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No Salt Brisket Rub Recipe: Creating a Low-Sodium Barbecue

Watching your salt intake? You can still enjoy smoked brisket as long as you exercise portion control. Here, we’ll provide you with a no salt brisket rub recipe, along with a low-sodium alternative you might want to consider.

No Salt Brisket Rub Recipe

Most brisket rub recipes contain a lot of salt, which can be a concern if you have high blood pressure or other health issues pertaining to sodium intake. You might also be seeking a salt-free option if you like to brine your brisket. It’s possible to make a brisket rub without salt, but these will typically be spicier than the average rub.

Is Brisket High In Sodium?

You might be surprised to learn that fresh meat is naturally low in sodium. A 3-ounce serving of fresh raw brisket contains just 66 milligrams of sodium.

Since the American Heart Association recommends a cap of 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day for healthy adults, this represents just a small fraction of your daily allowance. So the meat itself doesn’t contain enough sodium to do any damage.

A Word About Sodium Intake

First of all, you should be aware that the human body requires a small amount of sodium in order to function.

As an electrolyte, sodium is responsible for regulating the amount of water in and around the cells that make up your body. When levels drop too low, your water levels will rise, causing the cells to swell. This can cause symptoms that range from mild to life-threatening.

Fortunately, you don’t need a lot of sodium in order to avoid these issues. 500 milligrams per day—less than 1/4 teaspoon of regular table salt—should be sufficient.

Why Should You Choose a No Salt Brisket Rub Recipe?

Health Concerns

Although your body needs sodium in order to survive, too much of it can be a bad thing. High sodium levels can result in enlarged heart muscle, high blood pressure, and stroke. When you leave salt out of your brisket recipe, you’re creating a healthier product.

It’s important to note that most Americans suffer from high sodium levels because of processed foods, not because they add too much salt to recipes. If you make your own brisket rub, you’ll have more control over the amount of salt that you consume.

Brining

You might also want to opt for a no-salt brisket rub if you brine the meat beforehand.

A brine is a salt solution that’s designed to promote tenderness and preserve moisture (see separate section below). Since the brining process boosts the sodium content of the brisket, using a traditional spice rub can make the meat taste too salty.

There are two types of brine: wet brine, in which the salt is mixed with water; and dry brine, which consists of salt and other spices and is rubbed directly on the meat. If you use either one, you should rinse the solution off before you prepare the brisket for the smoker.

How Does Salt Affect Brisket?

Salt is a key ingredient in many brisket rub recipes. Not only does it act as a flavor enhancer, it helps to lock in moisture, so the finished brisket should be pleasantly juicy.

When you apply the salt ahead of time, as is the case with brining or dry-brining, the muscle fibers will relax, leading to tender brisket. This is similar to what happens when you apply a marinade to meats before cooking.

None of this means that an unsalted brisket is doomed to turn out tough and dry. As long as you cook it for a long time at a low temperature, the collagen and fat in the meat should break down nicely, moisturizing and tenderizing the brisket.

Can You Buy a Salt-Free Brisket Rub?

There are a few salt-free brisket rubs sold commercially. If you’re short on time and still want to prepare your brisket without salt, you can resort to one of these.

That said, we would suggest that you make your own rub whenever time allows. It doesn’t take that long to assemble the ingredients, and you can rest assured that the recipe is free of chemicals and preservatives.

It stands to reason that it’s much easier to make your own spice rub if you already have the ingredients on hand.

Anyone who makes smoked brisket on a regular basis should keep their pantry stocked with the following:

  • Brown sugar
  • Smoked and/or sweet paprika
  • Black peppercorns
  • Garlic powder
  • Granulated garlic
  • Onion powder
  • Cumin
  • Chili powder
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Dry mustard
  • Coriander
  • Dried oregano
  • Dried parsley

You won’t necessarily use all of these products in every brisket rub you make. Still, it’s better to have too many ingredients than too few, especially if you enjoy improvising.

Should You Slather a No-Salt Brisket?

If you’re trying to cut back on sodium, it’s natural to wonder if the traditional mustard coating will serve as a hindrance. Although it won’t present too much of a roadblock, you’re welcome to skip it if you prefer.

A single teaspoon of prepared yellow mustard contains about 55 milligrams of sodium. That might not sound like much, but remember that you’ll probably need about 1/2 cup of mustard to coat a large brisket. That brings the sodium content up to 1,320 milligrams.

Since a 12-pound whole packer brisket should feed at least 12 people, that 1,320 milligrams of sodium averages out to about 110 milligrams per serving. It’s up to you to determine whether that amount fits in with your recommended daily intake.

If you’d rather skip the mustard, feel free to use olive oil or water as a binder instead. These ingredients are naturally sodium-free and will allow the spices to cling to the brisket nicely.

Don’t be worried that the lack of mustard will make the brisket taste too bland. Once the meat has finished cooking, the acrid tang of the mustard will have mellowed to the point where it’s barely noticeable.

No Salt Brisket Rub Recipe

This recipe should give you a scant cup of spice rub—enough to coat a 15-pound brisket.

Be aware that this rub might be a bit spicier than you’re used to. That’s because salt serves as a flavor enhancer, so we’ve tried to compensate for its absence by ramping up the other flavors.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon granulated garlic
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions

1. Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and mix well.

2. Transfer the rub to an airtight container.

3. Store in a cool, dry place.

Low-Salt Alternative

Looking to cut back on salt without eliminating it from the brisket rub entirely? Try this recipe as a compromise. It contains just a single tablespoon of salt and can be used to coat a 12-pound brisket, so the sodium level per serving is negligible.

Combine in a small bowl:

  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Mix well, then transfer to an airtight container. Store in a cool, dry place until ready to use.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re looking for a no-salt alternative because you like to brine your brisket or you have a specific health concern, there are many options available.

You could also try customizing one of your usual recipes by eliminating the salt. In this case, we would suggest using larger increments of the other ingredients to make up for the loss of volume, especially if the recipe contained a lot of salt to begin with.

Happy grilling!