Chef's Hat: For flavorful meats, start with a dry rub

It's easy to mix up your own dry rubs at home

Photo illustration, Shutterstock, Inc.

A dry rub is exactly what its name says it is - a mixture of dry ingredients, generally salt, pepper, sugar and a few other spices, that are tossed together and then liberally applied to meat, poultry or fish before cooking.

The dry rub enhances the flavor and introduces complementary flavors, bringing a sweetness or spicy flavor to the meat.

One big advantage of dry rubs is that they do not add any additional moisture to the exterior of the meat, so it is the opposite of a marinade. The advantage comes down to it is a better way to get a nice sear to the meat.

Dry rub spice ingredients in a bowl after mixing. Photo illustration, Shutterstock, Inc.


Why? Because the moisture has to evaporate before you get that gorgeous sear that makes meat not only look good on the outside, but also moist and tender on the inside.

Rubs will consist of salt and some type of sweetener, generally a white or a brown sugar. Sugars can caramelize and burn if too much is used or if the grill is too hot. So it is necessary to add enough salt and other seasonings to balance out the sugar.

There are dozens of commercial rubs and they usually contain sugar, salt, paprika, garlic, onion powder and pepper. These store bought rubs come with catchy names such as Lip Smacking, Rib Crunching, Texas Bold, Sweet and Sassy, and Flying Swine.

Since they are made with the same ingredients that are in your cupboard, why not mix up your own?

There are no real rules to making dry rubs and there is no secret ingredient that makes commercial rubs any better than what you can mix up at home. Besides the basic seasonings, you can experiment by adding thyme, dry mustard, oregano, rosemary, sage or even a dash of cinnamon.

Forget about seasoning your dinner with just salt and pepper. Liven up your main dish by using a dry rub and giving your dish a rainbow full of flavor. Happy Eating!

Add flavor to pork chops by mixing up your own dry rub. Donna Evans / Echo Journal Correspondent


Smokey Pork Chop Rub

2-4 pork chops (bone-in, ½-inch thick)

For the brine (the brining step can be left out if desired)

  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup salt
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons soy or Tamari sauce

For the rub

  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder (leave out if desired)
  • 2 teaspoons paprika (sweet or smoked)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon white pepper

Combine the brine ingredients in a large measuring cup or bowl. Pour into a resealable container. Add the pork chops and turn over several times. Place in the refrigerator for 2 to 4 hours. Remove from the refrigerator and rinse the chops with cold water to remove the brine. Pat the chops dry with paper towels.

Grill pork chops with a Smokey Pork Chop Rub and serve with rice for a perfect summer meal. Donna Evans / Echo Journal Correspondent

Combine all of the dry rub ingredients together in a small bowl. Place in a resealable container. Place the chops on a plate and liberally apply the rub to both sides. Once both sides have rub, cover the plate with plastic wrap and place into the refrigerator for 30 minutes to 2 hours.

Remove the pork chops from the refrigerator and let them sit out for 30 minutes before placing them on the grill.


Heat a grill to medium heat. Clean the grates and spray with nonstick cooking oil or pour some canola oil on a paper towel and rub the towel over the grill.

Place the chops on the grill. Cook 8 to 10 minutes and turn the chops over. Cook an additional 4 to 6 minutes, until the second side is nicely seared. Remove the chops from the heat and place on a plate. Cover with foil and let them sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Grilled, rubbed, skinless, boneless chicken thighs served on a dinner platter. Photo illustration, Shutterstock, Inc.

Chicken Thighs with Spicy Rub

  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 1 1/2 pounds)

In a small bowl or resealable container, combine all of the spices and mix well.
Pat the chicken to make sure it is dry. Place the chicken on a large plate. Liberally sprinkle the rub on both sides of the chicken thighs. Cover the chicken with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to 2 hours.

Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and set on the counter while preparing the grill.

Prepare a grill to medium heat. Grease the grill rack by spraying with nonstick cooking spray or by pouring an ample amount of canola oil on a paper towel and rubbing the towel over the grate.


Place the chicken on the grate. Grill for 8 minutes, turn over and grill the other side for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove chicken from the grill and set it on a plate. Cover with foil and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Donna Evans is an Echo Journal correspondent.

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