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The best BBQ chicken starts long before the grill is hot; this Grilled Chicken Rub is magical on everything it touches. Dried herbs, spices, and a touch of brown sugar are all you need to become a grilled chicken champion.
Making your own homemade seasoning blends is the way to go! Try Montreal Steak Seasoning for a juicy strip steak, or a Homemade Cajun Seasoning on Grilled Shrimp Skewers. I’ve also cracked the code on How to Make Rotisserie Chicken that’s even better than the birds at the grocery store.
If you’ve ever browsed the selection of spices at your local grocery store, you probably have noticed that some dried herbs and spices can be crazy expensive. Especially the fancy-labeled seasoning blends, which appeal to your tastebuds but not your bank account.
But there’s good news. With a little advance planning and recipe following, you can make a better, fresher, and infinitely less expensive dry rub that’s perfect for grilled chicken, smoked chicken, roasted chicken, and even Barbecue chicken.
And those are just a few ways to use it. Don’t feel limited to using this rub on just chicken. Add it to turkey meatballs. Rub it on Grilled Pork Chops. Sprinkle it over a grill pan full of veggies. It’s delicious on everything.
Making a giant batch of Grilled Chicken Rub to give out as Christmas gifts? What a great idea! You’ll need a lot. Click and slide the number next to “servings” on the recipe card below to adjust the ingredients to match how much you’re making—the recipe does the math for you, it’s that easy.
Chicken Rub Ingredients:
For this spice rub recipe, dried herbs, garlic, and spices work better than fresh ones. The chicken rub spices cling to the meat and flavor everything beautifully.
Garlic powder. Granulated dried garlic powder is delicious—don’t skimp!
Dried oregano. One of the best dried herbs for white meat: chicken, turkey, or pork.
Paprika. Any paprika will do, spicy or mild. Smoked paprika is exceptionally delicious.
Dried Rosemary. If the rosemary leaves are left whole, run them through a spice grinder or chop them up finely with a chef’s knife. They’ll blend into the rub better.
Brown sugar. A little sweetness goes a long way to make the other flavors pop! Chicken rub with brown sugar is delicious.
Salt and pepper. Kosher salt— which is less “salty” than table salt— and freshly ground black or white pepper are great in this rub.
P.S. If you want to make a spicy grilled chicken rub, add some ground cayenne pepper. But remember, a little goes a long way!
How to make Grilled Chicken Rub:
It couldn’t be easier. Just blend everything up in a bowl until well combined. Use what you need, then store the rest in a glass jar in a cool, dry place until you need it.
How to use Chicken Rub:
Whether you are planning to grill or smoke a whole chicken, a cut-up chicken, or even just boneless, skinless chicken breasts, a versatile dry rub like this one goes a long way in making your dinner flavorful and exciting.
For smoking. For a whole bbq chicken, rub the seasoning liberally over the outside of the bird. Allow the chicken to sit out for about an hour to give the spices a chance to mingle. (This is a perfect opportunity to light up that smoker–while the dry rub does its thing.) Use this rub when you make Smoked Chicken Breast or Smoked Chicken Wings.
For baking. Roasted whole chicken or a quick sheet pan dinner of baked chicken breasts; both are a great way to use the seasoning.
For grilling. For chicken breasts and other healthy chicken recipes, you can throw the pieces and the dry rub in a zip-top bag and gently shake until the chicken is well-coated. Then try making Barbecue Chicken, along with your favorite sauce.
Why use a dry rub for barbecue chicken?
First of all, a dry rub is essential for flavoring your bird, no matter how you cook it! Because most all barbecue sauces out there burn easily, you shouldn’t brush it on until the end of the cooking process.
Basically, the sauce just sits on the surface, but the seasoning can penetrate deeper and add another level of flavor. Consider a good dry rub or seasoning an important foundation step for your BBQ skills!
How to buy herbs in bulk:
Instead of buying those tiny little pricey bottles at the grocery store, there are some great options for making larger batches of dried spice blends and saving money, too.
Bulk. Buying spices in the bulk section of health food stores, food cooperatives, or specialty spice stores can save you money and give you a fresher product. Whole Foods lets you measure out your own, weigh it, and label it. You can even bring your own containers to the store.
Online. Look for online shops that know a thing or two about spices and have consistent traffic, so what you buy is the best quality. Be sure and check for fair trade and sustainability efforts, if that is important to you.
Storing dried herbs and spices:
Store your pantry items in a cool, dark place in glass containers with tight-fitting lids. Once blended, dry rubs and seasonings should be fine for several weeks or months.
Grilled Chicken Rub
- In a small bowl, combine garlic powder, oregano, paprika, rosemary, and salt and pepper to taste (I like 5 teaspoons salt and about 1 tablespoon pepper). Store in a clean glass jar with a tight-fitting lid until ready to use.
- Rub the mix generously all over the chicken, pork, or turkey and let sit at room temperature for up to 1 hour.
Meggan Hill is a classically-trained chef and professional writer. Her meticulously-tested recipes and detailed tutorials bring confidence and success to home cooks everywhere. Meggan has been featured on NPR, HuffPost, FoxNews, LA Times, and more.