What Is a Rub?

That’s a great question, rubs are not new their origin dates back to the origins of cooking. Any time that a blend of spices and herbs is applied to food before cooking, you are using a rub even salt and pepper is a rub. The term rub can be misleading it is usually dusted on to meats and not always "rubbed" into the surface. But a rub is a spice and/or herb mix that can be added to the surface of foods before cooking to add flavour and create a crust/bark or a glaze.

There are two types of rub, one dry and the other wet, rubs are used more often on barbecues and grilling because they can stick to meats when grilled or smoked. The base for most, rubs start with Sea salt and sugar, after that almost anything can be added.

Sea salt helps the rub penetrate; salt excites our taste buds causing them to open up it also rounds out the other flavours. Sugar is a common addition to rubs it caramelises when heated. Because barbecue is traditionally cooked at low temperatures 130C burning point of sugar it is safe to use sugar.

Dry Rubs

A dry rub is a mix of herbs, spices, and seasonings that when applied the outside of meat, poultry, vegetables or fish creates a crust or glaze adding flavour and texture to the protein

Dry rubs are most often used in barbecue, grilling and smoking because of their ability to stick to the food.

Each rub recipe is unique and there is a wide number of them out there, they tend to be simple, most rubs are based on a standard set of flavours. In addition to the ingredients named above, it is typical to find garlic and onion powders, cumin, paprika, oregano, and many of the most common herbs and spices in the typical home spice rack.

Add cocoa powder to rubs

Cocoa is an under used seasoning it has a long history as a savoury inclusion I often use single origin cocoa powder from Colombia at 12% not to overpower but just lift the already fantastic aromatics in spice mix. Adding cocoa powder to a dry or wet rub can transform dishes into more adventurous and tasty creations. “There is also something called chocolate curing,” This uses cocoa in a dry rub for seasoning chicken breasts or salmon filets. Use cocoa-based rubs on red meats like pork or lamb, because they can take the complex flavours of cocoa.

Rubs add flavour and colour,

As well as helping to produce the "crust or bark" surface on meats. rubs add colour, bark is a smoke-infused crust on the surface of slow-smoked meats that is so important in the world of barbecue. To add colour, rubs often rely on a heavy amount of paprika and/or chili powder, depending on how spicy the chef wants their dish to be. These red spices give meats colour and, if used properly, help to create an almost glaze or sauce-like consistency on the surface but you can balance them with other ingredients that don’t have as much punch.

Blending your own signature rubs

Rule one,use the best ingredients you can afford, start with salt and sweet, specifically sugar, sea salt. If you choose plain salt and plain sugar you will get a very basic base to start. Of course, most people who have been making rubs for a while use something different. Sugar can be white, brown, or any other kind of sugar you like, salt can be smoked, Himalayan sea salt.

From here you build on the flavour and the colour that will make the rub add something extra to the food you use it on.

How much Rub to use.

As a rule, the amount of rub needed for any piece of meat is whatever sticks to it. For this reason, it is a good idea to make a good amount and keep them on hand. and whatever sticks is the right amount needed.

Applying Rubs

Apply rubs with a shaker evenly over the entire surface don’t forget rubs need time to work their magic. How long a rub should rest on the food before cooking it depends on the density of what you are applying it to and how strong the flavours of the rub are? From as little as 20 minutes up to several hours practice and even keep notes.

When applying a rub to chicken with skin on, put it under the skin too.

Lightly scoring meat, poultry, and fish will help the rub flavours penetrate further.

Wet Rubs/ Marinades (pastes)

Wet rubs are also called pastes, they stick to food better than dry rubs. Wet rubs are made by adding liquid to a rub which can be anything that will add flavour. Common ingredients added to make a wet rub include, mustard, crushed garlic, oil, lemon or lime juice, spirits whiskey gin port sherry soy or Worcestershire sauce, wine, horseradish, and yogurt.

Which rub is the best?

The best rub in the world is the rub you like best, and more often than not is the one you make.

How to Store Rubs

Dry rubs will keep in tightly closed containers up to 6 months out of direct sunlight.

If you're planning on making a large batch of dry rub, check the dates use the most recently purchased dried herbs and spices. Most lose their flavour after the bottle has been open for 9 months to a year.

Wet rubs will keep for a few weeks in the fridge.

Basic BBQ Rub

Preparation Time: 5 minutes

Cooking Time: 5 mins

Makes: 4

1 Tbsp. cumin

1 Tbsp. paprika

1 Tbsp. garlic powder

1 Tbsp. onion powder

1 Tbsp. chilli powder

1 Tbsp brown sugar

2 Tbsp sea salt

1 Tbsp cayenne pepper

1 Tbsp black pepper

1 Tbsp white pepper


Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Store in an airtight container.

Xocolat Sweet & Spicy Rub

we can put chocolate on our meat fish and potatoes, not to mention our vegetables Chocolate has been savoury longer than it has sweet the Mayans knew how to make the most of this food of the gods.

Preparation Time: 5 minutes

Cooking Time: 5 mins

Makes: 4 110ml jars


125g Cocoa powder

15g Sea salt,

5g Ground Black pepper

100g Brown sugar,

10g Garlic powder,

10g Onion powder

5g Smoked paprika

15g Chilli Flakes

1 Tbsp. chilli powder


Place all ingredients into a clean dry bowl mix together thoroughly, store in jars until need.

Sprinkle coating the meat on all sides Grill or oven bake.

Read more about rubs and cocoa here

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