Make It Monday Recipe: Basic Dry Rub for Meats and Poultry

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We’ve heard from many readers, friends and family that they just don’t know how to cook even a basic recipe, or, make meats and poultry, well, tasty. We are here to help with our Make It Monday series of recipes 101.

Here’s another great basic tool—rubs–that you’ll use from your cookbook toolbox for years to come. 

Rubs—dry or wet—are great ways to flavor an otherwise bland piece of meat, pork or chicken. A rub is simply a mix of spices and herbs that are massaged into a piece of meat before it is cooked. My family loves when I slather on barbeque sauce and bake (or grill, of course), but there are times a simple rub will do. Rubs can cost a bit to buy premade. I never really “got into” buying rubs; instead, I just mix what I have on hand and over the years have managed to achieve more tasty rubs than disastrous rubs.

...mixed together...
Mix just about any spice and herb together for a rub that adds flavor to meat and poultry.

I recently tried to price out premade/store-bought rubs versus customized rubs, and honestly, there may not be a great price difference—my rubs cost pennies to make, but buying even the most expensive shelf-ready rub won’t break any budget. Plus, it depends on whether or not you use organic or conventional spices and herbs which will affect the cost.

Here’s the value in making your own rubs:

  • The creative process creates unique flavors you won’t find elsewhere!
  • You’re able to use what you already have on hand so you don’t waste anything in the end. If you have a sprinkle of garlic powder in your cabinet, use it up in a rub!! Don’t go out and buy a specialty rub—it probably already includes some garlic powder in it anyhow.
  • I’ve read many reviews of store-bought rubs and they weren’t positive. Many are “nothing special,” or “bland.” Many turn black when heated! I’ve never had a homemade rub turn black in the oven or on the grill.
  • You get to control how spicy or salty a homemade rub tastes. Many shelf-ready rubs are over-the-top salty (or spicy).

Here’s a sample of what I recently made: pork tenderloin with a dry rub of spices on hand.

Basic Dry Rub Recipe for Meats and Poultry

(I hesitate to add “fish” here — when I season fish, I simply put salt and garlic salt or garlic powder on the surface, or, sauteed garlic. For meats and poultry I like to kick up the flavor a notch.)

Ingredients (and you can do approximate measurements as I mention below about cumin):

  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin (really be careful here–if you don’t love cumin, 1 tsp can be overwhelming, so use 1/2 tsp to start)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or less if you are cutting back on salt)
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning (just hanging out in the cabinet so I decided to add in)


  • 1.5 pounds pork tenderloin
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic


  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  • Mix dry ingredients for rub and stir well with fork to combine.
  • Put raw pork on a plate and take rub in fingers, massage into meat all sides. Don’t add TOO much of the rub or else the added flavor will be overwhelming. Don’t coat the meat, just add enough to spice it up. You’ll get the hang of it as you use rubs over and over.
  • In skillet, sauté minced garlic in oil, for about a minute or so.
  • Place pork in pan and brown every side using large fork or tongs to turn meat.
  • After browned, put meat in roasting pan and bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees. (It’s okay if the meat may is a bit pink inside.) Note: add ½ cup of water to baking pan halfway through cooking time if the meat looks too dry.
  • Carve and serve (there will be no juice or gravy in the roasting pan).

(Save any extra rub mixture in airtight container for future meals!)

Note: Rubs can be made from all types of spices—don’t be afraid to experiment! The same mixture above can be used on chicken thighs or beef, but whatever you have on hand can work, too. I have used rub mixtures including dried thyme, onion powder, paprika (good on fish), chili powder, red pepper flakes – anything you think will taste great together works. And if you love the batch you made, make another huge batch and store it in your pantry (in a very airtight container) for future meals.

More about rubs: If you want to read more about the science of rubs, you’ll love this article on

Stay tuned for Aimee’s Make It Monday recipe next week!

~Marilyn, TFF