In this detailed guide, we’re going to teach how you to make your own rubs.
We’ll start with 5 very basic, well known and popular rubs that anybody can make very simply, from ingredients you’ll already have in your kitchen cupboard including ‘Dalmatian rub’, SPG, SPOG and all-purpose rubs for all meats, before adding sugar to make it great for pork.
After the simple general-purpose rubs, I’ll then take you through a quick look at the roots of seasoning food, before getting into a much more detailed look at types of rubs, their key ingredients, and how to blend them in perfect proportions yourself, rather than buying pre-made commercial BBQ rubs. (though if you do, here are 20 of the best BBQ rubs available today.)
So we are going to show you simple and easy all-purpose rubs, before we get into specialized advanced rub making, using a wide range of herbs and spices to make rubs suited specifically to particular meats such as pork, beef, chicken, lamb, and fish.
We’ll then move onto creating rubs for signature flavors such as Mexican, Indian and Cajun.
I will be providing many example rub recipes to follow, with ingredients and measurements, so you have a tasty rub to pair brilliantly with every type of meat you would wish to cook.
Since the dawn of cooking, man has sought to turn mere sustenance into gastronomic feasts. I’m no anthropologist, but I suspect that a discerning palate separates us from the lower primates every bit as much as the opposable thumb.
As part of your evolution from a garden-variety griller to pitmaster (I was going to say “Steak-speare” but thought better of it), there will be many techniques to learn.
Knowing your way around the grill, and picking the right cuts of meat is essential, of course.
But if you want to put your own signature stamp on your BBQ, you’ll want to develop and make your own rubs.
Now, if you’re ready, we’ll plunge into the surprisingly fascinating world of flavor, and learn how to take your BBQ offerings up a notch or two.
Let’s see what seasonings may come! But first:
Contents (Jump to Topic)
- 1 Why Make Your Own Dry Rubs?
- 2 Before We Start — A few Words on Ingredients and Substitutes
- 3 How to Make Your Own Rubs — Simplified Version
- 4 How to Make Your Own Rub — In Depth, Next Level Version
- 5 A Brief History of Seasonings
- 6 The Triumvirate of Base Flavors
- 7 What Kind of Salt Should I Use?
- 8 Pepper: It’s Nothing to Sneeze At
- 9 What About Paprika?
- 10 It Was My Understanding There Would Be No Math?
- 11 Example Ingredient Ratios for a Beef Rub
- 12 Example Ingredient Ratios for a Pork Rub
- 13 To Everything There Is A Seasoning
- 14 Regional Flavors
- 15 Other Seasonings to Consider
- 16 Wet Rubs vs. Dry Rubs
- 17 How To Give Your Meat a Good Rub
- 18 The Finishing Touch
Why Make Your Own Dry Rubs?
Look, I’ll be the first to admit, it’s a bit of work. Shopping for the ingredients, measuring them out, grinding them up. But there’s a pleasure that comes from creating things from base ingredients, making what you cook truly your own creations.
It’s also true that many commercially bought, pre-mixed rubs are sensational. Some will have had hundreds of hours poured into their creation. The rub you buy may well have been recipe tweak number 784 or more, after months of adding and taking away ingredients and tweaking their ratios.
I’m not going to lie and tell you that you’re going to make a wide array of rubs right away, for every type of meat you cook, that will compete with the best of the best you can buy. No…BUT! You will come damn close, will save a bit of money along the way, and have a lot of fun experimenting in the process.
I often make my own rubs. I also buy a ton too. In fact, I buy and use commercial rubs more often than I make them myself. But I always feel an extra level of satisfaction with my food when I have made and used my own rub.
So, we make our own dry rubs because it’s fun. Because it saves money. Because we get to experiment. And because that way, we put our own stamp on our BBQ food, truly making it our own, and feeling proud when we nail it.
So, let’s do this!
Before We Start — A few Words on Ingredients and Substitutes
In making the rubs, you will see me mention things by volume, in teaspoons, tablespoons, and cups. You will also notice I use kosher salt, coarse cracked black pepper, garlic powder (not granules) etc.
