Herb-Scented Rubs and Pastes

Meat and poultry take on intense flavor when rubbed with heady mixtures of herbs, salt, garlic, mustard and other ingredients.

By FamilyTime

 Dry rubs and moist pastes add bold flavor to foods, particularly meat or poultry destined for the grill. Apply them up to 24 hours in advance for mouth-watering results!

Dry rubs and pastes are kissin’ cousins to marinades but don’t contain the acid in the form of vinegar, wine, or citrus juice. As expected, they are not liquid and don’t bathe the food with the flavors – but they tend to be even more intense.

Dry Rubs
Dry rubs are mixtures of dried herbs and spices. Their flavors are compatible and as such can take on the characteristics of various cuisines.

For example, a Mediterranean-style rub will contain dried thyme and rosemary, while a Caribbean rub will include cumin, coriander, and ground red pepper.

Dry rubs can be mixed in quantity and stored in a glass jar for repeated use. Hold the jar in a cool, dry place and keep the rub for several months. Discard any rub that comes into contact with raw meat, poultry, or fish.

When a dry rub is moistened with a little chopped fresh ginger or garlic, a spoonful of mustard, or a few drops of oil, it takes on a paste-like consistency. Pastes adhere more easily to food than rubs and so many home cooks prefer them.

Pastes, too, can be mixed in quantity and stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. Discard any paste that has come in contact with raw food!

Making Rubs and Pastes
The best way to make rubs is to grind the dried herbs and spices in a mortar and pestle or an electric spice grinder. You can also mash the ingredients with a wooden spoon, if you don’t have a pestle. Mini food processors work quite well, too, although full-sized processors tend to be too big.

Once the ingredients are mixed, use them right away or store them.

To make a paste, mix the dry ingredients and then stir in the wet ones. Don’t expect these to blend as readily as a marinade. You might have to work to achieve paste-like status.

Using Rubs and Pastes
Put the meat or poultry you want to season on a board or work surface and apply the rub or paste. Work it into the surface with your fingertips, making sure to massage it evenly over the food.

Mild flavored rubs and pastes should be applied in an even, thick layer, although for spicier ones, you might want to use a lighter hand. Some dry rubs stay on the food so that they form a crust after grilling.

Cover the food or enclose it in a plastic bag. Refrigerate it for up to 24 hours (less for delicate cuts such as boneless chicken breasts or fish). During that time the salt and other ingredients will draw out moisture from the food so that it literally marinates in its own flavored juices.

Ideas for Rubs and Pastes
A classic dry rub with Cajun overtones would include cracked peppercorns, salt, dry mustard, paprika, ground red pepper, and fennel seeds. One that’s meant to be very spicy would include only peppercorns, ground red pepper, and salt. An Indian dry rub would include curry powder, cumin, and allspice.

Jamaican jerk is a familiar and popular paste that includes hot sauce, lime juice, dried herbs such as thyme and tarragon, mustard seeds, ground cloves, and salt and pepper.

If you combine chopped garlic with dried parsley, rosemary, and sage, add a little olive oil and some salt and pepper, you will taste the South of France.

Mix together fresh ginger, fresh cilantro, red pepper flakes, and sesame oil for an Asian-inspired paste.

As you can quickly surmise, the sky is the limit when it comes to rubs and pastes. Use you imagination, think about your favorite flavors, and have fun. No one will be disappointed!