Dry rubs are exactly as their name describes, they are a dry mix of seasonings/herbs that are rubbed onto meat or poultry. You might have heard it referred to when people discuss prepping meats for a smoker or BBQ. However, you can use dry rubs anytime, not just for grilling or smoking. I started using dry rubs when my attempts to marinade meats and poultry just were not working out. With a marinade I’m looking for a punch of flavor with each bite. I want that wow factor. Marinades were not wowing me. This is when I started looking more into dry rubs and I’ve been a fan ever since.
In fact, I don’t even marinade beef at all anymore, I’m strictly a dry rub girl. Everything in this house that is not seafood, will get some sort of seasoned rub on it. And that includes things I’ve brined. Just because they’ve brined doesn’t mean I’m done adding flavor. Let me explain myself a little bit so maybe you can see where I’m coming from. I’m huge on flavor, I want things to knock me over. I’m not into subtle and I’m not into no flavor at all. There are folks who grill steaks and add nothing but maybe a pinch of salt or butter.
To me that’s bland. It’s apartment-grade “neutral”, it’s not my style. I know what plain steak tastes like so let’s take this to another level and see what kind of result we get. Sticking with plain and neutral all the time is snorefest boring.
This is where dry rubs come in because they can take meat and poultry to a whole other level. They can bring you the wow factor. They not only add flavor but will also provide a nice coloring to whatever is being cooked.
And the best thing about dry rubs is that you can make your own! You do not need to buy a fancy jar of “grill rub” for $5. No, no, no. You can make your own in your kitchen because all you’re doing is making a mixture of spices and herbs. This allows you to have control over your ingredients and gear it towards the flavors you are craving. Perhaps you’re in a more spicy mood? Maybe you want a load of garlic and rosemary?
Then you can make it! I’m not providing measurements at this point because it changes on what I’m using the rub on. But I typically start with the same base and go from there. My standard base consists of:
- Kosher salt
- Fresh ground black pepper
- Garlic powder
- Smoked paprika
And then depending on what flavor I’m looking for, I build up. Maybe adding in some red pepper flakes and cayenne for some kick. Perhaps a smoky chili powder for a little deeper flavor and darker color. Maybe poultry seasoning if I’m looking for comfort and something familiar.
Some upcoming recipes may have the addition of rubs so I thought now would be a good time to discuss them. Here are a few things I’ve learned about using a dry rub:
- When using a dry rub on red meat, allow the rub to sit for several hours before cooking. Red meat responds very well to dry rubs and the longer it can sit the better. Overnight is ideal, but starting it in the early morning for later in the evening is fine.
- If using a dry rub on red meat that is going to be grilled or seared, be sure to add a little bit of brown sugar. Not so much that it makes the rub sweet and detract from the other flavors, but just a small amount will help the outside caramelize and crisp up very nicely. And good lord it’s tasty too, bonus!
- If using a dry rub on chicken and other poultry, be sure to also get some under the skin as well as on top. If prepping a whole bird, be sure to rub some on the inside as well.
- Don’t forget to rub something that has been brined! Meat and poultry should be allowed to come to room temperature before cooking as this results in a juicier product. After the meat/poultry is pulled from the brine, rinsed and patted dry, rub with a bit of dry rub that will compliment the seasonings used in the brine. The meat/poultry will be able to absorb some of that as it’s coming to room temperature. It will also help provide a nice outside crust and deep golden color as it cooks.
- At the risk of sounding dirty, you can’t be afraid to get intimate with the goods. This is a rub after all, which means you need to get in there and rub it in.
In the beginning, the meat/poultry will sort of not look like much. Such as this:
But after sitting for several hours it will look juicy and ready for some heat!
Obviously I added the herbs when I pulled the meat out of the fridge, the rub did not make them magically appear. These were turkey thighs, and you can see how much juice and goodness happened just after sitting the day away with the rub.
The next time you plan on cooking some poultry or meat, think about using a dry rub and take your dish to that next level!!