The issue you will have is that fine table salt has a lot more salt than kosher salt by volume because it is finely ground and has less space between crystals. So if you simply substituted table salt for kosher salt by exact volume, the resulting rub would be FAR saltier and perhaps even unpalatable.
The opposite is true for black pepper, though. The finer it is ground, the more oils and aromatics in the pepper oxidize, and the weaker the flavor becomes.
So substituting fine ground black pepper from the cupboard for fresh ground coarse black pepper means you have to use more to get the same taste.
Not having the ingredients EXACTLY as listed will throw off the flavor profile. So if you do not have the correct ingredients, here are some basic conversions:
- Kosher salt to table salt: Take away 20% (or 1/5th) of what’s stated.
- e.g. 4 tbsp of kosher salt = 3.2 tbsp of table salt (or just over 3)
- Fine ground pepper for coarse ground: Add about 25% of fine ground, as the finer ground pepper is, the less potent it’s taste.
- e.g. 4 tbsp of coarse pepper = 5 tbsp of finely ground black pepper.
- Garlic powder to garlic granules: Double it / increase 100%.
- e.g. 2 tbsp garlic powder = 4 tbsp garlic granules
- Onion powder to dried onion flakes: Treble it, or add 200%
- e.g. 2 tbsp onion powder = 6 tbsp onion flakes
Note: Morton has a fantastic salt type conversion chart to save you from any math.
Anyway, I recommend using the ingredients exactly as listed. But if you do not have them, then by all means, make a substitution. Just make sure to scale up or down the volume to keep the flavor profile correct.
How to Make Your Own Rubs — Simplified Version
The following are five very simple rubs that every outdoor cook should have in their arsenal. And don’t be put off by their simplicity. These are very popular and for good reason! We are going to cover:
- Dalmatian rub, (salt and pepper) — ‘Texas-style’ beef rub.
- SPG rub, (Salt, Pepper, Garlic) — add garlic powder to Dalmatian rub.
- SPOG rub, (Salt, Pepper, Onion, Garlic) — add onion to SPG.
- All-purpose BBQ rub — Add a few spices to SPOG rub for an all-purpose BBQ rub.
- Pork and chicken rub — Add sugar to the all-purpose BBQ rub to make it suitable for pork and chicken.
Sometimes a simple rub, when combined with a little lick of smoke from a BBQ is all that’s needed to bring out and highlight the natural flavor of meat rather than completely hide it.
These first five rubs are made from simple ingredients that you will likely already have in your spice rack. If nothing else these rubs can be a good fallback to use for when you don’t have the ingredients for something more complicated or just want the taste of a good cut of meat to shine.
Texas Style Dalmatian Rub — Start with Simply Salt and Pepper
Dalmatian rub is the simplest of all rubs you are ever going to come across, consisting of solely salt and pepper. Popularly known as a ‘Texas-style’ beef rub, and made super famous by Aaron Franklin’s brisket recipe.
Used almost exclusively on beef, it’s excellent for smoked brisket, short ribs, and tri-tip. Black pepper is universally known as a great pairing for beef, and the seemingly large amount of salt helps to accentuate bring out umami flavor.
The pair will bring out a deep beefy flavor, and during a long, low n slow smoke will work to create a desirable, deep and chewy bark.
The important thing here is to use 50/50 coarse cracked black pepper and kosher salt BY VOLUME, not weight. This is true for all rubs in the rest of this guide, so I will not mention it again.
Ingredients — Makes 1/2 cup
- 4 tbsp of freshly ground coarse black pepper
- 4 tbsp of kosher salt
SPG Rub — Salt, Pepper, Garlic
SPG is a simple rub, consisting of Salt, Pepper and Garlic. It’s good on almost anything as it is (you should definitely try it!) and forms the base to which other ingredients are added to make many more rubs (we’ll get to this later.)
You can simply add garlic to the dalmatian rub above in a 2:2:1 ratio to make SPG, and this works perfectly well.
Ingredients — Makes 5/8 Cup
- 4 tbsp kosher salt
- 4 tbsp freshly ground coarse black pepper
- 2 tbsp garlic powder
However, for some tastes, this can be too peppery and not enough garlic for anything but beef, for example, pork or chicken.
