Some foods just don’t need anything other than a little Salt and Pepper. A great steak comes to mind. On the other hand, some meats love swimming in sauces. Like pork ribs. Other meats are not very flavourful on their own and are a blank canvas that is easily painted with herbs, spices, and flavourful liquids. There are several ways to amp up the flavours of foods before cooking.


When chefs speak of seasoning a dish, they are usually not referring to adding herbs and spices. They are usually talking about Salt and Pepper. Period. And most chefs think that these two basic additives are absolutely positively essential. Salt is an excellent flavour enhancer because it actually opens up your taste buds and this really wakes up the flavour of meat and vegetables. It also helps meat retain water. If your diet requires low salt, go easy on it, but if you can handle a little, don’t skip a little “Dalmatian rub”, just plain Salt and Pepper, on almost anything. Click here to read more about salt and the different types of salt.

When the rest of you speak of seasoning, you usually mean Salt and Pepper and all the other flavourings. Spice blends, commonly called dry rubs, and wet rubs, which are spice blends mixed with Water or Oil are a great way to amp it up to 11. Pesto is a classic wet rub made with an Oil base.

What is a dry rub though? Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like: A dry rub is a blend of seasonings and spices, without any wet ingredients, that you rub on meat. This might sound kind of like a dry brine, but we’re talking about something else entirely. Unlike a dry brine, which stays on a piece of meat for a long period of time before being rinsed off, a dry rub is usually applied to meat shortly before it is cooked.

There are varying degrees of involvement when it comes to dry rubs. The simplest dry rub we find ourselves using is made from Salt, Pepper, and Brown Sugar, which delivers a solid dose of seasoning, flavour, and Sugar to be caramelized. But that’s just the baseline. You can go in just about any direction with a dry rub, as long as you include a good dose of Salt and Sugar.

As far as the other flavour enhancers I like to include, some heat is usually welcome—Scotch Bonnets offer plenty of kick, but I also like the fruity muskiness of both sweet and hot Paprika, or even Mustard powder. A little bit of Cumin, Coriander, or Black pepper lends some nice earthiness to the mix, and Onion or Garlic powder are almost always welcome. Crushed toasted Fennel seeds, good dried Oregano, Exotic tangy Sumac—you can go in whichever direction you please, as long as you remember to keep a balance between all of the components. You don’t want a dry rub that’s 90 percent heat. No one’s going to enjoy that.

You can buy pre-mixed rubs, but they are easy to make yourself, and a lot cheaper since most commercial rubs are loaded with Salt. Every good barbecue cook should have a few signature house rubs to brag on. Don’t be afraid to experiment with variations. But remember, you cannot judge a rub raw. It tastes very very different after cooking. The juices of the meat mix with the herbs and spices, melt them, and they undergo chemical reactions catalysed by the heat of the fire. A rub may taste too hot when raw, but keep in mind there will be a bite sized piece of food underneath it is diluting it. You may hate Rosemary, but you’ll never notice it in the blend, after mixing with juices, after cooking, and in with a mouthful of Pork. As always, I recommend you make my recipes unaltered the first time, and after you cook with it you can then alter it to your tastes.


A good rub is like a good orchestra, it has a range of instruments to play all the notes in harmony. They are:

Sugar. Sweetness is a common addition because it is a flavour enhancer, it helps browning, and with crust formation. Diabetics often ask me if there is a substitute, and the answer is NO. The chemical properties of sugar are unique. So let’s do the math. Let’s say you apply 2 teaspoons of Tumbulgum Meat Rub per side of a slab of Baby Back Ribs. It is about 30%  Brown Sugar. So on a slab of ribs there is about 2 teaspoons of Sugar. During cooking, some of it melts and drips off. So if you eat half a slab you are getting less than 1 teaspoon of Sugar. The glycemic load is about 3. Compare that with a slice of white bread with a GL of 10.

