Pinch Hitter: How to Make a Dry Rub

Pinch Hitter: How to Make a Dry Rub


You would be surprised just how easy it is to make your own dry rub once you understand the influence of flavor and chemistry of various spices.


1. Salt
Salt is the foundation of any good rub and should make up about half of your mix. Not only does it add flavor, but it also pulls moisture from the outer part of the meat. This allows you to develop a seared crust, which will hold the rest of the moisture in leaving your meat juicy. Give salt a 10-part measurement (i.e., if 1 part = 1 tablespoon, then I start with 10 tablespoons of salt).

2. Sugar
Sweetness creates balance, but don’t overdo it. Too much sugar may leave the meat slimy and sticky. We suggest 3 parts brown sugar to the 10 parts salt. You can use white sugar, but if you do we suggest only 2 parts.

After the salt and sugar, you want to add 6-8 parts total of all other spices. This will provide you with a half salt/half “the rest” ratio.


1. Be generous.
These are ingredients that are really hard to use too much of, regardless of the rub.

  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Paprika

2. Be sparing.
These are ingredients that add depth and interest to your rub, but should be used with restraint. Add too much, and they quickly over take.

  • All spice
  • Cinnamon
  • Cardamom
  • Clove
  • nutmeg

3. Know your herbs.
You can use just about any dried herb, but keep in mind that dried herbs taste differently than fresh. Smell them first to gauge the flavor. Make sure it is a flavor that you are looking for in your rub.

4. Know your peppers.
Each type of pepper will impact your rub differently. Know the effects of adding the different types.

  • Chili powder: mild heat, southwest flavor.
  • Ancho chili powder: medium heat, slightly sweet raisin-like flavor.
  • Chipotle chili powder: high spice, smokey flavor.
  • Cayenne pepper: not as distinct in flavor, mainly used to add heat.
  • Black pepper: medium heat, used almost universally in tandem with the chili powders above.

HOT TIP: The smokiness of chipotle chili powder may tempt you to add more, but it can quickly make your rub too spicy if you aren’t careful. If you’re looking for smokiness, use a little of this and opt for smoked paprika instead of regular.

5. Regional ingredients.
Choose ingredients based on the regional flavor profile you want to create.

  • Cumin: Mexican, BBQ, Indian, Thai. Use generously for Mexican and BBQ, a bit more sparingly for Indian and Thai.
  • Powdered ginger: Asian. Use with restraint.
  • Ground mustard: BBQ. Use moderately.

This list is, of course, not all encompassing, but should give you an idea of how to approach flavors.


Go-To Dry Rub

For a quick, fool-proof BBQ spice rub, try this go-to. This basic grilling rub can be used on any meat or vegetables next time you head to the grill.


  • 10 parts salt
  • 3 parts brown sugar
  • 1 part paprika
  • 1 part cumin
  • 1 part ground mustard
  • 1/2 part onion powder
  • 1/2 part allspice
  • 1/4 part cinnamon
  • 1/4 part chipotle chili powder
  • 1/4 part Mexican oregano
  • 1/4 part black pepper


1. Mix all ingredients together and store in low-moisture container.

2. Use liberally on smoked or grilled meats of any kind.