You may have run into me at the market last summer with my cart filled with assorted bottles of barbeque sauces and marinades, or maybe you caught me looking skeptically at the $7.99 canister of spice rub at the Whole Foods meat counter.  I love to grill in the summer months (let me rephrase: I like my husband to grill in the summer months), but I’m also a little lazy.   I have always liked the ease of pulling a bottle off the shelf and pouring it onto my microwave-defrosted chicken breasts (the ones I forgot to take out of the freezer earlier in the day).

And so, I found myself googling “spicy rubs” not long after we dusted the pollen off the grill this spring. I was looking for a healthier, less costly alternative to off- the-shelf supermarket sauces and marinades and thought my search would yield a few pointers on how to give a sexy massage, or at least provide me with a recipe or two for do- it-yourself cinnamon scented massage creams (get it? “rubs?”) Luckily, it seems there are a whole lot more foodies out there than perverts.  My spicy rub search yielded page after page of wonderful recipes, so I decided to give a few of them a try.

Fast forward a few weeks and I am now a make-your-own-rub convert.  If you run into me in the market these days, you may notice me giving condescending stares to those with KC Masterpiece bottles in their carts.  (Though I do love the one named — and I’m not joking here — Big Dicks: Just try and remember to take the chicken out of the freezer.

Brown Sugar: (A “go-to” from friends of mine that works well with everything)

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 2 TBSP chili powder
  • 2 Tsp. ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 TBSP garlic powder
  • 1 Tsp. ground cumin


Sugar and Spice: Are you a salmon fan?  Add a tablespoon or so of oil to the following rub and make a nice paste for the fish, but watch the salmon closely on the grill- the sugar in the rub makes it a bit more sensitive to burning. (adapted from

  • 3 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • olive oil to make paste and for fillets


Meaty Zest: If you like brisket, you might want to try this one, purportedly the most commonly used rub in Texas (from

  • 1/2 cup paprika
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 3 tablespoons onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons oregano
  • 2 tablespoons salt


Hot and Peppery: Personally, I’m a chicken fan, and my husband and I grill up enough chicken breasts at a time so we can have them cold for lunch and for leftovers.  Needless to say, we go through our share of boneless chicken breasts, and we like the variety of rubs that go well with chicken.  They are all a little spicy, and all just a bit different.   The first is a mustardy/peppery rub:

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (can use more)
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 3 teaspoons mustard powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper



Marinade Magic: If you like mesquite, this one may be a winner in your home (from

  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried sage, ground
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