Recipe: Great rubs for the barbecue transform lesser cuts of meat

It’s good to have a really great spice rub in your grilling arsenal, especially if you want delish, tender meat on a budget — rubs permeate tough cuts, creating complex layers of flavor.

“They help meat taste and look delicious and they’re crucial to the formation of a tasty, crusty bark,” writes Texas pitmaster Aaron Franklin and co-author Jordan Mackay in “Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto (Ten Speed, April 2015, $29.99).

What sets a great rub apart from a lesser competitor depends on the whims of the cook. Standard rubs include salt, pepper, granulated garlic and onion and often paprika or dried chilies for a bit of heat; the goal, notes the authors, is to “complement a nice piece of meat, not to obscure a crappy piece of meat. All spices should react well with one another. No one spice should stand out or be too recognizable.”

Restraint, along with balance, also is the name of the game when stirring together sauces and marinades. You want to dress up the meat or fish, not drown it.

Always apply a rub to meat about 1 hour before cooking, letting it come to room temperature before placing on the grill. This allows the seasoning to “sweat” into the meat, Mr. Franklin explains. Also, try to get an even coat of rub over the surface of the meat to allow for even cooking.


This chicken rub has incredible depth and flavor, and works just as well on beef and pork as it does poultry.

2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 1/2 teaspoons ground red pepper

1 1/2 teaspoons cumin

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon ground thyme

1 teaspoon ground oregano

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Stir together salt and remaining ingredients. Store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.


1/2 cup paprika

1/4 cup chili powder

3 tablespoons salt

2 tablespoons ground coriander

2 tablespoons garlic powder

2 tablespoons white sugar

2 tablespoons curry powder

2 tablespoons dry hot mustard

1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper

1 tablespoon ground basil

1 tablespoon ground thyme

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon cayenne

Mix all ingredients together and store in a jar until ready to use.

Rub on chicken, beef, or pork before barbecuing.


3 tablespoons dried thyme

3 tablespoon dried rosemary

2 dried bay leaves

2 tablespoons dried basil

2 tablespoons dried marjoram

1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds

1 teaspoon dried summer savory

1 teaspoon dried lavender buds

Combine ingredients, leaving bay leaves whole. Prepare at least 1 hour before using so the bay leaves have time to infuse the mixture with their flavor. Store in dark cupboard in a glass jar with tight-fitting lid for up to 6 months.

Remove bay leaves before using.

Makes 2/3 cup.