Savoury. There is an herb named Savory, and in common language we speak of Savoury as being a pleasant smell or taste, but in the culinary arts, Savoury flavours come from amino acids called glutamates, green herbs, some spices, garlic, and other flavourings.

Spices and herbs. Not all of them work on all foods, but our Shashemane Spice rack is full of great flavours. Paprika is often included, not so much for flavour as for colour.

Spicy. Hot Chilli sensations, often called spicy flavours, are often in rubs because they add excitement, but go easy, not everyone likes it as hot as you do. Black Pepper is common, so are ground hot Chillies such as Cayenne or Chipotle. Ginger, Horseradish, and Mustard powder also fit in this category.


Salt penetrates, so the amount we apply depends on the weight of the meat. All the rest are huge molecules that rarely go beyond 1/8″ deep. Spices and herbs are a surface treatment just like sauces so the amount we apply depends on the per square inches of surface.

Applying the Salt separately and in advance is a very important technique called dry brining. Dry brining is simply Salting thick cuts the day before cooking and thin cuts an hour or two before. Adding Salt in advance is good for the meat because it melts on the wet surface of meat and it penetrates deep.

Adding Spices in advance does little to benefit the meat below the surface because they cannot penetrate.

You need more Salt on a Pork shoulder than on Pork ribs because a shoulder is thicker. You need more Salt on rib roast than a rib Fillet steak, and more on a rib Fillet steak than on Skirt steak. You need more Salt on Chicken breasts than on thighs or drums. You need more Salt on the thick part of a leg of Lamb than on the thin part. You don’t need more Spices on any of these because they don’t penetrate. Keeping Salt and the other S’s separate lets you apply the right amount of each.

There are other good reasons to keep Salt separate:

  • You do not need any Salt at all on cured meats like a Ham, Bacon, or Corned Beef, but you might want Sugar, Savory, Spices, and Spicy.
  • Nowadays almost all Turkeys and many ribs, Pork loins, Chickens, and other meats are injected with a Salt solution at the processor. This helps meat retain moisture and adds weight which means profit. This trend is not going away. Many readers tell me they cannot find ribs that have not been pumped. Meat that is labelled “enhanced” or “flavour enhanced” or “self-basting” or “basted” has been injected with a brine at the packing plant. Kosher meat has also been treated with Salt at the plant.
  • Some people like more or less Salt than others. By keeping it separate you can tailor Saltiness to your taste. On more than one occasion I have been sent rubs to test and after applying them discovered to my dismay, that the meat was way to Salty. Why? Because I just didn’t know how much salt was in the rub and I couldn’t control the amount of Salt applied.
  • Some people are on Salt restricted diets, although when you do the maths, the Salt used in preparing meat, up to 1teaspoon of kosher salt per Kilo, is way below your limit.
  • Some rubs are mixed with Oil, and Salt will not dissolve in Oil. If you apply Salt first, the water in the meat will pull it in. Then the Oil won’t interfere.
  • Leaving Salt out of the mix also gives you room to add a finishing Salt just before serving. A sprinkle of large flaked Sea Salt on a steak as soon as it comes off the grill give it real pop. In some cases, such as Memphis style “dry” ribs with no sauce, you might want to apply a layer after cooking before serving. If there is no Salt in the rub there is no risk of oversalting.

You can add the Salt at the same time as the Spices. No harm, no foul. It will still penetrate, maybe not as deep, but it will travel when it gets wet and warm. But if you can get it on in advance, you give it a head start. Injecting is also a good idea. You should consider injecting thick meats, especially Beef brisket and Turkey breast (if they are not already injected).

I know almost all commercial rubs on the Australian, BBQ and Chilli scenes have Salt in them. Sometimes half the blend is Salt. That’s because Salt is cheap and rubs are expensive. The more Salt, the more the profit. Besides, most rub Chilli Rub manufacturers haven’t figured out the science and if they took the Salt out they would be so expensive people wouldn’t buy them. All the more reason to make your own rubs.

