Dry rubs don’t need to be really complicated or fancy to do the job you need them to do. Since their main job is to add flavour to whatever it is you are going to smoke or barbeque, all you really need to do is choose a few simple flavours as the base of your rub and build from there.
Most North American barbeque style meat rubs have the following three ingredients as their base:
- Paprika – smoked, sweet red peppers. They have a ton of colour and flavour, but very little if any spicy heat
- Garlic powder – Stick to using garlic powder, and NOT garlic salt. Add salt separately
- Salt – Use to your own taste. Keep in mind that the salt flavour intensifies over time, so a little can go a long way. Sea salt and rock salt can be very good in rubs as they act a little like sandpaper when you are rubbing the spices in which helps them penetrate the meat a little more.
From here you can add other simple ingredients to your dry rubs to take the basic flavours in different directions. Of course you can also mix & match from the dry rub ingredients below to make your own delicious creations!
Southwestern flavours used in meat rubs:
- Add black pepper, dried chipotle or Ancho peppers for heat and taste
- Ground Cumin or corriander seeds for earthiness
Asian Flavours for meat rubs
Carribean (jerks for example, although they are not usually dry rubs)
- lime zest
Mediterranean flavours for rubs
- dried basil
- dried tarragon
- dried thyme
- dried rosemary
- bay leaf, finely crushed
- garam masala (basic mixed spice used in Indian cooking)
- star anise
- turmeric – adds bright yellow colour and some earthy flavours to your meats.
- celery seeds
There aren’t really any rules about dry rubs which is why they can be so simple to make and play around with. They only real thing to keep in mind is the type of meat that you will be using the rub on. Lighter more delicate meats (like fish or some poultry) can be overwhelmed by some of the spices I’ve just talked about. That doesn’t mean you can’t use them, simply that you need to use them carefully. Ginger for example can be very powerful, but used properly with some fish it can be really good.
Also keep in mind that for the most part, the longer a dry rub is on the meat, the stronger the flavour will be after you smoke the meat or cook it on the barbeque.