Why and How to Use a Dry Rub for the Perfect BBQ.

What is a Dry Rub?

A dry rub consists of a blend of spices, which is either gently "rubbed" or sprinkled onto the external surface of meat before it meets the searing heat of the grill. While their primary role may seem centered around meats, it's worth noting that dry rubs can also work wonders when applied to poultry, fish, and even vegetables.

Dry rubs wield a culinary magic wand over meats in several ways:

  • Flavor Sealing: Dry rubs lock in the flavors within the meat, creating a tantalizing taste profile that captivates the palate.
  • Crust Creation: As the meat cooks, dry rubs form a delectable crust on the barbecue's surface, adding both texture and an extra layer of flavor.
  • Color Enhancement: These rubs contribute to the visual appeal of the cooked meat, enhancing its color and making it all the more appetizing.

Perhaps the most pivotal contribution of dry rubs is their unique ability to engage in a culinary ballet known as osmosis. This natural phenomenon involves the rub pulling moisture from the surrounding air while coaxing out the juices nestled within the meat itself. This, in effect, turns the meat into a self-marinating marvel during the cooking process.

The composition of dry rubs typically encompasses an assortment of spices harmoniously intermingled with salts and sugars. The salt plays a crucial role in extracting moisture from the meat, while the sugar performs a dual task. It caramelizes upon contact with the meat's surface, thereby sealing in the splendid flavors of the spices. Furthermore, the sugar actively participates in the osmotic dance.

The spice selection within dry rubs is a palette of possibilities, featuring ingredients such as allspice, onion, garlic, cinnamon, chili pepper, paprika, mustard, cumin, sage, and thyme, to name but a few.


Here's a suggested recipe: Combine 1 tablespoon each of cumin, paprika, granulated garlic, granulated onion, chili powder, cayenne pepper, black pepper, and white pepper, with 2 tablespoons of kosher salt and 1 tablespoon of brown sugar. Combine all these components in a sizeable bowl, ensuring thorough mixing. Store your homemade dry rub in an airtight container for future use.

Advantages of Dry Rubs Versus Marinades:

  • Economical: Dry rubs prove more cost-effective than traditional marinades.
  • No Refrigeration Required: Unlike marinades, dry rubs do not necessitate refrigeration.
  • Extended Shelf Life: Dry rubs boast a longer shelf life, ensuring you can savor their flavors over time.
  • Precision: You can apply dry rubs in the desired amount, saving any surplus for later use.
  • Flavorful Crust: Dry rubs contribute a delectably colorful and flavorful crust to your finished meat.
  • Self-Marination: Dry rubs naturally marinate the meat as it cooks, eliminating the need for pre-cooking marination.
  • User-Friendly: Applying dry rubs to meat is a straightforward and uncomplicated process.
  • Flavor Control: Dry rubs empower you to precisely control the flavor profile of your meat.
  • Ideal for Larger Cuts: Dry rubs excel when employed on sizable meat cuts, such as spareribs, briskets, and tenderloins.

For those who plan ahead, applying the dry rub a few days before cooking, wrapping the meat in plastic wrap or butcher paper, and refrigerating it can yield exceptional results, particularly with larger cuts of meat. Begin with a generous application of the dry rub, allowing it to work its flavorful magic during the refrigeration period. Just before cooking, add a final dusting of the rub to ensure a memorable culinary experience.