The secret to expertly seasoned meat, fish or veggies is actually stupidly easy: Don’t even think about letting anything touch the grill this summer without giving it a good rub down first. Dry rubs are a great way to add flavor to anything you grill, and these are some of the best rubs you can buy.
A dry rub usually has these three ingredients: salt, pepper and brown sugar, which gives meat and fish a healthy dose of flavor and some sweet caramelization (thanks to the sugar) when it hits the heat. But once you’ve got those as your base, you can go crazy, adding whatever spices make sense with the natural flavor of what you’re cooking. (For example, cayenne is kinda awesome on fish.)
But don’t stress if you’re not a flavor chemist: Each of these ready-to-buy rubs is a delicious flavor bomb that’ll add texture, too, without you having to lift a finger. Some of them even skip the sugar (it’s your life, live it how you want), but bring all of that crazy-good taste. Break one out for Memorial Day, and experiment with other blends all summer long. Another bonus: Unlike a marinade or sauce, you can add a rub right before you cook the meat, making them a godsend for any impromptu grilling sesh!
This legendary pit outside of Austin serves up some of the most flavorful barbecue in the area. Thankfully you can skip the drive (and the massive lines) and make your own version at home with this rub that’s a smoky mix of salt, black pepper, cayenne and other spices. It’s seriously addictive.
Everything but the Bagel Sesame Seasoning isn’t the only bottle to make a beeline for in the Trader Joe’s spice aisle — grab this deep, complex and delectable rub too and give your burgers, brisket and pot roast a jolt with coffee and garlic. Yep, the bitter grounds, when mixed with roasted garlic, smoked paprika, brown sugar, salt and dried orange peel makes a sweet treat with smoky flavor on the grill.
Craving Korean barbecue? This bulgogi-inspired blend of light brown sugar with jaggery (an unrefined sugar), smoked paprika, toasted ground ginger and garlic, candied ginger bits, orange zest, black and toasted white sesame seeds, Korean chile flakes and minced onion is a great shortcut to tons of flavor. You could obviously use it on steak and other cuts of beef — or even pork — but we have a feeling it would be dynamite on shrimp too.
Tom Douglas Store
James Beard Award-winning Seattle Kitchen chef Tom Douglas came up with this dry rub, and trust us, it’s the best way to visit the Pacific Northwest without ever having to leave home. Sure, you could use this one on chicken or pork chops, but the blend of paprika, thyme and brown sugar is perfect for salmon fillets, and a portion of sales goes towards the Alaska Wild Salmon Fund.
Related Reading: The Best Places to Buy Seafood Online
Sur La Table
If you’re hosting a boat-shoe-clad crowd (or just a bunch of land-locked pals who have dreams of living oceanside), give the meal an East Coast vibe with this hand-blended rub, which is an ideal pairing with flaky white fish like haddock or cod. (It’s also extra tasty when added to chowder or steamed shellfish.) Just don’t forget to ask someone to bring a six-pack of Narragansett. Get it for a couple bucks off right now as we near the end of summer, the perfect time for a seafood feast.
Sur La Table
You’ve heard of deboning a chicken, but how about deboring it? Take your basic chicken to new heights with this Tuscan mix of garlic, pepper, rosemary and dried oregano. Two teaspoons per pound of chicken should do it, and presto! It’s what we imagine living in central Italy for the summer would taste like. Someone please confirm.
Why stop at Chinese five spice when you can crank it up to 12? Another Tom Douglas mix, this rub contains fennel, cloves, cardamom, star anise and sumac berry, just to name a few fragrant ingredients. Try it on anything, really, but don’t sleep on grilled duck breast.
This dry rub is just like a margarita cocktail: We’ll have it with anything and any day of the week. Its ingredients are family simple — chile pepper, brown sugar, salt, orange zest, spice and lime oil — but it adds major personality to almost everything it touches. (Just like a round of margs, amirite?) It’s as mouth-watering on beef as it is on shrimp or veggies, and it even looks pretty on your spice rack.
And this dry rub is just like a pizza! The blend of herbs, spices, tomato and nutritional yeast (for that authentic cheesy flavor) could definitely be used on meat or poultry, but try it on grilled veggies too — if you like mushrooms on your pizza, use this as a rub on a meaty portobello burger for a delicious vegetarian barbecue dish.
Give your at-home grilling party a major steakhouse feel with a rub that’s got dehydrated blue cheese in it (along with paprika, garlic, onion and salt). Once your steaks hit the grill, you’ll get a tangy, rich crust that’s even better than what you’d find at a white tablecloth joint. Hot tip: It’s even great sprinkled over popcorn.
It’s totally cool if you haven’t made it to Morocco yet (#bucketlist) because this rub can transport you there in mere minutes. It has all the good herbs and then some: coriander, cumin, garlic, turmeric, ginger, onion, salt, chili powder, black pepper, cloves, paprika, cinnamon and nutmeg. Together, they make the most divine, not-from-here beef rub you can get without a plane ticket.