is my favorite)
  • 1 tsp chili powder (I use Gebhardt’s)
  • 1 tsp black pepper

Rub #3:  A very basic rub.  Rubs don’t have to be complicated to be great.  Due to the simplicity of the recipe make sure you pepper is freshly ground and the paprika is high quality.

  • 1 Tbs kosher salt
  • 1 tsp sweet Hungarian paprika
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp sugar

Rub #4: This rub is a bit more exotic than most and is a nice change in flavors.  Don’t use this rub in an attempt to use up an old bottle of curry powder.  All you’ll do is waste a nice piece of meat.

  • 1 Tbls salt
  • 1 Tbls curry powder (mild or hot)
  • 1 Tbls ground allspice
  • 1 Tbls ground coriander
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cumin

Rub #5:  This is a pretty standard barbecue rub with a great balance between sweet and savory with a little bit of heat on the end.

  • 2 Tbls turbinado sugar
  • 1 Tbls onion salt
  • 1 Tbls garlic salt
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • ½ tsp cayenne

Rub #6: This rub takes advantage of pork’s natural affinity for garlic and sage seasonings.  You could eliminate the sugar and use this rub for grilling.

  • 1 Tbls cane sugar
  • 1 Tbls garlic salt
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp dried, freshly crushed, sage (or 1 Tbls fresh and finely chopped)
  • 1 tsp dried, freshly crushed, thyme
  • ½ tsp black pepper

The rest of this post is about rubs in general.  The mixture of salt and seasonings that is referred to as a rub serves three main purposes.  It adds salt to the meat, it adds flavor to the meat and it gives the chef a reason to play in the kitchen.  To get the most out of your rub application consider the following tips.

Rub Tip #1: Understanding the role of salt.

Salt plays two major roles in a rub; it adds that salty flavor that our mouths are hard wired to crave and it helps tenderize the meat.  As the salt permeates the meat it actually helps the muscle fibers elongate and, for lack of a meaningful technical term, relax.  While the flavor enhancing aspect of a salt application is immediate the tenderizing aspect takes time, preferably overnight.  Luckily tenderloins are already incredibly tender so it’s not a big deal if your rub doesn’t get to penetrate overnight.

If you are working a salt restricted diet you can utilize a low salt rub.  If you are going the low salt route it is very important that you not overcook the tenderloin.  The more you cook the tenderloin the more the muscle fibers will contract.  Eventually the fibers will squeeze all of the moisture out of the meat leaving you with pork jerky.  As you do not have salt working to counteract this effect do yourself a favor and make sure you do not cook your tenderloin past 145F.

Tenderloin that has been brined will need a rub with very little if any salt as the brine has already infused plenty of salt throughout the meat.  Commercially pre-marinated tenderloins really don’t need a rub as the flavor profile (and salt) has been preloaded.

Rub Tip #2:  Use some mustard.

A trick that I learned in a barbecue class taught by a world champion, Paul Kirk, was to paint a light mustard slather onto your meat with a pastry brush before the rub is applied.  We are talking a very thin coat of plain yellow mustard here, nothing fancy like a Dijon or Creole and not a thick dripping mess.  You would think that the mustard would overpower the meat but it absolutely does not.  Instead the mustard helps the rub adhere to the tenderloin insuring an even coating.  During cooking the mustard flavor essentially disappears.  I know this is completely counter-intuitive, you would think the mustard would be a dominant flavor.  It isn’t.  I have no idea why not.

Rub Tip #3:  Keep it simple and fresh

What I discovered in my rub making adventures is that freshness of ingredients and balance of flavor are two critical factors.  I have to be honest here; fresh is much easier to say than to do.  There is no point in adding something to a rub if it is three years old and tastes like chalk.  However I am not organized enough to remember exactly how old my spices are.  I have ten to fifteen little bottles of herbs and spices in my pantry.  When exactly did I open that bottle of paprika?  Balance is equally challenging.  Some of the more advanced rubs out there need to be scaled up to the two cup range to allow for the teaspoon of cinnamon to blend nicely with the other rub components.  That’s fine except now you are stuck with two cups of rub which, even if you really like it, will get monotonous after a while.

This brings me to my final tip….

Rub Tip #4: Support the little guy.

Go to the local grocery store, head to the spice aisle and look for rubs that are being marketed by the little guy.  There are usually four to five rubs being sold with simple labels and silly names.  Give them a try.  If an average Joe went through all of the trouble of scaling up a recipe, finding someplace to package it and someone to market it, then chances are the rub is at least as good as what you would put together at home.  Buy a small container and give it a try.  If you like it, great!  If you don’t like it, no big deal, you wasted $3.00 and can still fall back on the basic rub recipe above.  Someone is trying to live the dream and make a living selling a rub they are passionate about.  We all have dreams; let’s support each other.

Please let me know if you find a great pork tenderloin rub and I will add it to the list!