Spice rubs join Smokin' Cups for a hot-off-the-grill taste test

Two 'cue-centric products arrived here at Food Central, and we tested them simultaneously.

The family-operated Ferolito's in American Canyon, on the outskirts of the Napa Valley, makes spice rubs for chicken and pork. At, we learned that the rubs are from "a 20 year old family recipe," but no one got back to us with prices or availability. We liberally rubbed a rack of St. Louis-style ribs with the pork rub, and did the same with two organic chicken breasts, using the chicken rub.

Next, we broke open the package of Cowboy-brand Smokin' Cups, described as "perfectly portioned cups of naturally flavored hardwood smoking chips." The trio of little aluminum foil cups contained hickory, mesquite and apple wood chips. Remove the tab convering the "smoke hole," place the cup on top of hot coals and it will release wood smoke for about a half-hour. We did. On two separate grilling sessions, we used the mild applewood chips for the chicken and the hearty mesquite chips for the ribs (seen in the photo).

We tasters ate, licked our fingers and huddled. We agreed the Ferolito's spice rubs looked and smelled good going on, and gave the pork and chicken great color when they came off the charcoal grill. Though the rubs were tasty, they were too tame for our taste. Where was the heat? The tongue-twisting bold flavors? And we were a bit surprised at the inclusion of "smoke flavor" as one of the ingredients in the pork rub, given all the other natural ingredients.

The Smokin' Cups performed as advertised, once the wood chips started smoldering in about five or so minutes. The cups gave off steady if thin streams of smoke, just enough to flavor the ribs and chicken breasts, without putting too much smoke flavor into the meats. The three-pack is available for $5 at all Lowe's hardware stores.