Dry Rubs 101: How to Make and How to Use Them

 BBQ dry rub on a spoon

Some BBQ or pitmasters insist that all you need for a perfect piece of meat is salt and pepper. While that may be true for some people and some cuts of meat, others enjoy experimenting with different flavors and spices to create a golden, crunchy, flavor-packed coating of spices to take a high-quality piece of meat and elevate it even further.

Dry rubs are a fantastic way to spice up your next BBQ or grilled meats, but if you've never tried to make or use a rub before, you can quickly confuse it with things like marinades. Dry rubs are very different than marinades in the way they deliver flavor and are perfect for those who don't have the time or patience to marinade meats.

What Is a Dry Rub?

A dry rub is a blend of dry herbs and spices that is liberally applied and then rubbed onto the surface of meat or seafood to add flavor before it is cooked. Depending on the mix of spices, a rub's flavor profile can work perfectly on meat, poultry, seafood, and even vegetables.

Dry rubs are not just for imparting flavor; dry rubs can also create a crunchy, deeply golden crust on food that adds exquisite texture, and the best part is how they are almost an effortless means to create incredible meals for yourself, your friends, and your family.

Where to Begin?

To begin creating your homemade dry rub, it all starts with the base. Typically, the base begins with salt. Salt is essential as it not only amplifies the flavors of the rest of the spices and herbs you'll add to the blend, but it helps penetrate the meat when it is applied and left to rest. When creating a dry rub that uses salt and brown sugar, try using more salt than sugar, as the sugar caramelizes and can burn under high heat.

Base Dry Rub Recipe

A typical dry rub to get you started with a piece of meat or seafood:


  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper (freshly ground if possible)

Optional ingredients, if desired:

  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (for kick.)


  1. Gather ingredients
  2. Mix sugar, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, black pepper, and optional ingredients, if desired, into a bowl
  3. Prep meat if needed by trimming any excess fat, then pat dry thoroughly with a paper towel
  4. Apply 1 tablespoon or less of olive oil, or oil of choice to the dry meat to help the spices stick
  5. Sprinkle the spices directly onto the meat, then massage the spice thoroughly with the other hand on all sides of the meat or seafood you are preparing

Wait: There's a Wet Rub and a Dry Rub?

Yes! But a wet rub shouldn't be mistaken for a marinade. A wet rub uses the same spices you'd utilize in a dry rub, but instead of water or vinegar, mix the spices with a small amount of chosen oil until it forms a paste, then apply it directly to a dried piece of meat or seafood as you would a dry rub with your hands. Oil doesn't evaporate during cooking and can help the seasoning adhere to the protein.

How to Apply a Dry Rub

A dry rub is directly messaged into the meat or seafood. Always dry your protein of choice before applying with paper towels or a clean, lint-free towel. Once it is dry, directly sprinkle the spice mix onto the protein (or use a tiny amount of oil before the spice mix) and coat the meat generously on all sides and surfaces with the dry rub, then take one hand or two and begin to rub it or massage it onto the meat.

Depending on the cut of meat, you may let it rest for up to 30 minutes at room temperature before cooking.

Made a Big Batch of Dry Rub? Avoid Cross Contamination.

If you create a large batch of dry rub to store in an airtight container for later use. In that case, it's always best to pour the amount of rub you know you will use into a bowl, then ensure you have one hand used as the "sprinkling" hand and one that rubs the meat, Keeping one hand that only touches the spices and one that only touches meat because if you don't, you'll have a damp hand dipping into your jar which not only causes clumping but can cause bacterial contamination.

Dry Rub Tips for Pork Shoulder, Brisket or Ribs

When it comes to dry rubs and smoking larger pieces of meat like pork shoulders, briskets, or ribs, we encourage you to try applying a thin layer of your favorite mustard or hot sauce to the surface of the meat before adding your dry rub. Mustard helps increase the moisture in these cuts while allowing the spices to adhere to the meat.

Are There Premade Rubs?

Luckily for the busy griller, smoker, or BBQer, Wholey's has several unique seasoning mixes and spice blends that can work very well as a dry rub when you're in a hurry or don't have time to experiment.


Wholey's Robust Rib Eye Seasoning is the perfect blend of everything our customers love about our Robust Ribeye Marinade, with salt, pepper, fragrant garlic, a hint of coriander and dill seeds, and rich, robust smokiness that creates a perfect crust, not just for steaks for any piece of beef.


Give your pork the sweet, savory deliciousness it needs to become a truly stunning showcase for your next meal with Wholey's Original Pork Rub. Hints of deep, smokey, non-spicy peppers and cumin, salt to draw out moisture, and essentials like sweetness from sugar will create the juiciest, most flavorful cut of pork yet.


Wholey's has a mouth-watering dry rub for a spectacular piece of chicken, whether breast, wing, thigh, or the entire chicken. Our Feather N Fowl seasoning mix, with the perfect balance of salt, garlic, onion, hints of sugar, dashes of red bell pepper, and a secret but proven blend of herbs meticulously formulated to take the chicken out of this world in flavor.


Look no further than our Fish N Fin seasoning blend that may take the pickiest seafood eaters and turn them into seafood lovers. Salt as the base, of course, with a dash of celery, red pepper, black peppers, ginger, paprika, cardamon, and other herbs and spices formulated to accompany any piece of seafood for a rich, complimentary flavor. Excellent on any style of fish, shrimp, crab, oyster, scallops and much more!

At Wholey's, we are genuinely committed and passionate about everything we do with our products, from how they are sourced, caught, cut, or spiced. We want to make meals and cook something as exciting and inspirational as we find them. As always, whatever you prefer, premade or homemade, which type of rub you use can be tailored to your preferences for a light crust on an outer layer of meat dripping and packed with flavor. We hope you'll find the perfect dry rub to try today!