Quick Recipes and Easy

Making a Better Dry Rub

Go to any grocery store, specialty food shop, or food show, and the shelves will be overflowing with dry rubs and seasoning blends. Many of these have names and packages that will either leave you smiling or scratching your head, but the sad part is, 99% of these have two things in common – lack of originality and flavor. It is the same ancient same ancient – a few different spices thrown together to make something that smells and tastes like Shake and Bake.

But, it is that remaining 1% that truly go out of their way to make a blend that is uniquely theirs. For them it is more than just a way to make a dollar – it is a passion. A passion for achieving a top notch product that truly stands out from the crowd. It is through the use of better ingredients that they are able to make this happen.

Most dry rubs and seasonings start using a similar formula – a mixture of paprika, peppers, salt, sugars, and other spices. Depending on the flavor the manufacturer is trying to achieve, they may also include very specific and sometimes unusual ingredients. This is where most dry rubs fall small.

When working with a computer, if you place junk in, you get junk out, and dry rubs are no different. Use a less than quality ingredient, and you end up with a less than quality product. Most people are unaware that virtually each and every spice used has varying levels of quality. For example, let’s look at black peppercorns. There are a wide number of varieties, some of which are well known as being of higher quality. This is due to their higher concentrations of the pungent oils that give them flavor. Obviously, the higher the concentration of oil, the greater the flavor, and of course, the higher the cost.

Because of this increased cost, most dry rub manufacturers will simply use whatever ingredients are available at the lowest costs. Needless to say, this robs the dry rub of ever achieving a superior flavor. Prime point, try comparing right Hungarian paprika with the standard off-the-shelf variety…there is no comparison.

As a further cost saving measure, many manufacturers rely on additives and flavorings to reduce their costs. For example, rather than really use products that have been slow smoked, many manufacturers will use smoke flavorings to give their products an “off the grill” flavor. While this is a cost efficient way of producing a rub, it is not how you produce a quality product. While very excellent at coming close, additives and flavorings very rarely equal the flavor of the real ingredient, robbing you of flavor (I won’t even get into the health concerns of additives here…that’s a whole other article!)

So the next time you are in the grocery store and are about to buy that bottle of dry rub, place it down and take the time to reward yourself with a truly high quality product. You won’t regret it, and who knows, you may even learn flavors you never knew existed!

Joe Johnson is a proud Texan and founding partner and chief pit-master with

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