Rubs: Info and Tips

Great flavor a flash! With rubs for grilled meat, poultry, or fish, you get vibrant flavor pronto -- even faster if you make your favorites in bulk so they're always on hand.


Add a zesty rub to meat before you put it on the grill.

"Rules of the rub" are loose and fancy-free. There's a broad definition as to what rubs are, and within that it's a cook's playground (or the proverbial candy shop) of spices, herbs, and condiments.

What Is a Rub?

A rub is a mixture of herbs, spices, and seasonings liberally applied to coat the outside of meat, poultry, or fish. Salt is always a great starting place for a rub. It helps the rub penetrate, and it rounds out and brings together the flavors of the ingredients. Sugar is also a popular addition to rubs as it caramelizes when exposed to high heat. If adding a sugar, do so sparingly as they burn easily. If using seeds, nuts, dried herbs, or spices, be sure to crush them first to release all their flavor. The only real rule is that there is no right or wrong mixture. It's all a matter of personal preference!

Grilling Basics

Dry Rubs

These are mixtures containing any number of dried herbs and spices. Dry rubs adhere using the natural moisture of the meat, poultry, or fish.

Cooking Time for Grilled Foods

Testing Grill Temperature

Wet Rubs

A wet rub has a moist ingredient added to the spices and herbs. Common ingredients added to make a wet rub may include, but are not limited to: mustard, finely chopped garlic, oil, horseradish, and yogurt. Wet rubs are also called pastes, denoting their consistency. They adhere to food more easily than dry rubs.

Gas Grill Tips

Tips for Lighting Charcoal Grills

Applying Rubs
  • A rub should have time to work its magic.
  • If applying a rub to chicken with skin on, place it under the skin.
  • Lightly scoring meat, poultry, and fish will help the rub flavors penetrate further.
  • How long a rub should rest on the food before cooking spans from 15 minutes to two hours and up to several hours. It depends on the density of what you are applying it to and how strong the flavors of the rub are.
  • Keep the rubbed food in the fridge, for safety's sake.
Storing Rubs
  • Dry rubs will keep in tightly closed containers up to 6 months.
  • If you're planning on storing a large batch of dry rub, use the most recently purchased dried herbs and spices. Most lose their flavor after the bottle has been open for 9 months to a year.
  • Wet rubs will generally keep for a few weeks under refrigeration.

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