Texas barbecue is famous for many reasons, notably the prevalent use of dry rubs on smoked meats. Dry rubs are a great way to add rich flavor to your dishes, and the right combination of spices can easily help you take your barbecue to the next level.  

Rather than spending (and potentially wasting) money trying to buy the perfect dry rub for your next barbecue, you may have thought about making one yourself, and this is a great idea! By making your dry rub, you have complete control over what balance of seasonings go into your dish, and there is none of the guesswork that sometimes comes with purchasing a pre-made rub. 

Still, if you are unsure where to start when building the right homemade Texas barbecue dry rub, don’t worry. We’re here to help. Consider how different spices can affect the flavor of your dry rub and help you build the perfect seasoning for any dish you smoke. 

In our previous blog, The Dry Rub: A Texas Barbecue Institution, we discussed how your trusty salt and black pepper are the foundations of almost any dry rub. Indeed, some pitmasters use only salt and pepper in their dry rubs, and the results are fantastic. A general rule of thumb is to start with a 50/50 combination of salt and pepper when building your base. Doing so creates a balance so the salt (which also acts as a preservative) does not overpower the rest of the seasonings. 

Many people wonder whether adding sugar to their dry rubs is okay, and indeed, Texas pitmasters have strong opinions on the subject. Some swear by white sugar, others use brown sugar, and some think sugar has no place in a dry rub.  

If you want to add a dose of sweetness to your barbecue dry rub, add the same amount of sugar as you do salt and pepper. Like pepper, sugar can help balance out the taste of the salt. Moreover, it can help the meat caramelize on the outside as it smokes, adding a delicious, savory crunch to your fork-tender meat. 

You may be one of those people who want more variety in your dry rub besides salt, pepper and sugar. There are countless other spices that you can add to your mixture, and some of the most popular for smoked dishes include: 

  1. Paprika: Paprika adds a smoky flavor and a beautiful red color to your rub. There are both sweet and smoked varieties of paprika, and although both add a smoky flavor, sweet paprika is a bit milder. 
  1. Cumin: Often used in Latin American and Middle Eastern cuisine, cumin is pale green and adds an earthy flavor to smoked meat. Some people also say it adds a hint of citrus to the dish. 
  1. Chili Powder: By offering smokiness and heat, chili powder adds more spice than traditional paprika. The two can be used together, however. 
  1. Garlic Powder: Add garlic powder to your dry rub to include the robust flavor of fresh garlic. However, this spice should be used sparingly, as a little goes a long way. Generally, you should use half the amount of garlic powder you would use for salt. 
  1. Onion Powder: Like garlic powder, onion powder can add fresh onion flavor to your dry rub. Again, a little goes a long way, and most people use a ratio of 0.5:1 compared to salt. 
  1. Mustard Powder/Ground Mustard: Add mustard powder to your dry rub for tanginess. Think of it as adding a dried version of your standard prepared mustard to your meat. 
  1. Cayenne Pepper: Add cayenne pepper to your dry rub if you want to bring the heat to a dish. Be forewarned, however, that cayenne pepper packs a punch. It should be used sparingly, usually at a rate of no more than 0.25:1 compared to salt. 
  1. Sage: Although a member of the mint family, sage is known for its smoky, woodsy flavor that pairs very well with smoked meats. Adding it to your dry rub can easily add a hint of the great outdoors to your barbecued meats. 

The good thing about dry rubs is that there is virtually no limit to the flavor combinations you can create. Other spices you may want to include in yours include rosemary, thyme, turmeric and more. It’s all about finding the right flavor for you. 

Once you’ve decided which spices to use in your dry rub, do not just dump everything in a bowl and hope it sticks. Instead, make your salt and pepper base (and include your sugar if you choose to use it). From there, add the other spices in small amounts at first (you can always add more, but you cannot take any away).  

An easy way to mix your spices is to add them to a glass jar, close the lid, and shake the jar to combine them. Glass jars also make excellent storage containers, so you won’t have to worry about using multiple containers when making your rub. When stored in a glass jar in a cool, dry place, your rub will usually keep for several months. 

And when it’s time to season your meat with your dry rub, remember that even application is the key to success. First, let your meat come to room temperature for at least 30 minutes before applying the dry rub. Room-temperature meat is often much easier to work with. Apply your dry rub to every inch of your meat in an even layer using your fingers (some people like to wear gloves to avoid a mess). If you are using meat with skin on it (e.g., chicken), add the dry rub both on top of and under the skin. Afterward, let your meat rest and absorb the flavor for about 30 minutes before popping it into your smoker. From there, you’ll be well on your way to a delicious barbecued meal, complete with your own seasoning blend. 

If you’re unsure what flavor palate you’re looking for in your dry rub, Hutchins BBQ’s brisket seasoning is a great place to start. Pick up your jar in our online store today, and stock up on our signature sauces and certified Hutchins swag while you’re there. Don’t forget to check back to our blog regularly, where we provide plenty of tips and tricks for making your next Texas barbecue a meal you’ll never forget. 


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