So a preferred ratio becomes 3:2:1 for Salt, Garlic, Pepper. But maybe then it would be called an SGP rub and not SPG?
Play around with the ratios and do what’s best for you. If you prefer less pepper and more garlic, simply tweak it.
SPOG Rub — Salt, Pepper, Onion, Garlic, The Original All-Purpose Rub
The addition of onion powder to SPG makes SPOG, the most basic all-purpose rub you will come across before getting into more complicated and specialized rubs for different purposes.
This rub is perfect for beef, pork or chicken, and is even good to use sparingly on many vegetables.
To make SPOG, simply add 1 part onion powder to the SPG rub:
Ingredients — Makes 3/4 Cup
- 4 tbsp kosher salt
- 4 tbsp freshly ground coarse black pepper
- 2 tbsp onion powder
- 2 tbsp garlic powder
Again, if you find it’s too salty, you can reduce the salt content. If it’s too peppery, reduce the amount. If not strong enough with onion or garlic, increase them. That’s the beauty of making your own rubs, you can tweak them to match your personal tastes. So do experiment!
All Purpose BBQ Rub — Add a Few Herbs and Spices, and Sugar for Pork
To make an all-purpose BBQ rub, we now want to add a few things to SPOG for some heat, some color, some sugar for sweetness and to caramelize and help form a delicious crust on pork and chicken, plus some other spices to really ramp up the flavor.
The following is my go-to all-purpose rub that can be used on pork, chicken, beef (if you like it sweet) and vegetables — pretty much anything. I personally halve the amount of sugar in this rub if using it on beef though!
Ingredients — Makes Approx 1.5 Cups
- 4 tbsp kosher salt
- 4 tbsp freshly ground coarse black pepper
- 2 tbsp onion powder
- 2 tbsp garlic powder
- 1 1/2 tbsp paprika
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 2 tsp toasted cumin seeds
- 2 tsp toasted coriander seeds
- 2 tsp mustard powder
- 6 tbsp dark brown sugar (I personally add only 3 Tbsp for beef.)
As always, feel free to play around with the ratios and ingredients until you find what works for you. Everybody’s tastes are different, find your own sweet spot.
What I will say right away is, for many people the amount of black pepper in this ‘all-purpose rub’ can be a bit much for their tastes except for with beef where a lot of pepper is wonderful.
So right away, you might want to experiment with reducing the pepper content, perhaps by as much as half, if you are going to use the above rub on pork, chicken or vegetables.
How to Make Your Own Rub — In Depth, Next Level Version
The above, straightforward rub recipes are a great starting point, popular flavors with many, and can be used on everything and anything you’d care to throw on a BBQ. But there’s one huge issue for me with having such a limited range of rubs to use:
Almost everything you BBQ will taste pretty much the same!
Yes, the flavors of the meat will shine through. Yes, you can use different wood smokes. Yes, you can sauce it up with a variety of wonderfully different flavors. But, the underlying rubs will always taste the same, and this is a huge component of the overall taste.
Now, I don’t know about you, but this is NOT what I’m after with my cooking. I love variety. I have to have variety. This is a huge part of the enjoyment of cooking.
So with that in mind, here’s how to take your rub making to the next level, how to make your own more complex rubs for different meats, different cuisines, and how to put your own unique twist on your grilling and smoking.
A Brief History of Seasonings
Exactly when our pre-human ancestors had the first barbecue may never be known. The oldest known remains of purpose-built structures for fires date back about 400,000 years. Discoveries made in South Africa, however, suggest that early hominids were cooking meat more than a million years ago.
Now, it’s a big step from slapping meat on a fire to adding seasonings for flavor, and scientist don’t know for sure when that happened, either.
Some researchers think seasonings were discovered by accident by ancient hunter-gatherers carrying meat wrapped in leaves or bark and finding they liked the taste that was imparted. It is known that Neanderthals used herbs some 250,000 years ago: scientists have found traces of them in prehistoric plaque.
