There’s the Rub

by Katie Faulkner

If you’re a grilling guy, you know that rubs are the ultimate flavor conveyor. These tasty blends of herbs and spices offer endless creative combinations for all manner of meat. Though there are two main types of rubs, dry and wet, dry rubs are ideal for grilling glory. They won’t change the meat’s internal chemistry or cook time. And they’re great to add a flavor-infused crust to meats cooked at higher temperatures. From pork to poultry and beyond, here are some dry rub tips, tricks, and basics for the next time you fire up the grill. 

Tips & Tricks
  • Use 1-2 tbsp. of dry rub per pound of meat.
  • Apply the rub, wrap the meat in plastic (a zipper bag is great for this), and place it in the fridge for a few hours to help the meat absorb the flavor.
  • You can also freeze rubbed and wrapped meat so it will be ready ahead of time. Just thaw and cook.
  • You can store dry rubs in an air tight container for up to three months in the pantry, or six months in the freezer. However, fresher is always better.
Blending Flavors

Rubs generally consist of around six to 10 herbs and spices, with several certain flavors running standard. For example, paprika is a very common base ingredient for dry rubs. It adds a smoky quality to grilled courses. Other common dry rub ingredients include: mustard powder, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, cayenne pepper, black or white pepper, cumin, coriander, sage, thyme, cumin, lemon pepper, lemon or lime zest, and brown sugar.

When selecting herbs and spices to blend for your rub, consider the meat you’ll be applying it to, and any side dishes you’ll be serving. Traditional poultry flavors, like sage and thyme, may not go well with a stronger rub for darker meats such as beef or pork, which carry brown sugar and paprika nicely. However, creativity is key. Half the fun is experimenting.

Creating a Crust

After nailing down your preferred flavor combination, apply the rub to the meat, abiding by the preceding tips. Allow the rub time to infuse the meat with its signature flavor. When you’re ready to fire up the grill, make sure your grilling surface is clean and very hot (closer to the coals, or turned up on a gas grill). The initial sear will set the tone for your crust.

Watch to ensure the entire surface has the rub seared into the skin and has darkened evenly. Once you feel the crust is complete, move the meat to a cooler area to finish out its cook time.

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