An important lesson in grilling: the less moisture that’s clinging to what’s cooking, the faster you’ll achieve that crispy, caramelized sear. Thus, dry rubs (a simple one can consist of just salt, pepper and brown sugar) make more sense than marinades when you’re choosing how to season. One of the best spice rubs you might not have tasted yet is made by musician Tim Midyett, who wanted to get the earthly flavor of espresso outside of just the liquid form. The formula—tweaked and tested over years of personal grilling and smoking—has been around for a little while, spreading outside his Chicago home via word of mouth. Midyett’s Premium Rub is the kind of cheat code that almost makes things unfair. While a lot of store-bought rubs tend to have salt as their first ingredient (not to mention anti-caking agents), Midyett’s secret lies in high-quality coffee and sumac—you can tell immediately, with just one whiff from the open jar. The subtle result is spicy, smoky, sour and floral.
The rub was designed to make beef and game meat tastier, but it turns out, it makes a lot of things more flavorful too. If you’re worried that it’ll collect dust along with the grill once outdoor cooking season comes to an end, Midyett has some helpful suggestions for year-round use. “It’s really good on anything that has depth of flavor. ‘Umami’ as a term is probably overused or misused a lot, but anything with an umami component or potential in that area is perfect for it. Just as good as meat. Mushrooms, cooked tomato of any kind, spinach and other ‘hardcore’ greens. Brooks [Headley] at Superiority Burger uses it in a marinara that he says allows him to make it ‘bolognese-y’ without meat. It does that with any kind of gravy, sauce, broth. Any chili recipe. Roasted vegetables of almost any kind—kale, artichoke, cauliflower. Roasted cauliflower bits with rub and Parmesan cheese—pretty great. All that said, it’s also good on fairly neutral foods as more of an additive than an enhancer. I grind it up a bit finer and use it on popcorn all the time. Eggs, great on eggs. Also good on leftover pizza…”
Suffice to say, it works with almost all diets. Midyett bolts back with one more idea for turning almost-scraps into a delicacy: blanch potato peelings, toss them in olive oil and the rub, and roast until crisp.
Images by Sun Bak