I have recently begun testing different types of dry rubs in preparing meat dishes. What base ingredients (outside of spice blends) should I be looking for in a good quality dry rub? If it is allowed, I'd appreciate if you could share products that contain the ingredients you are recommending.

  • I'm a little confused by "ingredients (outside of spice blends)". Are you expecting there to be a lot of unique non-spice ingredients in rubs?
    – Cascabel
    Jan 12, 2015 at 20:37
  • @Jefromi - I believe what he is referring to is outside of "packaged spice blends", i.e. "Lawry's Seasoned Salt", "McCormick Grill Mates Montreal Steak Seasoning", "Old Bay", etc. He wants to know what base ingredients to make his own blend.
    – dpollitt
    Jan 12, 2015 at 23:14
  • @dpollitt Maybe? The last sentence really makes it sound like he wants to buy something prepackaged. Shall have to wait for the OP to clarify, I think.
    – Cascabel
    Jan 12, 2015 at 23:16
  • I'm asking both. Any prepacked that fly under the radar (I've tried mainstream) and base ingredients for my own custom blend. Jan 12, 2015 at 23:19
  • 2
    I've edited my answer to try to answer the questions you seem to be asking, but it'd still be awesome if you could edit your question too. We don't want this to end up as a poll of everyone's favorite spices - we'd have to put it on hold. (I'd edit it myself but I don't want to put words in your mouth!)
    – Cascabel
    Jan 13, 2015 at 0:15

2 Answers 2


Premade blends

If you're trying to buy something premade, look for blends without filler ingredients. For example, if you see sugar or salt as the first ingredient, that's a bad sign. Sometimes you'll also see large amounts of garlic or onion powder. Yes, you may often want salt and even sugar in your rubs, but you'll probably be happier adding them yourselves than paying a dollar an ounce for them.

It's also a great sign if they list all the ingredients, not just "spices".

And of course, you want it to not be old, since ground spices lose potency over time, but that's hard to tell without opening it. You may be able to get a sense for decent brands, or know that your store replenishes stock frequently so it hasn't sat on the shelf forever.

Beyond that, it's mostly up to your preferences. You'll just have to learn what spices you tend to like. It can be the highest quality in the world but if you don't like the spices, you won't like the rub. Keep in mind that different things do taste better with different meats; if you want a starting place, look for recipes with that meat, and then look for premade rubs with similar ingredients.

If you can't find anything you like in your own grocery stores, but still want to look for premade, don't give up. Just start looking toward smaller producers. Sure, they may not be in your grocery store, but there may be some great local places, and a lot of them have online presence now so you can use other people's local places too!

Just to give you the spirit of the idea... Your profile says you're in Chicago - I've heard of The Spice House there (since they also sell online), and they do seem to have some rubs. I don't know if enough good barbecue has made it up there, but if you can find any barbecue restaurants that sell rubs, that could be a good bet too. (I ate at this place last time I was back home in Texas and they even sell some seasonings online. Haven't tried them, but the barbecue was certainly good!)

Making your own

This is really an incredibly broad question, as you can see from the breadth of recipes you'll find if you search for recipes for rubs. There are really no "base ingredients" that make a rub good. As with premade things, your spice preferences will be personal, and depend on what you're using it on too.

But all that is really good news. You can find tons and tons of recipes online; trying a few and seeing what kinds of things you like will get you pretty far. In particular, if you grind your own spices, basically everything will be awesome, and your favorites will be down to personal preference. So we can't really tell you which ones you'll like best, but you can start to find out, and if you're grinding up single batches, you won't be wasting much along the way.

  • Also pre-packaged rubs with sugar tend to get hard if there is too much moisture in the container. If you are making your own, buy a small electric coffee grinder and whole spices so that you can make the rub fresher by grinding the herbs/chilies yourself (do not put sugar or still hot roasted spices into the grinder). Jan 15, 2015 at 5:01

Like the wikipedia (*) says, spice rubs melange are highly personal.

I don't think there is a proper answer to your question.

IMO, everything goes... (or nearly everthing)

It depends on the type (and/or ethnicity) of the spice rub and the type of meat or fish.

If wanting a more of a sweet flavour, then add some more sugar (dark sugar) and spices related to sweets like cinnamon, cardamom, ginger all-spice, .. ; if wanting a more savoury flavour, then use more salt and savoury spices and herb (thyme, mustard, celery salt, .. )

Hot pepper (powder or flakes) can be added to both savoury or sweeter rubs (to taste)

... Experiment, Experiment...

(*) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spice_rub

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