The early spice trade and the value of spices centuries ago are well documented, and I won’t spend time on that here. Suffice to say, every major civilization around the globe developed their own local seasonings, sometimes using native-grown spices and herbs, and sometimes using imported or transplanted goods.
Today, most people with access to a grocery store can avail themselves of a dizzying array of international spices that would once have been worth a king’s ransom.
The Triumvirate of Base Flavors
When it comes to flavor additives, there are many choices, but there are three that stand out as the most basic and that appear in the vast majority of rubs and seasonings:
Salt and pepper are found on every restaurant table, and sugar is often there, too. A quick search of nearly every kitchen in Western civilization, and probably around the world, will turn up all three in some format.
It should come as no surprise, then, that these three common ingredients are the foundation for just about every type of BBQ rub.
This is great news for you, because you might not need to pick them up at the grocery store on your inevitable spice run.
What Kind of Salt Should I Use?
There are many kinds of salt available to use.
The purpose of adding salt to our food is to enhance certain flavors, while suppressing others. Salt can keep food from tasting bitter, but may make sweet notes stand out. In higher concentrations, salt brings umami to the fore, and that’s just what we want in a meat rub.
Here’s a brief overview of the different types of salts.
Table Salt — The most familiar kind of salt, table salt is usually iodized and highly refined. It’s finely ground, relatively free from impurities, and has anti-caking agents added to help it flow freely from a shaker.
While not exotic, there’s nothing wrong with using this old standby in your rubs, though many people do regard it as unhealthier and less tasty than almost all other salts due to its refined nature and additives.
Kosher Salt — An attractive salt that is flakier and coarser than the table salt most people know, less refined than table salt, and is usually free of common additives such as iodine.
It dissolves quickly when cooked, but it’s excellent for seasoning meat. In fact, its primary purpose is to remove fluid from meat during the koshering process.
Because it’s a coarser, flakier salt than table salt, it’s easier to pick up and to control the amount applied when sprinkling it on to food. This combined with trace minerals adding some health benefits makes it a favorite to use for seasoning and in rubs.
Sea Salt — As the name implies, this salt is harvested by evaporating seawater and is less processed and refined than kosher and table salts.
Because it doesn’t go through such a rigorous refining process, sea salt is coarse and usually full of other trace minerals such as zinc and potassium, as well as other ingredients that may even give it a color other than white.
For these reasons, sea salt adds a more complex flavor than table or kosher salt, making it great as a seasoning on its own, or as a base for a rub.
Himalayan Pink Salt
This is a trendy number, and it’s cropping up in high-end restaurants everywhere. It’s a very raw salt and is as popular with new-agers as it is with chefs.
It has a high trace mineral content, including potassium, iron, and magnesium, that give it a unique taste, while turning it various shades of pink to red. Usually sold in large flaky crystals, it’s also available finely ground if you prefer.
A popular material for salt lamps — which is all fine and dandy — my preferred use is as an attractive and tasty additive to a rub.
Fleur de Sel
If you really want to wow your friends, add a dash of this hand-harvested French sea salt, and be sure to leave out the package and the receipt!
A light salt that works wonders on veal, lamb, or fish, it sells for about 4 or 5 dollars… an ounce.
For a similar but slightly less costly French coast salt, try Celtic Sea Salt. It’s the gray salt found under fleur de sel, and it’s great for fish.
There are two kinds of colored Hawaiian salt: black and red.
The black stuff get its color from charcoal that’s added in, and the red salt is naturally colored by local clay that’s rich in iron.
Both are well suited to seafood, but the black also works for pork, and the red looks and tastes great on beef.
Well, this stuff just has BBQ written all over it!
Some genius took salt and smoked it slowly over a wood fire and came up with this modern marvel.
There are different flavors created with different kinds of wood; pick your favorite and put it in your blend to add a smoky and robust character without having to smoke the meat itself.
Pro Tip for Salt
Salt draws moisture out of meat, and that’s not a bad thing IF you control the process.
If you put your salt-based rub on too far in advance, you’ll just dry out your meat. Don’t let your rub sit too long before cooking. The idea is to draw out just enough moisture to help form a crust without turning your meat into leather.
