May 16, 2011

By Contributor Marge Perry, A Sweet and Savory Life and Ask The Expert

What do you have on hand for dinner tonight-- chicken, pork, steak or salmon? A dry spice rub will turn that simple piece of something into a flavorful meal in five minutes of prep—just mix together the ingredients, pat it on your protein and bake, broil or grill. Better yet, make a triple or quadruple batch, and next time you race home late, it’s a matter of two, not five minutes.

I especially like rubs that combine sweet and spicy flavors. The sweet may come in part from a little sugar (I often use brown sugar for the extra depth of flavor), but cinnamon, cumin, nutmeg and other spices also lend sweetness. They need balancing out with spicy and savory flavorings: I like ground cayenne for heat (crushed red pepper doesn’t get dispersed well-enough for my taste) and I turn to dried herbs like thyme, oregano, and basil for savory balance.

It’s called a rub, but there’s not really a lot of rubbing involved—it’s more like patting the mixture on to the surface of the protein. (So we really should call it a spice pat, I suppose). When there’s sugar in the mix, be careful about scorching if you cook over direct heat, as when you grill and broil.  Proteins that need to cook through to the center evenly, such as chicken, shouldn’t be thicker than about 1/2-inch.

When you find a spice rub (or two) that you love, make a big batch and keep it in an empty, cleaned out spice jar or a zip-top plastic bag in your spice cabinet. It truly will add a bucket load of flavor to your meal—in just two minutes.

Find a rub (or two or three) you love, and make a big batch. You can also use it to create great flavor on longer cooking roasts. Apricot-Stuffed Spice-Rubbed Pork Loin (photo) and Cardamom Pork Roast with Apples and Figs are two recipes with spice rubs that I created for Cooking Light, and these rubs have also graced the surface of everything from company roasts to super fast weeknight meals in our house.

Search for Spice Rubs on MyRecipes and experiment to find the rubs you want to keep on hand as your five-minute dinnertime solutions.  Let us know which ones are your favorites.

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