Friday, July 6, 2012

Dry Rub Grilling

by Sheila Connolly

In case you've been living in a cave lately, it's hot outside, in most of the country.  I live in a house without air conditioning, except for a few window units (it's hard to retrofit Victorian houses, besides which, when the house was built there was no direct heat to the second floor—darn those thrifty Yankees!), so no ducts.  That translates to "I don't wanna cook in the kitchen."  So—the the grill!

I'm using the same Weber kettle grill that I've had for, oh, twenty or thirty years?  I know, I know—there are all sorts of fancy gas or propane grills, with built in thermometers and other good stuff, but the Weber gets the job done, and there are only two moving parts (vents).  We're used to each other.  I also know that charcoal briquets are toxic, fire-starter is toxic, I'm polluting the atmosphere and consuming large quantities of carcinogens.  Please feel free to use whatever grill you fancy.

I am a carnivore.  I like to grill meat.  Oh, I've grilled chicken and veggies and fish and shrimp, but the scent of meat is still the most intoxicating.  I usually avoid steak because it's overpriced, and it's hard to know if you'll get something tender or something that resembles shoe-leather.  Recently at our market we came upon a brace of amazing bone-in pork chops, and I said, "we must have those!" (Let me note that for many years we deferred to our daughter, who wanted only sanitized boneless chops and then proceeded to cut off the entire perimeter to get rid of the "squidgely bits."  I firmly believe that bone-in chops have better flavor and don't dry out as quickly when you cook them.)

Yes, you can just throw them on a hot grill and cook away (note:  there is still some concern about eating undercooked pork, so be sure they're not pink in the middle, but don't let them dry out).  But if you want a more interesting flavor, try something like this:


The Ingredients
2 tsp. black peppercorns
2 tsp. yellow mustard seeds
1 tsp. cumin seeds

3 Tblsp. paprika

2 Tblsp. brown sugar

2 tsp. kosher salt (said to stick better to meat)

1 tsp. garlic powder (I use some made by a local farmer—it's delicious)

½ tsp. cayenne powder

If you have other favorite spices, go ahead and add them too.

Put the ingredients in a grinder and grind them up.  Me, I don't have a spice grinder, and if I used my coffee grinder for this I don't think my coffee would ever taste the same again, so I used my (ancient, wedding-present) blender.  You can also take a mortar and pestle and do it by hand.

Ready to rub

Dry off your chops (or whatever—this works for chicken too) and pat the dry rub onto it, pressing it in.  Since there's cayenne involved, be careful.  If you have latex gloves, use those; if you don't, make sure you wash your hands carefully after applying the rub, and don't (DON'T) rub your eyes before you do.

Rubbed and ready for the grill

This isn't very time-sensitive.  It might get soggy if you leave the meat overnight, but if you're setting up to grill, it can sit for a while.  Then grill!  Since this is pork, and the chops were thick, I gave each side a quick sear, then put the top on the grill and let them cook through.  Timing will depend on how thick your meat is and how hot your fire is.  Mine came out flavorful and juicy—and I still have some of the rub left over for the next heat wave!

And the kitchen stayed cool!

P.S. You might notice the grilled potatoes alongside the chops.  I wanted potatoes to balance the spice of the meat, but I didn't want to boil them.  I had a batch of Yukon Gold fingerlings, so I just skewered them, sprinkled them with some oil, salt and pepper, and cooked them alongside the chops.  With the thick chops, the timing came out right, but if you are using thinner meat, you should  start the potatoes earlier.


  1. We use dry rubs for all kinds of grilled items. Delicious. A curry mix makes a great dry rub, too. It's fun to experiment with various dried herbs and spices. And it sure beats hanging out in a hot kitchen!

  2. Edith, sometimes I put things like this together just by opening spice jars and smelling them. We should never be afraid to experiment! (Although my husband really like to have the written word in front of him, even for recipes that he's been making for decades.)

  3. ooh, I can see myself putting the rub all over my chicken. Would it work for fish?