Alternatively, you want to leave the salt on for hours, in a process called dry brining.
This is where the salt draws moisture out of the meat, the salt dissolves in the moisture and the meat is left long enough for the now salty liquid to be drawn back in.
This gets seasoning deep into the meat fibers, not just on the surface, and the end result is a still moist, deeply seasoned meat.
So apply salt either just a few minutes before cooking, or leave on for 3 hours plus. Do not salt and leave it on the meat for times in between, as this will result in a drier end product.
Pepper: It’s Nothing to Sneeze At
Pepper, as you may be aware, comes from grinding peppercorns. But did you know that the peppercorn is actually a berry?
They come from a vine native to India, but which is now grown commercially in really hot places around the world. Thanks, to the dispersion, there are now many regional varietals of peppercorn, each with a subtly unique flavor profile.
You might find pepper grown in Sumatra, Vietnam, or Ecuador, if you look hard enough.
The famous black peppercorns we’re used to seeing in pepper mills are unripe berries that have been harvested and dried, perhaps through cooking, or perhaps by just leaving them out in the sun.
White peppercorns used to be black before they were soaked and peeled.
Green peppercorns are picked before they’ve matured and then dried. Green peppercorns are famously used in steak au poivre, a classic French steak preparation.
Pink peppercorns — You might hear of pink peppercorns during your culinary explorations. They originate from either Peru or Brazil, and do not come from the same family of plants as the black, white, or green peppercorns. So pink peppercorns are not, in fact, peppercorns at all!
They look great, and have a nice flavor used lots with fish dishes, but be warned: they are related to cashews and could be dangerous to anyone with a tree nut allergy.
What About Paprika?
Lots of folks love paprika, and why the heck not? It adds a nice little dash of flavor and a very appealing color to many dishes. It is not, however, a pepper in the same way as pepper made from ground peppercorns.
Paprika, like cayenne pepper, is made from a variety of dried and ground peppers of the New World variety. Think bell peppers (or sweet peppers, depending on where you live), or even some types of chili peppers.
Tasty, but entirely different from peppercorns.
It Was My Understanding There Would Be No Math?
No doubt there are many folks who just toss random ingredients together and hope for the best when it comes to seasoning.
I once made an incredible blend of flavors for some grilled tilapia by just grabbing a bunch of bottles from the kitchen cupboard and sprinkling a bit of this and a bit of that. Years later my kids still talk about, but, sadly, I don’t know what I used, and I have never recreated it.
This is not how to make your own rub! It’s far better to use a structured approach in hopes of achieving repeatable results.
Not to say you can’t be creative! But if you start with a basic formula, you can experiment without going too far wrong, and without risk of a once-in-a-lifetime success.
There are some tried and true ratios for ingredients that you can use for a starting point.
Example Ingredient Ratios for a Beef Rub
For beef, you’ll usually want to go with a higher proportion of salt than sugar.
Good beef can be dramatically flavorful and salt-based rubs will enhance and add on rather than mask and obscure. Still, many folks love what sugar can do to a steak, so don’t be afraid to try the 8:3:1:1 rub on your beef.
The jury is out on the exact right combo for salt-based rubs, but many recipes call for one of the following:
Noticing a pattern here? The largest number is always salt, followed by sugar, and then pepper or paprika. The longer ratios allow for extra customization to achieve a particular flavor combination, or to suit a regional preference.
Some recipes call for an even higher proportion of salt, sometimes up to 10 parts. While we may be talking about small quantities (think 10 tablespoons, not 10 cups), it’s still important to strike a balance.
Still, taste buds are very personal little guys, and some people might prefer more salt. Just remember what I said earlier about drying out your meat.
Beef Dry Rub Recipe
For a beef rib recipe, we’ll use an example 4:3:2:1 ratio.
This will be 4 parts salt, 3 parts black pepper, and 2 parts sugar content.
The final ‘1’ part can be made up of any other spices and seasonings you desire, that can be picked from the below section of ‘best seasonings for beef.’ You can pick just one, or a multitude of different ingredients. You just have to make sure if they add up to 1 part in total.
