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How long should dry rub sit on pork?

Pork is a versatile meat that can be prepared in many different ways. One popular preparation method is to coat the pork with a dry rub – a mixture of spices, herbs, sugar, and salt – and then cook it. But a common question is: How long should you let the dry rub sit on the pork before cooking it? There are a few factors to consider when deciding on dry rub contact time.

What is Dry Rub?

A dry rub is a blend of spices, herbs, salt, pepper, sugar, and other flavorings that are rubbed directly onto the surface of meat before cooking. Some common ingredients in pork dry rubs include:

  • Brown sugar or white sugar
  • Paprika
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Cumin
  • Chili powder
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • Dry mustard

The sugar helps form a flavorful crust when the pork is cooked while the other spices add layers of flavor. Dry rubs help to tenderize the meat while also creating a tasty seasoned exterior.

Why Let Dry Rub Sit Before Cooking?

Letting a dry rub sit on pork for some length of time before cooking allows the flavors to really get absorbed into the meat. Just rubbing the spices and herbs right before throwing the pork on the grill doesn’t give them sufficient time to penetrate and marinate the meat.

Most chefs recommend letting a dry rub sit on pork for at least 30 minutes and up to overnight or 24 hours for best flavor. This contact time gives the spices, herbs, salt, and sugar time to dissolve and interact with the proteins in the meat, helping to tenderize it while deeply infusing it with flavor.

30 Minutes to An Hour

Letting a dry rub sit on pork for 30 minutes up to 1 hour before cooking is sufficient to allow the flavors to soak in. The salt in the rub will help loosen up the proteins in the pork to make it juicier and more tender. And you’ll get noticeably more seasoned flavor permeating the meat.

This short 30 minute to 1 hour time period is ideal when you’re short on time but still want the benefit of a flavorful spice crust on your pork. The seasonings will adhere nicely to the pork’s exterior and give you good flavor without needing to start the night before.

4 to 12 hours

For even better results, let the dry rub soak into the pork for 4 to 12 hours before cooking. This longer time period allows the salt to deeply penetrate and tenderize the meat while also enabling the rub to form a flavorful, spice-crusted bark when cooked.

Coat the pork in the dry rub the morning or night before you want to cook it. The longer marinating time allows the sugar to caramelize and spices to adhere to the exterior while fully seasoning the interior of the meat.

12 to 24 hours

Letting a dry rub soak into pork for 12 to 24 hours is ideal for maximum tenderness and thorough seasoned flavor. The extended contact time gives the salt plenty of opportunity to break down the pork’s proteins so it cooks up extra moist and tender.

It also allows the meat time to come up to room temperature so it cooks more evenly. And the dried spices and herbs have ample opportunity to impart their aromatic flavors throughout the pork.

Plan ahead to coat the pork in dry rub the night before for best results. Just rub it on, cover, and refrigerate until ready to cook.

How to Apply Dry Rub

No matter how long you let it sit, it’s important to properly apply dry rub to pork:

  • Pat pork dry first – Rub won’t adhere as well to damp meat.
  • Coat all surfaces evenly with rub, about 1 to 2 tablespoons per pound of meat. Really massage it in.
  • Don’t be afraid to use your hands! The warmth helps release the rub’s aromatic oils.
  • Cover rubbed pork tightly and refrigerate until ready to use.
  • Let rest on counter 30 minutes before cooking to take chill off.

Dry Rub Contact Time Recommendations

Here are some general dry rub contact time recommendations based on different cuts and preparations of pork:

Cut of Pork Recommended Dry Rub Contact Time
Pork chops 30 minutes to 1 hour
Pork tenderloin 1 to 4 hours
Pork ribs 4 to 12 hours
Pork shoulder/butt 12 to 24 hours
Pork loin 1 to 4 hours

For quicker cooking cuts like chops and tenderloin, a shorter dry rub time is sufficient. For larger, tougher cuts that benefit from tenderizing like shoulder and ribs, an overnight rub gives best results.

Cooking Methods

Certain cooking methods also impact ideal dry rub contact time. Here are some guidelines:

  • Grilling – 1 to 4 hours rub time. You want enough to flavor and tenderize but still get a crust.
  • Roasting/baking – 4 to 24 hours. More time gives the rub time to penetrate and tenderize.
  • Smoking (low and slow) – 12 to 24 hours. Long, slow cooking gives ample rub contact time.
  • Quick pan frying/sautéeing – 30 minutes to 1 hour. Just enough to impart some flavor.

The longer, slower the cooking method, the more time you can allow for dry rub penetration.

Porosity and Thickness

How porous and thick the cut of pork is should also guide dry rub contact time. Delicate thin cuts like chops and medallions need less time for the rub to soak in compared to thicker, dense cuts.

Here are some general thickness recommendations:

  • Thin boneless chops, medallions – 30 mins to 1 hour
  • Bone-in chops, tenderloins – 1 to 4 hours
  • Ribs, roasts, shoulder/butt – Overnight or 24 hours

Balancing Salt

When leaving a salty dry rub on pork for extended periods, it’s a good idea to rinse off the exterior or soak briefly before cooking. Otherwise the saltiness can become overpowering. A quick water bath and patting dry helps remove excess surface salt.

Food Safety

When allowing a dry rub to sit on raw pork for several hours or overnight, it’s critical to store it properly to prevent bacterial growth. Keep rubbed pork well covered and refrigerated at 40°F or below until ready to cook. Don’t leave it out at room temperature.


For most flavorful, tender pork, a dry rub needs sufficient contact time before cooking. While 30 minutes can work in a pinch, the ideal time is 4 to 24 hours depending on cut, cooking method, and thickness. Plan ahead to let spices, herbs, salt, and sugar thoroughly penetrate and tenderize the meat. Patience leads to the best tasting barbecue!