So Salt, Rub, and Sauce are three separate applications.

 You wouldn’t add the sauce to the rub would you? I often have to teach BBQ newbies not to apply sauce til the end of the cook. Let’s learn to add Salt in advance. Salt, Rub, and Sauce are like antifreeze, oil, and gas. They all go into the engine, but don’t mix them! Apply them in the right proportion at the right time. Or to carry the metaphor a little further, applying the Salt, the Rub, and the Sauce separately is like controlling the gas pedal, break, and clutch. Work them in harmony but separately.

Keeping the Salt in one hand and the Rub in the other gives you a lot more freedom and control. Remember, you can always add Salt, but you can’t take it away.


You can put a rub right on bare meat, or you can help it stick by moistening the meat with a little Water, Oil, or a slather of Mustard or BBQ sauce. I hope that the spices and herbs will melt a bit, make a nice flavourful slurry that will become a major part of the desirable lovable bark when it is heated and dries out.

Here’s a little experiment I did. I put my two most popular rubs in Oil and Water. TUMBULGUM DRY MEAT RUB, which is mostly spices, and RASTAMAN DRY JERK RUB, which is mostly herbs. As you can see, they dissolved much better in water. My experience is that they make little or no difference in the final outcome. I also tried them in 40% vodka and they dissolved a little better than Water, but alcohol can really mess with the structure of protein so I don’t recommend it.

Most cooks like to use a base of bottled Mustard under their rub. Bottled Mustard is a mix of powdered Mustard with Water, Vinegar, and/or White wine, all mostly Water. The amount of Mustard powder is so small that by the time the water steams off and drips away, the Mustard powder remaining is miniscule. If you want a mustard flavour, it’s better to simply sprinkle it on the meat. Far more important is what is in the rub than under the rub. So use whatever you want.


Toasting many spices amplifies their flavours by releasing their oils and changing chemical constructions through the Maillard effect. So here’s a trick to take your rubs to the next level. Warm a frying pan over medium heat and pour in your spices. Stir or shake them often. Don’t let them sit still for more than 10 seconds or they can burn. It only takes about two minutes to bloom them. You’ll know when the fragrance jumps out at you.

Either pour them out of the hot pan immediately or else they will continue to cook and burn or, if you wish, make a wet rub by adding some oil, not a lot, just enough to make a paste, and turn the heat as low as possible and cook for another minute so the oil will pull out more of the flavour.


To prevent contaminating your rub with uncooked meat juices, spoon out the proper amount before you start and seal the Packet or jar for future use. KEEP YOUR POWDER DRY.

There is a popular myth that you should not rub a rub, that you should sprinkle it on because rubbing it in cuts the surface and juices will run out.

BULLSHIT. There is a reason they are called cuts of meat. Meat is muscle that has been cut to remove it from the bones, fat, and other muscles. The surface has already been in a knife fight and there are gazillions of muscle fibres that have been sliced open. There are also trillions of microscopic ridges, valleys, cracks, crevices, pits, pockmarks, and pores in the surface. The surface is far from smooth. Rubbing a rub into the surface can’t hurt it one bit. It is not going to lose any more juice than if you just sprinkle it on. And rubbing might just help the meat hold onto the rub better.

To prevent cross-contamination, one hand sprinkles on the rub and the other hand does the rubbing. Don’t put the hand that is rubbing into the powder.


After Salting, the best arrangement is on a wire rack over a pan, Clingwrap. There is nothing about plastic wraps that forces Salt or rub molecules into the meat. It is not some sort of vacuum or pressure system. Plastic wraps just gets stuck to the rub and pulls it off when we remove the plastic. Liquid also accumulates in the plastic and washes away some of the spices. If you are dry brining poultry, you actually want airflow around the meat to help desiccate the skin.

In the restaurant world you are required by law to cover or wrap the meat, so juices won’t contaminate other foods like veggies. This makes sense, so be very careful if you leave raw meat uncovered in the fridge. If you wish, a roasting pan with a rack and a dome will work just fine.

