I may be in the minority on this, but I am extremely sensitive to spice in my foods. Spiciness in food tends to completely overwhelm my mouth and consequentially wipe out all other flavors. So for me, barbeque is a really delicate balance, creating a spice rub with an overall strong flavor with spice gently complimenting and balancing the taste. Its all about getting the perfect balance of savory, sweet, and heat to enhance the taste of the meat (or veggies or tofu!).

You can use this rub on anything really – ribs, steaks, pork chops, chicken, wings, fish, or like I said, any veggies or tofu that you can grill.


¼ of a cup of brown sugar

1 tbsp salt

1 tbsp pepper

1 tbsp garlic powder

1 tbsp onion powder

1 tbsp nutmeg

1 tbsp allspice

1 tbsp cinnamon

1 tbsp cloves

1 tbsp cayenne

For more heat:

1 tbsp chili powder

1 tbsp red pepper flakes

This mixture is enough for two large racks of ribs. To increase volume, simply add equal parts of all ingredients. A good thing to do is to do a taste test of your original mixture and then adjust according to your preference. I usually end up adding more of the sweeter spices like nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon and cloves, as well as adding more black pepper. Also don’t be afraid of making too much because it easy to store and reuse whatever is left over of your spice rub mixture.


To prepare for cooking your meat, add an ample amount of rub to your defrosted/room temperature meat. The goal is for the rub to create a crust on the meat when grilled, and so the more you put on, the better. Gently rub or massage the spice mixture into the meat, and continue to add more until the piece of meat is completely covered. The moisture of the meat will probably absorb some of the rub right away or after massaging it in, so make sure that there is a thick enough layer. Really layer it on.


After coating all your pieces with rub, they are ready to cook!

Madeline Zappala is a photographer living and working in Boston. She is currently working towards her Masters of Fine Arts at the School at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. She works in an intimate, personal documentary style of photography, exploring interpersonal relationships and what it means to be transitioning into adulthood in this contemporary cultural climate. See more of her work at zappalaphoto.tumblr.com.