Developing Your Flavor Profile

Your Flavor Profile by:  Chef Paul Kirk, The Baron of BBQ  Teacher at the Lang Q-School

My goal in the Pitmaster Classes is to try to instill in the student the need to develop their own style and procedures along with their Flavor Profile. One of the main things that I tell them is “Not take anything as gospel, my procedures have been very successful for me and my students, but my ways aren’t the only way!

The next thing that I preach is to learn as much as you can about spices and seasonings.  Then I ask them what your favorite spices and seasonings are, and the room get silent.  (Ok readers, what are your favorite spices and seasonings?)   Most of us don’t what’s in a dish, we just know that we like the dish.

Reading to Learn

When we get into developing our barbecue rub session in class, I instruct the students to read “The Anatomy of a Rub”, where I have listed the ingredients of 5-BBQ Rubs, 2 I developed, and 3 commercial rubs that I purchased.

The next question is look at all of the rubs and tell me what are the 2-main ingredients in most of the rubs? In building a Barbecue Rub you need balance, so if I want a balance, I put in 1 cup sugar and 1 cup salt.  Sugar and Salt!  What do we have for Sugar?

Sugar: White (Cane, and Beet), Brown, (light and dark), Natural, Demerara Sugar, Turbinado Sugar.  I primarily use the white sugars. I don’t use brown sugars because they clump.  They’re damp from blending white sugar and molasses.

Salt: Plain, Iodized, Sea, Kosher, Rock, none of which I use, explanation later.  This leaves us with Seasoned Salt, Garlic Salt, Onion Salt, and Celery Salt.

I like to break down the 4 different seasoned salts for your rub.   My rule is you must use at least 2 of the salts. If you want, use up to 4 of the salts, it’s up to you.   Let’s say you use all 4, for example 1/2 cup + 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons of one + 2 tablespoons of another.  This adds up to 16 tablespoons or 1-cup. I don’t use plain salt for two reasons: 1. I don’t add salt for salt’s sake and 2. I want my rub ingredients to be the same granular size.  I like the flavored salts for extra flavor and for the size.

Paprika is the next main ingredient, I suggest 1/2 cup paprika.  Paprika comes in Hungarian, Domestic, Spanish, Smoked, Mild and Hot.  I suggest the Hungarian because it is a bright red while the others are more on the orange side, however, you can use whichever one that you choose.

The next two ingredients are Chili Powder and Pepper.  Like the Sugar and Salt, I recommend a balance between the two.  The amount you will use is between 2 tablespoons to ¼ of a cup. Chili (mild or hot) spelled with an I, that means it’s a blend of spices capsicum’s, (chile peppers), garlic, oregano, cumin mixed with other spices and seasonings.   The second is Pepper, piper nigeran, black, white, green, pink, lemon pepper, seasoned pepper etc. Do not use all white pepper as it is ground fine and is more potent then the other peppers, throwing off your balance.

Basics of a Rub

1 cup sugar + 1 cup salts + 1/2 cup paprika, 2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup chili powder + 2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup pepper.   These 5 ingredients are the ingredients of a basic rub.  The hardest part is to name your 3 favorite spices without using garlic, celery, onion, paprika, chili powder or any type of heat.  (This is a really fun time for me because most of the class don’t know what they like, except for some of my women students)

When you figure what spices you want to use, pick 3 spices or seasonings you like and add a teaspoon or less of each one to the basic rub, if you want any heat add a teaspoon of cayenne, chipotle powder or any other heat and blend well.

Good luck and have fun.

 *** Very Important***

It’s interesting that many people don’t know what is in a cup.  Of course, Justin Wilson could measure into his hand and have it check out perfectly in his cup/spoon or however much he was measuring!! Gar On Tee!!

1 C = 8 oz.,    2 T = 1 oz.,    3t. = 1 T     16 T = 1 C




3 Replies to “Developing Your Flavor Profile”

  1. Chef Paul,

    Good afternoon. I hope to be picking up my smoker while I attend next springs Q school class. As a matter of fact, I just spoke with Mr. Lang (Sr.) about this yesterday.
    One of my questions, was can we bring our own rubs. I have developed my own, as I prefer to salt before applying my rub, to dry brine and control the salt content. I found it very difficult, if not impossible to find no salt commercial rubs. Besides, I know my favorite spices and herbs. Much to the chagrin of many commercial rubs, cumin is not among them.
    What is your opinion on the practice of salting to dry brine, and then applying a no salt rub? I thank you for your time, and look forward to learning from you next spring.


    Michael A. Duncan

    • Mr. Duncan,
      Chef Paul Kirk can be reached through his FaceBook Account. Just go to Facebook and look up Paul Kirk.
      Thank you and we cannot wait to see you at the Q-School!!

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