What is a Dry Rub?

Chili powder is commonly used to make dry rubs.
Many dry rubs include paprika.
Ground coriander seeds are often used in dry rubs.
A dry rub can add flavor to French fries.
A dry rub may include the use of thyme.
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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 25 March 2014
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Dry rub is a spice mixture that is worked into meat before cooking. It is 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, dry rub is recommended as a way to keep the texture at the right level.

In the food of the Southern United States, dry rub is often used on grilled or barbequed 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 as usual without adding any additional marinade.

Dry rub makes a great gift to any barbecue-enthusiast on your gift list. Simply mix up a batch of signature spices in a sterilized glass jar and seal tightly. Having a jar on hand can allow you to add extra flavor at a moment’s notice and is excellent for frequent entertainers. If you would prefer to buy pre-made dry rub, it is often available in the spice section of most grocery stores. It may be worth it to experiment with your own flavor combinations and mixes, to determine your own secret dry rub recipe.


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