For example, if we are speaking in tablespoons, this is equal to 3 teaspoons. So we could add 1 teaspoon each of onion, garlic, and chili powder, to make up the total ‘1 part’ in tablespoons.
Have a play and see what works best for you.
But here is an example rub using the 4:3:2:1 ratio rule, using ingredients that work great with beef:
- 8 tbsp kosher salt, (4 parts pepper)
- 6 tbsp cracked black pepper, (3 parts pepper)
- 4 tbsp turbinado sugar (2 parts sugar)
- 2 tsp onion powder (1/3rd of one part toward 1)
- 2 tsp mustard powder (1/3rd of one part toward 1)
- 1 teaspoon ancho chili powder (1/6th of one part toward 1)
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper powder (1/6th of one part toward 1)
Example Ingredient Ratios for a Pork Rub
According to science and Alton Brown, neither of which can be argued with, the perfect ratio for a dry rib rub is 8:3:1:1. That means your first ingredient makes up 8 parts of 13, and your second is 3 parts, and so on.
The most significant portion of the rub is sugar. Sugar caramelizes beautifully and is ideal for enhancing the flavor of pork. While you could use good ol’ white sugar, feel free to play around with Demerara, brown, maple, and other kinds of sugar.
Next comes 3 parts of salt. Again, while the ratio may be set, the kind of salt isn’t. Refer to the salt section above for a starting point in your personal quest for salinity.
In the third section, you add flavor and color with either chili powder or paprika. The choice depends on the type of rub you’re after, spicy or mild.
Finally, pick your own seasoning to finish off the rub. You could even use more than one spice, so long as the combination adds up to one part to balance the equation.
Pork Dry Rub Recipe
Going with the 8:3:1:1 ratio, we can knock up a wonderful pork rub recipe that works well, using some ingredients from the section on ‘pork seasonings’ below as follows:
- 8 tbsp turbinado sugar (8 parts sugar)
- 3 tbsp kosher salt (3 parts sugar)
- 1 tbsp paprika — American or smoked (1 part)
- 1.5 tsp onion powder (1/2 part toward 1)
- 1.5 tsp rosemary powder (1/2 part toward 1)
To Everything There Is A Seasoning
There is an incredible array of herbs and spices available to choose from. However, not all spices are suited to all kinds of meat. So it’s essential to choose your mix carefully to suit the meat and the flavor you’re after.
I did consider giving an example rub recipe for each of many different types of meat, and cuisines, but this is article is already long, so I will save rub recipes for individual articles later.
For inspiration and what to include in your rubs, though, here are a few herbs and spices to get you started, paired up with the most appropriate meat variety. Remember: there are no rules, only guidelines.
When you look at the ratios like 5:4:3:2:1, or 8:3:1:1, after the salt, pepper and sugar, you can make up the last ingredients by combining the following seasonings that pair with different meat types.
Note: I’ve left out pepper (and its relatives, like paprika), salt, and sugar. Those are a given.
Best Seasonings for Beef
- Dried onion
- Dry mustard powder
- Curry powder
Best Seasonings for Pork
- Dry mustard powder
- Celery seed
Best Seasonings for Chicken
Best Seasonings for Lamb
Best Seasonings for Fish
- Chili flakes
- Celery seed
Sometimes, you want to try and mimic the flavor of a far-off land, and give your taste buds a vacation from the ordinary.
Indian, Thai, Tex-Mex, Caribbean — there are fantastic flavors to be found all over the globe, and you don’t have to rack up the frequent flyer miles to try them.
Taking a trip to the neighborhood grocery store may yield some good finds for regional cuisine. If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, seek out an ethnic supermarket or find a good local market where regional offerings might be available.
Some spices that can add a taste of somewhere far away include:
- Chili powder
- Celery seed
- Chili powder
Kansas City Here I Come
Of course, not all regional flavors are found thousands of miles away. For example, the Kansas City rub is known far and wide, but many of you may live within a short haul flight of the source of origin.
The Kansas City rub is made of brown sugar, paprika, white sugar, garlic salt (my go-too spice for everything), celery salt, chili powder, black pepper, cayenne, and dry mustard.
