A dry rub is the fast solution to flavoring virtually everything you cook — from seafood, to steak, to chicken, to veggies and tofu. Even ten minutes of letting a rub settle into a piece of fish before it’s grilled can take it into a new realm. And the spice rub doubles as a seasoning blend for anything else you’re cooking. Add it to salad dressings, soups, dips, sautés — you get the idea.

Sure, you can buy pre-made spice rubs, but your own blends will taste brighter (they’re fresher), cost less and give you exactly what you like because you’re doing them to your taste. 

Tip: If you have any doubt about which spices go together, put a little of each on your tongue. You’ll know immediately if the combo works or not.

Head to the spice aisle or bulk spice area of your supermarket, pick out several combinations of seasonings you like and blend up a couple of batches.

Whole spices that you grind yourself deliver the biggest flavors for your money. (And the spices you haven’t ground yet will keep their character for a year, versus pre-ground spices which hold for about 3 months). Grind them in a clean coffee grinder or mortar and pestle.

If you’ve only got pre-ground spices, it’s not a tragedy; your blends will still work. Just sniff spices before using for the robust aromas that mean they are still fresh enough to deliver lots of flavor.

Whether using whole or pre-ground spices, store your blends in airtight containers, and keep them in the refrigerator or freezer.

From A Summertime Grilling Guide by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift. Copyright © 2012 by American Public Media.