Rubs are blends of herbs, spices, salt, sugar, and other ingredients that are worked into
meats before grilling or roasting to add additional flavor, color, and texture. They're
classified as either dry or wet.
Wet rubs (or pastes) feature the addition of oil, molasses or another liquid ingredient to
the herbs and spices; they're rubbed into the meat and also used to coat the surface. Wet
rubs generally adhere to the meat better than dry rubs and also help seal in juices to keep
meats moist. Wet rubs can be as simple as a dry rub with some liquid added to make a
paste or made from chopped fresh herbs and spices.
Pastes come in two classes: Water based and oil based and have the advantage of
sticking better and can be layered on thick. If salt and sugar are important components,
use water as a solvent. Water base slathers are often mixed with mustard, wine, stock, or
just plain water. Oil won't dissolve salt and sugar as quickly as water, but many herbs and
spices are not water soluble, and oil pulls out their flavors better. Oils are especially good
at pulling flavor from fresh herbs.
Oil has the added advantage of helping seal the surface of the meat, slightly reducing
evaporation. It also helps keep food from sticking to the grates, and if oil-based pastes get
hot enough, it can fry the surface, helping with browning.
A dry rub is a spice mixture that is worked into meat or poultry before cooking. It is most
popular in Southern and Cajun cuisines, but can be adapted to fit whatever spices
families are preferred. It is called "dry rub" as it is used in place of a liquid marinade for
meat. For meat that is better without added liquid or moisture like a roast or a whole
chicken, a dry rub is recommended as a way to keep the texture at the right level.
In the food of the Southern United States, a dry rub is often used on grilled or barbecued
meats. Dry rubbed ribs are a popular dish, but steaks, hamburgers or pork chops are also
given flavor through a spice rub. Most typical Southern style spice rubs include chili and
cayenne pepper, garlic and onion powder, salt and black pepper, paprika and dry
mustard. Although the quantities of hot ingredients can be adjusted, this
is an extremely spicy mix and adds a powerful kick to meat.
Cajun dry rub mixtures are similar to those in tradition deep-South cuisine, but have a few
different ingredients. In addition to chili powder, salt and pepper, Cajun blends often add
cumin, coriander and dried sage or thyme. In addition to use on meats, these dry rubs are
great to add flavor to homemade French fries or even as an all-purpose spice mixture for
soups or stews.
Although in Indian cuisine, meat is usually served as part of a curry, you can give grilled
meats or vegetables a real power boost with an Indian-influence spice rub. To a basic
spice mixture, try adding, cumin, cardamom, turmeric, garam masala and Indian chili
powders. Indian dry rubs will add a hint of sweetness along with heat, and are a great
addition to hamburgers or grilled vegetable medleys.
To use dry rubs, cake your spice mixture into the meat and work in with clean hands.
Allow the meat to refrigerate for at least an hour before cooking. Some chefs recommend
letting the spices soak into the meat overnight, but be sure to adequately refrigerate the
meat to prevent spoilage. Grill or oven bake as usual without adding any additional