Grilling Chicken With Dry Rub

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Did you know that when you are grilling chicken with a dry rub, if you coat the chicken carcass first and let it set for about 15 minutes, the dry rub will penetrate deeper into the meat when you go to grill? This will make for the most delicious chicken you ever tasted.

Just like many things in life, grilling chicken with dry rub is easier said than done! Just kidding!

The Best Dry Rub for Chicken

Chicken rub recipe - jar of chicken rub with label

Summertime means pulling out the grill! When I cook out, I usually want to stick to the basics, nothing too fussy. That often means picking up some chicken and throwing some rub on it before I grill it.

I like to make my own spice rub because I can control what goes into it and tweak it to my own tastes. Having a pre-made batch of the rub stored in the pantry means dinner is ready fast.

Dry rub chicken wings overhead shot of dry rub in jar with lid on side

What’s in This Spice Blend

This chicken rub uses a lot of paprika, along with granulated garlic and onion powder. It also has herbal notes with the addition of oregano and dried thyme. The coriander adds a floral, citrusy note, which works well with the neutral flavor of chicken meat.

Customize Your Rub

As with all spice rubs, you can customize the blend to your own taste.

  • Omit the cayenne if you don’t like it spicy.
  • Consider more pepper or reduce the salt to suit your palate.
  • Add herbs and spices such as dried basil, parsley, marjoram or sage to give the rub a more pronounced green herbal note.
  • Lemon, lime or orange zest add a citrus touch.
  • Porcini mushroom powder gives the blend an earthy savory umami kick. You can find it upscale grocery stores and online.

Use Fresh Spices and Herbs

Pantry herbs and spices don’t go bad, but they do lose potency and flavor. It’s best to use fresher dried herbs and spices for best flavor with this rub.

Most herbs and spices have a 2-year shelf life for potency. You can test each herb and spice by crushing a pinch of the spice or herb with your fingers and smelling it. If it smells dull or musty, it’s time to replace it.

Pro tip: Use an airtight glass jar to mix the ingredients together and you’ll save on cleanup!

Chicken spice rub recipe - mix of spices in bowl

How Long Does This Rub Last and How Should I Store It?

Store this spice rub in an airtight container in the pantry with the rest of your herbs and spices, clearly labeled with a date. If the spices you used are fresh, the rub should last a solid two years. If your spices aren’t quite that fresh, the rub won’t last as long.

What to Use It On

This spice rub is great on all chicken parts—breasts, thighs, legs, or wings. You can even sprinkle it on a whole chicken to grill or roast. It’s also delicious on roasted potatoes or as a seasoning for veggies in general.

Best Dry Rub for Chicken in a glass storage jar
Irvin Lin

How to Use It

Drizzle a little bit of oil over the chicken, then sprinkle as much rub as you want all over the chicken. Use your fingers to rub the spice blend in. Then grill or roast in the oven as you normally would! You can even use this rub to make a sheet pan dinner, meaning you have dinner ready in no time.

BBQ Chicken Rub

Tired of spending a lot of money on spice rubs that are overly salty and sweet?  This flavorful BBQ Chicken Rub will save you money using spices that you already have on hand., and it’s easily customizable to suit your tastes!

We’re heading into the last few weeks of summer, and while I’m ready for fall food, I’m in grilling mode until at least after Labor Day.

I make grilled chicken weekly, and this BBQ Chicken Rub is a nice way to change things up.  Sure, I love saucy BBQ Chicken, but a dry rub is so much more low maintenance!

Why you’ll love this recipe:

  • This is a great all purpose rub with the perfect blend of sweet and savory flavor.  It works well with chicken, as well as pork, beef and even grilled vegetables. 
  • It’s the easiest way to get bbq flavor without brushing on messy bbq sauce at just the right time.
  • This homemade spice rub is much more cost effective than store bought brands, and it’s made with spices that you already have in your pantry.
  • You control the sodium and sweetness, and can customize it to suit your tastes.

Recipe Ingredients

The glory of this bbq rub recipe is that it’s made with common ingredients that you already have on hand.  There’s nothing fancy, but together the spices create a wonderful sweet and savory rub that works well with almost anything you are grilling or smoking.

INGREDIENT NOTES

  • Brown sugar.  Sugar is the main ingredient in most bbq rubs.  This version contains just enough to add sweetness that’s not overpowering.
  • Cayenne pepper.  My family is pretty spice intolerant, so I included a scant 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper.  If you like things spicy add more!
  • Salt.  I used kosher salt because it has less sodium than regular table salt.

How to make this recipe

This bbq chicken rub is extremely easy to make and takes less than 5 minutes!

PREPARE THE RUB:

1. Place all ingredients into a medium bowl.

2. Whisk well to combine, breaking up any clumps.

RUB THE CHICKEN:

3. Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel and coat generously with the rub, rubbing the seasoning into the meat.  Coat the meat with a bit of olive oil before adding the rub to help it adhere better if desired.

4. Let stand for one hour at room temperature and grill, smoke or bake!

Customize this recipe

This is a very versatile rub, so it’s easy to add a variety of herbs and spices to change things up.