If there are odours in the fridge, if there is something really smelly in there, plastic wraps will help keep out the smell, but remember, plastic wraps do not prevent air from entering and exiting, so if there is one of Ivan Milat’s dead friends in your fridge, the smell can penetrate most plastic wraps.

Otherwise, just leave the meat nekkid on a rack in a pan on the bottom shelf of the fridge. If you feel safer wrapping, go ahead. It really won’t hurt much.


I usually don’t like to use the word “DRY” when talking about our food. But there are exceptions. Like a good dry martini? Sure. Dry-aged steak? Absolutely. Dry rubs? Oh, yes. We love dry rubs. I prefer them to marinades almost every time. That’s right: When it comes to seasoning meat and developing an exceptionally textured exterior, nothing beats a dry rub.


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 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 chocolate.

The big advantage of DRY RUBS, and the reason I love using them so much, is that they don’t add any additional moisture to the exterior of a piece of meat the way that a marinade does. Whenever you apply heat to Chicken thighs, Pork chops, or any other piece of protein, the moisture on the surface needs to evaporate before a sear can start to develop, so dousing them in liquid beforehand doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. A DRY RUB—which is, naturally, dry—is going to put you on a faster track to the beautifully-caramelized crust you’re after.

But while a DRY RUB is my preferred pre-cooking treatment for meat, there’s nothing wrong with incorporating a liquid element after you’ve gotten some browning going. I love brushing a glaze, be it a mixture of Maple Syrup and Soy Sauce or just some store-bought BBQ sauce, onto Chicken thighs during the last few minutes that they’re on the grill or in the oven, creating layers of complex, concentrated flavour. And I’m all about finishing a grilled Rump steak with a pungent sauce once it’s cooked, rested, and sliced—nobody’s ever gotten mad about a drizzle of bright, herby Salsa Verde or Chimichurri. So, yeah: It’s not that I have a problem with liquids, it’s just that I don’t want to apply them to proteins until after it’s gotten its sear on.

That’s not to say a dry-rubbed piece of protein needs a secondary element. It doesn’t. If you balance all of the elements of a DRY-RUB correctly, that aggressively seasoned crackly exterior will hold its own. And by hold its own, we mean make you forget about marinades all together. Which you probably should do.


Start with a cup of Sea salt Flakes. A cup is about 250 grams. So make sure you weigh it to make sure, and then simply add an equivalent amount, by weight, of Sugar. Whether you use White Sugar or Brown Sugar doesn’t matter as long as it weighs the same as the Salt.

By the way, we’re not going to worry about weighing everything, but with Sea salt, the coarseness is what determines how much a given cup will weigh, and since the Salt and Sugar are the base, it’s a good idea to get those quantities right. And by the way, do not use table Salt. It’s got a metallic flavour that is more noticeable in larger quantities.


Next, most RUBS will feature a generous portion of Paprika. You can use smoked Paprika, which will impart a lovely wood-smoke flavour to your rub. But with a cup each of Salt and Sugar, you can go with anywhere from ½ to 1 cup of Paprika and not go wrong.

And with this ratio, 1 tablespoon of Cayenne pepper is probably about right to add a medium amount of heat. Remember, you’re not eating the rub by itself. It’s being distributed across the surface of the meat. Chipotle powder is another lovely way to add heat, colour, and smokiness since Chipotles are smoked Chillies.

Finally, Black pepper will also impart a bit of heat. You can add more or less, but if you’re going with 1 tablespoon of Cayenne, then 1 tablespoon of ground Black Pepper is probably about right. Ideally, you’d use freshly ground but grinding that much pepper can be tedious so it’s not the end of the world if you use the preground kind.


Finally, we have aromatics, which are a broad category of ingredients including Garlic and Onion powders, Cumin, Mustard powder, as well as dried herbs like Oregano. You’ll use a smaller quantity of each of these, but when combined they could easily make up 1 cup overall (assuming a base of 1 cup of Salt and 1 cup of Sugar).

