Move over, marinades and barbecue sauces: Dry rubs are taking over grills everywhere. The herb and spice coatings — once the secret realm of grillmeisters — are losing their mystique.
They are commonly stocked in grocery stores and frequent referred to on cooking shows.
People are ready for something new on the barbecue, says Steven Raichlen, host of “BBQ University” on PBS and author of a series of books on the art of the grill.
“It’s a completely different treatment,” says Raichlen, who sells a line of barbecue accessories (including a variety of dry rubs) by mail order and online. “The public is just now discovering them.”
Rubs, he says, are relatively simple: Just take a piece of meat and cover it evenly with a seasoning mix of choice, about two to three teaspoons per pound, then grill. If the mixture has salt in it, cook meat within 10 or 15 minutes; otherwise, Raichlen says, the salt will dry out the meat.
Dry rubs are not only a different way to enhance grilled food, but they’re also good for keeping guests wondering about the ingredients. Raichlen’s line of dry rubs ranges from a lemonade mix to one with coffee crystals. The fun is in experimenting.
“Gals have makeup to play with, and guys have dry rubs,” he says.
At Penzeys Spices in Scottsdale, customers can buy dry rub ingredients separately or go for one of 25 prepared mixes, says manager Gerri Perriello. Most mixes, she says, contain the three basics — salt, sugar and paprika.
Northwoods, one of the store’s top-selling dry rubs, uses Hungarian sweet paprika as its main ingredient. (Northwoods also works as a seasoning for green salads with oil and vinegar, in egg or potato salad and in fish boils.)
Perriello recommends using dry rubs on meats that have to be cooked longer, because marinades and barbecue sauces have a tendency to burn. Additionally, she says, the salt in a rub will bring moisture to the surface, which in turn forms a crust to keep meats from drying out.
“The most important thing to do with a dry rub is to coat evenly,” she says.