Pick Your Protein
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Start by selecting a canvas for your masterpiece. Mays suggests working with whatever you're most comfortable cooking, but says a rib eye is probably the most forgiving cut. "A prime rib eye is going to have better marbleizing and fat, and fat is flavor," he explains. High fat content also makes it harder to dry out the cut, turning its outside to spice-covered sandpaper. For rub makers, that means having the ability to experiment in a way that you won't be able to when searing a fish, roasting a chicken, or cooking a leaner piece of meat. 

As for which dish to try first, Mays has a suggestion. "I'm a fan of drunken ribs," he says. "Take a short rib, brush it down with olive oil, apply the rub, and sear it. Then just put the ribs in a roasting pan, dump in some wine, carrots, onions, and herbs, and cover it with foil." Stick the whole thing in the oven for four hours at 285 degrees and you've made your first rub-centric dish.