These are your basics, and you can absolutely make an absolutely magnificent BBQ RUB using just the ingredients that have been mentioned so far.

But you can also branch out, once you’re ready to do some experimenting, into ingredients like Celery seed, Caraway seed, ground Ginger, and spices such as Allspice and Coriander, as well as herbs like Thyme, Rosemary, and Parsley.


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.


BBQ season is upon is. Wouldn’t it be great to prep a few things in order to save time on busy summer nights, or when you feel like throwing an impromptu get-together? These spice mixes will pair well with meats and fish you love, and if you’ve never grilled fresh vegetables and fruit—here’s your chance.

DRY RUBS can easily be batched ahead of time and stored for months. These seasoning blends will take your family and friends on a world flavour tour throughout the summer. Make one trip to the store and stock up on each ingredient, plus five 250 ml jars (depending on how often you BBQ).

A few of these blends contain fruit. How do you get fresh flavour into a shelf stable dry rub? You will have to take the extra steps & really dry things out in the oven or a dehydrator, but it’s well worth it. Simply scatter the dried fruit on a lined baking tray and bake at 60°c for an hour or until everything is crispy and crunchy. Toss the morsels into the blender or food processor with the other spices and you’ve got an extra dimension of flavour.


MOROCCAN: Cumin, Ginger, Coriander, Turmeric and Cinnamon are all prized flavours in Africa’s north-eastern corner. Rub on Turkey legs and Lamb chops, or into Meatballs before tossing on a fiery BBQ. Perhaps season a vegetable pouch (made with aluminium foil) with Chickpeas, Potatoes, Zucchini, Carrots and Tomatoes for a side-dish or Meatless Monday.

CARIBBEAN: the only kind of jerk we’re excited about is a delicious blend of Allspice, Thyme, Chipotle, Cloves, Cinnamon, Salt, Garlic powder and Black Pepper. Spice up Chicken wings, Pork chops, Wahoo, Mahi Mahi, and try your hand at grilling Plantain or Mango slices for a fun new experiment. Some fish may be too delicate to rub, but a light sprinkle will do.

JAPANESE: try crossing the ocean westward for this tropical Asian mix. Start with dried Persimmons, Pineapple and Mango, and blend with dried Seaweed, Ginger and Sesame Seeds. Sprinkle over Salmon or Tuna try it on Chicken or mix it in with Rice.

INDIAN: curry powder, a signature of Indian cooking, is a blend of many different flavours. Combine Mustard seed, Celery salt, Fenugreek, Turmeric, Fennel, Coriander, Cumin and Ginger to make your custom curry concoction. This mix will spice up chicken, Lamb, Fish, Eggplant or Tofu.

MAYAN: travel with me to South America with Cocoa, Coffee, Cranberry and Habanero. After you’ve dried out the Cranberries, blend them with your custom ratio of spices and enjoy the sweet, ancestral aroma filling the kitchen. This rub would be delectable on Ribs, Chicken breasts and halved Capsicums.


It’s common to see SPICE RUB recipes that are reckoned in terms of how much rub to use per kilo of meat. This is not a terrible way to calculate but bear in mind that you’re only seasoning the surface of the meat, and the surface area of a piece of meat does not exactly correspond to its weight. Therefore it’s a fairly inaccurate way to calculate.

What you want is simply to cover the entire surface of the meat. When no more will stick to it, and the excess simply slides off, you’ve applied enough. But since BBQ RUB keeps for several months when stored in a cool, dry place, you might as well make plenty and store what you don’t use in a zip lock bag or other airtight container. It’s not a bad idea, though, to label your container with the ingredients you used and in what quantities. That way when you go to replicate it later, or even if you want to modify it, you’ll know what was in it to start with.

View recipies here! http://mrchilli.com.au/recipes/