Not to be outdone, Texas has its own rub consisting of paprika, brown sugar, chili powder, kosher or sea salt, black pepper, garlic, onion, and cumin.
In fact, there are regional varieties of BBQ flavorings to be found across the United States, Canada, and in many countries around the world.
Other Seasonings to Consider
Most of the spices and herbs I’ve discussed so far are easily purchased individually for custom-making your own rubs. However, there’s no reason not to try one of the many pre-blended spice combinations readily found in most stores that sell spices and seasonings.
- Asian Five-Spice
- Caribbean jerk
- Herbes de Provence
While some spice enthusiasts might consider these blends to be cheating, they can be useful time-savers and may bring a level of authenticity that might otherwise be difficult to achieve. (As an example, Asian Five-Spice blends star anise, Szechuan peppercorns, fennel, cassia, and clove.)
There are many exotic spices one can try out, too. As you may have deduced, I’m all about impressing the guests by taking the experience to unexpected places. Have fun experimenting with something out of the ordinary like:
- Citrus zest: add some zing with a bit of peel
- Bloody Mary/Bloody Caesar rimmer: a blend of spices meant for rimming drink glasses; I love this stuff on chicken
- Long pepper: Hotter and sweeter than black pepper; great for Indian or Mediterranean dishes
- Saffron: crazy expensive, but you only need a bit to make an impact
- Anardana: made from dried pomegranate seeds; use it to add some sour, fruity notes to a fish rub
Of course that’s just the tip of the international spice rack iceberg! I encourage you to go to the store, pick up things you don’t recognize, and read the labels.
Or, if you’re dining out and come across a flavor you don’t know, ask your server what it is. You never know, it could become your new secret ingredient!
Wet Rubs vs. Dry Rubs
Didn’t really specify which we were discussing did I? The truth is, they both start life the same way.
You make a rub by blending your dried/powdered/ground ingredients together. (Food processors are great for this, but a whisk and a large bowl are just fine.)
A dry rub is exactly what it sounds like: you apply the blend of seasonings exactly they way they are to your cuts of meat.
For a wet rub, you can mix in some oil, or Worcestershire sauce to the blend to help it adhere to the meat.
How To Give Your Meat a Good Rub
So, you’ve learned a lot about spices and what they’re good for by now, and you might be itching to put your new rub to the test. One problem — you may not know how the rub is applied to the meat. That’s ok, I’ve got you covered in my guide on how to use dry rubs…but you can also see an abridged but useful version below!
Despite the vigorous name, you actually aren’t giving your meat cuts a Turkish massage. For a dry rub, sprinkle the blend on gently and try to cover the entire surface of the meat. If you’re cooking chicken with the skin on, you might want to put some rub under the skin to ensure contact with the meat.
Once it’s sprinkled on, feel free to work it around a bit, but, since it’s dry, it’s not going to absorb into the meat. You can apply your rub about 15–30 minutes before it hits the grill. If you don’t have salt in the rub, you can leave it longer if you want.
If you have any rub left over, put it in a container and seal it tight. It won’t last forever, but it certainly will be good for the rest of the season.
A wet rub can be brushed on like a paste. As with the dry rub, make sure to cover the whole cut. You might choose to let a wet rub sit on the meat a bit longer to allow some of the fluid to soak in.
Once your meat is covered in rub, put it on the grill and cook as per usual. Watch out with sugar-based rubs, however — sugar burns quickly, and you don’t want a burnt crust.
The Finishing Touch
Not every cookout requires a custom blend of spices to make it a success. There’s nothing wrong with savoring the natural flavor of a really great steak, going simple with salt and/or pepper, or splashing on your favorite sauce.
But when you’re looking to take your mouth on a flavor adventure, there’s nothing quite like whipping up your very own rub. You never know when you’ll hit that magic combination that becomes your signature seasoning.
If you’ve got anything you’d like to say about BBQ rubs, or about this article, please take a minute and leave a comment or drop a line. We’re always happy to hear your thoughts whether you agree or disagree with anything we’ve said. Maybe you’ve got a tip to help us all out as we craft our own rubs? Please share!
See you in the backyard, my friends!