What is a dry rub? Or is it dry spice rub?

When you marinate meat, what do you use? Chances are, a liquid marinade. That was what I did most of the time. Until I discovered the advantages of dry rubs.

What it a dry rub? It means a mixture of dried spices, often with salt and sugar, that is rubbed directly into meat.

casaveneracion.com dry spice rub

Like so. If the rub contains spices only and no herbs, it is a dry spice rub.

casaveneracion.com dry rub with spices and herbs

If the mixture contains chopped herbs, then the generic “dry rub” is the more appropriate term.

What do I mean by dried spices?


Dried spices can mean anything from seeds crushed manually with a mortar and pestle to ground spices in powder form that are widely available in supermarkets and groceries.


The secret is in the proper mix-and-match. Some people guard their dry rub recipes very seriously.

So what’s the advantage of a dry rub over a liquid marinade? Is it more effective? It depends.

One disadvantage of a liquid marinade is that, in a container, the pieces (or portion, in case of meat slabs) of meat that touch the bottom catch the marinade while those on top don’t. So, you have to mix everything occasionally to make sure that every piece gets seasoned.

With a dry rub, occasional mixing is not necessary. Once you mix the meat with the spice (or spice-and-herb) mixture, every piece gets its share. And what sticks on each piece of meat does not fall off during the marinating time.

But which results in more tender and moist meat — liquid marinade or dry rub?

That depends on the size of the meat and the amount of fat in it. From experience, very lean meat, and any meat cut into very small pieces whether lean or not, do not do well with spice rubs as the salt (or anything salty) draws out moisture and there is no other liquid that can be absorbed by the meat.


But if you’re dealing with meat with substantial amounts of fat, so long as the meat isn’t cut too small, dry rubs are perfect.

In terms of marinating time, dry rubs seem to permeate the meat faster than liquid marinade. The country-style ribs in the second photo above were grilled after only two hours of marinating and they were very, very tasty, having absorbed the flavors in the spice rub in such a short time. With liquid marinades, the marinating time required is longer.

So, I’m at that point when I’m experimenting with different combinations of spices and herbs that should go perfectly with different kinds of meat, and different cuts of meat. The first photo in this post… That sat in the fridge overnight then I cooked the pork for lunch today. The recipe will be posted next.

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The Author

Hello, my name is Connie Veneracion. I cook, I shoot, I write. But I don't do the laundry. I don't like housekeeping very much either... (more about me)

7 Responses

  1. AtalantaRunning says:


    One of the very first recipe that I ever tried I got from a magazine, Fine Cooking, where you rub 3/4in porkchops with ground coriander, ground cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper and fry it in olive oil and serve it with salsa. Simple but tasty! Sometimes I just marinate for 30min and it still taste great. The spice rub will turn dark from the heat though so I guess you have to watch heat. Mine looked a bit burnt but still tasted good and the spices smelled wonderful too! Ubos! :-)

    • Connie says:

      Coriander, cumin and chili powder sound great. Add cinnamon and turmeric and it’s like curried pork chops. :)

  2. Dexie says:

    I never really thought of it. I alternate just to be creative.

  3. Jason says:

    A dry rub will tenderise, season and give the meat a crusty coating thereby sealing in the juices.

    An easy homemade rub…

    Instructions: (makes about ¼ of a cup)

    4 tbsp paprika
    2½ tbsp brown sugar
    2 tbsp chili powder
    1½ tbsp ground cumin
    1 tbsp black peppercorns (or ground pepper)
    2 tsp sea salt
    1 tsp cayenne pepper
    1 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)

    Combine all the spices together and then sprinkle this rub on to your meat and then lightly rub it in covering the whole piece. Cover the meat with clingfilm and place in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.

  4. John says:

    How do you match up a dry rub and injectable marinade for Brisket?

  5. You inject the marinade first then you roll in the rub. :)