Have you ever wanted to make your own signature barbecue dry rub?  If so this article is for you!  It is easy to go overboard or feel overwhelmed once you start experimenting with your own mix. This article gives you the top ten tips to making your own signature barbecue dry rub at home. 

  • Use high quality ingredients.  There is no reason to think you can improve an expensive piece of meat through the application of cheap seasonings that have been sitting in your pantry for over a year.  Salt means Kosher or sea, not iodized.  Pepper means coarse and freshly ground, not from a tin.  Paprika means sweet or smoked Hungarian but either way must be fresh.
  • Salt is a fundamental component of almost every dry rub.  For this recipe framework let’s assume that we are starting with one cup of salt.  Since you will be using either Kosher or sea salt in you rubs you will need to grind it first. The particle size of these salts is typically larger than for the rest of the ingredients.  By reducing the size of the salt particles you will get better mixing.  (Please note, if you prefer to brine your pork or poultry then you may want to greatly reduce the amount of salt in this recipe.)
  • Black pepper is another fundamental dry rub ingredient.  Your pepper is going to come from whole peppercorns that you coarsely grind yourself.  If you do not have a peppermill then stop reading this article and go buy one.  Black pepper is typically utilized at half the rate of salt, so let’s say ½ a cup.
  •  Sugar is often an important component of a dry rub but its use needs to be carefully considered.  Sugar is added to a rub for three reasons; to add sweetness, to cover up saltiness and to add a dark caramel color to the meat.  Because you are often trying to mask saltiness, sugar is typically present at one to two times the amount of salt.  For this recipe let’s assume we will use two cups.  It is important to realize that sugar will only give a dark caramel color to meat if the meat is barbecued slowly at low temperatures.  If a sugar containing rub is used on a piece of meat grilled at high heat the sugar is simply going to burn turning your meat black and bitter. 
  • Another prominent component in many dry rubs is paprika.  The amount of paprika used is typically equal to the amount of black pepper (for us, ½ cup).  Paprika has the potential to enhance two factors of the dry rub; color and flavor.  Paprika has the dark red color that many people associate with barbecue.  A fresh, high quality paprika like Smoked Hungarian also adds a wonderful depth of flavor.  While paprika is often a great ingredient it is not always needed.  Feel free to omit the paprika if you cannot find a quality supply.
  • Garlic and onion are two seasonings that are nearly universal to all dry rubs.  Typically these ingredients are present at ¼ of the amount of black pepper (about a tablespoon each).  It is important to use dried onion and garlic and not fresh.  The addition of fresh garlic or onion will cause the remaining ingredients of the dry rub to clump together.  Make sure you buy granulated and not powdered seasonings.  Granulated onion and garlic are composed of very small diameter pieces about the size of table salt crystals.  Powdered onion and garlic are typically composed of all of the fines and sweepings left over after making the granulated product.  Granulated is the preferred product as opposed to the leftovers that contain who knows what else.
  • To give this blend your own special twist, give the rub up to one tablespoon of something else that you really like.  Really good additions include cumin, ginger, curry powder, mustard powder, chili powder, red pepper flakes or celery seeds.  A really good “secret” addition is a tablespoon of crushed beef or chicken bouillon cubes.
  •  Experiment.  At this point we have a general recipe which looks like the following:
    • 2 cups sugar (omitted if you are grilling with high heat)
    • 1 cup Kosher salt (reduce if meat has been brined)
    • ½ cup freshly ground pepper
    • ½ cup smoked paprika
    • 1 tablespoon granulated onion
    • 1 tablespoon granulated garlic
    • 1 tablespoon something special
  • The ratios given above are not golden rules or magic formulas, they are just starting points.  You will need to experiment to find the dry rub that really works for you.  While you are experimenting be sure to take notes!  It is easy to add a dash of this and to slightly reduce that to end up with a great rub that you do not remember how to recreate.  Write your experiments down and take notes.
  • Don’t go overboard.  If you decide to add red pepper flakes or cayenne powder to your dry rub make sure you add in small amounts and taste before adding more.  It is easy to overdo it when it comes to hot.  Also do not make too much dry rub at one time.  Any rub older than two months will start to lose the benefits of the freshness of the ingredients.  Store your rub in an airtight container in a cool dry place.
  • Name it!  Have fun with your experiments and come up with a great name for your own signature dry rub.  The world of barbecue is full of silly names like butt rub and rib tickler.  Get creative and find a name to compliment your hard work!

Thanks for reading, I hope you found this article useful!