Dry Rub

Although the term “Dry Rub” might sound like something you’d overhear at a spa (whatever that means), it’s become an integral part of the cooking process for many carnivores around the world. Dry rubs or spice rubs consist of a mixture of ground spices which are meant to be rubbed on raw food (mostly meat) before being cooked. This rub then forms a coat on the food.

Foods can stay coated in the spice rub for the flavors to incorporate anywhere from as little as an hour to over a day or longer. Although you can certainly bake, or grill, or broil your food immediately after applying your rub, the longer the rub is allowed to sit on the meat, the more flavor will be absorbed into the meat.

The seasoned and coated food is typically wrapped in plastic and kept in the refrigerator as it marinades (misleading word as dry rubs don’t tenderize the meat) in the spices. These spices are typically coarsely ground. Salt and sugar are popular choices to incorporate into dry rubs. Salt adds flavor as well as keeping the meat moister, while the sugar allows caramelization to take place.

Typical ingredients found in many rubs include:

Brown sugar
“Regular” or white granulated sugar
Cayenne pepper
Kosher salt
Black pepper (other varieties as well)
Mustard powder
Chili powder
Crushed red peppers
Granulated onion
Granulated garlic
Chipotle pepper

That is going to be the list of ingredients that the vast majority of recipes will call for. In fact, those are basically all the ingredients you will find on the first page when doing a Googe search for “dry rub recipe”.

Most of the time when working with dry rubs, you’ll find yourself using the dry heat method – namely grilling – to cook your food. But baking and pan roasting are other popular choices that can yield exceptional results.

Another lesser used method in my opinion, would be Sautéing. This works great when the dry rub includes bread crumbs and/or flour.

If you are knew to learning about dry rubs or spice rubs, the two terms are usually used interchangeably and I would argue that the only difference would be that spice rubs might contain some form of oil that can be mixed with the other herbs and spices to form a paste before being applied to the food. I have no basis to back this claim up, but it seems right to me.