  • Add herbs such as thyme, oregano or rosemary.
  • Add citrus zest such as orange, lemon or lime.
  • Increase the amount of garlic powder for more garlic flavor.
  • Add warm spices such as cumin or coriander for more depth of flavor.
  • Increase the amount of cayenne pepper if you love spiciness!

FAQs

WHY USE A DRY RUB?

A rub is a great way to add flavor to meat or vegetables.  It’s so much easier and less messy than a marinade or bbq sauce!

HOW LONG SHOULD DRY RUB SIT ON CHICKEN?

Rub the chicken generously and let stand at room temperature for a minimum of one hour.

There’s no need to leave the rub on for hours or overnight as it is not a dry brine.  

HOW LONG DO BBQ RUBS LAST?

Store bbq chicken rub in an air tight container in a cool, dark place for up to 3 months.

CAN I USE DRY RUB AND BBQ SAUCE?

Dry rub and bbq sauce may both be used.  Simply brush on the sauce during the last 5-10 minutes to keep it from burning.

Use my homemade bourbon bbq sauce or your favorite store bought brand.

Recipe Notes

  • Pro tip:  When using skin-on chicken breast, add the seasoning underneath the skin as well.
  • Store unused rub in an air tight container in a cool, dark place for up to 3 months.
  • Coat the meat lightly with olive oil before seasoning to help the rub adhere to the meat if desired.
  • This recipe is a great all purpose seasoning that works well with beef, pork, vegetables, corn on the cob, or anything that you are grilling or smoking.
  • This rub contains sugar, so be careful when grilling over high heat as the sugar can burn.  Sear on both sides and cook over indirect heat for the remaining of the cooking time to avoid burning.

Easy Grilled Chicken with Dry Rub

The best grilled chicken is surprisingly low-maintenance; an easy homemade dry rub adds a touch of magic in no time. Dried herbs and spices are all you need to transform everyday chicken breasts into a mouth-watering meal.

Juicy grilled chicken breasts on a white plate.

If you’re not acquainted with the idea of a dry rub for meat, get ready to be amazed. This is the best trick up our sleeves for producing juicy, flavorful chicken with very little prep work or time.

Sure, a marinade works well when you have hours to spare, but in real life we sometimes need to make great food happen fast. And fortunately, a modest selection of dried herbs and spices combines to make the magic.

Small prep bowl containing sea salt, black pepper, garlic powder, chipotle chili powder, paprika, and cumin.

All you will need is a handful of spice cupboard staples: cumin, paprika, garlic powder, chipotle chili powder, sea salt, and black pepper.

If you don’t already consider chipotle chili powder a staple, please think again! You can buy a small container in the spice aisle at most ordinary grocery stores and it goes a long way, imparting incredible flavor to dishes like shrimp fajitas, black bean chili, and black bean tacos.

Spices mixed together in a small white bowl.

Mix those six ingredients together and you have a miracle spice rub that will taste good on nearly anything.

How to grill chicken with dry rub

After combining the spices, when ready to grill, simply stir in a bit of olive oil, then literally and liberally rub the mixture all over your boneless, skinless chicken breasts. If using skin-on chicken breasts, thighs, or wings, use your fingertips to work the mixture in under the skin for maximum flavor.

Now simply grill the chicken over medium-high heat until the middle is no longer pink. The FDA recommends cooking poultry to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F; an affordable instant-read thermometer makes it easy to verify that your food is safe and prevent the cautious overcooking that so often leads to dry, tough meats.

Slice and serve! We love this grilled chicken with dry rub alongside a simple salad or baked sweet potatoes. It pairs especially well with a side of honey cinnamon sweet potatoes, with or without the oat topping.

Slices of grilled chicken with dark grill marks on a plate with a fork.

Customize it!

  • For smoky flavor: swap in smoked paprika or add a drop of liquid smoke along with the olive oil.
  • For a sweet-spicy blend: add 1 tablespoon brown sugar.
  • For an Italian twist: omit the chipotle chili powder and cumin, and add 2 teaspoons each dried oregano and rosemary.
  • To increase the heat: add a pinch of cayenne. A little goes a long way!

The same spice blends can be used on chicken thighs, a whole chicken, pork chops, or even fish. You can also sprinkle a few teaspoons over potatoes or veggies that you plan to roast or grill. Dry rubs are incredibly versatile!

How long does a dry rub last?

If you enjoy this method, it’s well worth making a big batch–triple or even quadruple the recipe as written below–and storing the dry rub in your pantry. This allows you to get dinner going in next to no time!

This chicken dry rub will last six months or more, as long as your dried herbs were not ancient to begin with. Just store the blend in a tightly closed jar. Small canning jars are perfect for keeping homemade spice blends and salad dressings; I’ve been known to scrub out old jam jars for the same purpose.

Can I make this without a grill?

Of course! The dry rub also works beautifully if you prefer to cook the chicken indoors. You can follow any method you like; my favorite is to sear the chicken for 2 minutes on each side in a cast-iron pan, then bake at 350 or 400 degrees F until it reaches 165. This usually takes another 15-20 minutes, though times will vary considerably depending on the thickness of each piece of meat.

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