Best BBQ Rubs

The secret to an amazing barbecue is not the beer or the side dishes. It’s not even the meat. No, the secret to a top-quality barbecue is the rub.

That secret blend of herbs and spices that you’d rather take to the grave than share with your nearest and dearest. 

It seems like every pitmaster has their own recipe with a special ingredient that makes it all come together. 

Some swear it’s the garlic powder that makes their ribs more mouth-wateringly delicious than The Jones’ next door. Others swear by a dash of cinnamon. Then you’ve got the try-hards who’ll reel off a list of foreign spices you’ve never heard of before.

But where do these master rubs come from? Maybe it’s an old family recipe passed down through generations. More likely, they’re an attempt to imitate a pre-packaged rub they used once and can’t get enough of. 

The truth is while making a rub is a fairly easy process, sometimes you just want to reach for the packet. These rubs can be just as good as homemade rubs but don’t require a cupboard full of herbs and spices you only use in barbeque season. 

So, even if you have your own treasured rub recipe, we recommend you take a look at some of the best barbeque rubs you can buy prepackaged. 

Keep them in the cupboard for those impromptu barbeques, or the days when you just can’t be bothered to make your own. 

You can also use them as a way to experiment with flavors. If you try out different pre-packaged rubs, you don’t need to buy loads of herbs and spices you’ll only use once. 

Without further ado, we present: The best barbeque rubs money can buy!

bbq rub 2

Got some ribs in need of a good rub? Here’s our top pick:

Pork Barrel BBQ All American Seasoning Mix, Dry Rub Perfect for Chicken, Beef, Pork, Fish and More, Gluten Free, Preservative Free, and MSG Free

  • Rich and complex barbeque flavor.
  • Available in 220z chef shaker.
  • All-natural ingredients. 
  • Low cost, high value for money.
  • A little goes a long way. 
  • Contains salt, dehydrated garlic, dehydrated onion, ancho chili pepper, smoked paprika, chipotle chili pepper, mustard flour, celery, and cilantro.

OUR TOP PICK

Pork Barrel BBQ All American Seasoning Mix, Dry Rub Perfect for Chicken, Beef, Pork, Fish and More, Gluten Free, Preservative Free and MSG Free, 22 Ounce

Pork Barrel BBQ shot to national stardom on Shark Tank. They received a significant investment that allowed them to bring their small local business to the whole of the US. 

Their BBQ All American Seasoning Mix is a delicious blend of paprika, garlic, onion, celery seed, chipotle chili peppers, and a secret blend of spices.

You don’t need to worry about MSG as Pork Barrel uses all-natural ingredients in their dry rub.

There are a lot of ingredients in this rub but they come together to create a traditionally complex barbeque flavor. It has the right balance of tangy and sweet. 

Some customers report that this is a very salty rub. However, it doesn’t contain any more salt than the other rubs on our list. 5% sodium content is fairly common for barbecue rubs. 

The majority of customers love this product. They especially love the fact that it comes in a 22oz chef shaker.

You don’t need to use an excessive amount of this rub for a vibrant flavor so this bottle will probably see you through a good few barbeques. 

Pros

  • Rich and complex barbeque flavor.
  • Available in 220z chef shaker.
  • All-natural ingredients. 
  • Low cost, high value for money.
  • A little goes a long way. 

Cons

  • Some report an overly salty taste.

EDITORS CHOICE

Bad Byron's Butt Rub Barbeque Seasoning BBQ Rubs (26 Oz)

With the slogan ‘a little butt rub makes everything better’ it’s hard not to just buy gallons of this stuff and hope it fixes everything wrong with the world. 

While we’re not sure how Bad Byron’s Butt Rub would hold up in the UN, it certainly will make your barbeque better! 

It has a traditionally smokey flavor with just a hint of spice to keep you on your toes. This is a proper Texan barbeque rub. It contains chipotle pepper and paprika but the onion and garlic are the strongest flavors. 

Interestingly, this rub does not contain sugar which means it doesn’t caramelize. If you like that sweet hint from a rub, you might want to look elsewhere. 

The sodium content is slightly higher than other rubs at 7%. Because of this, you don’t want to be heavy handed when seasoning. Start with smaller amounts and you can increase it as you work out what you like. 

The higher salt content does help to bring out the meatier flavors. It makes it particularly good for cuts like pork butt that have a more delicate flavor.

While we’re on the whole pork butt thing, this is an all-round rub. You do not have to stick to pork. 

Pros

  • Great allrounder. 
  • Traditional Texan flavor.
  • Zero sugar.
  • Available in 28oz bottles.
  • Only need to use a small amount.

Cons

  • High sodium content. 
  • Won’t caramelize.

BEST VALUE

Traeger Grills SPC171 Pork and Poultry Rub

Traeger is known the world over for their grills. However, they also make rubs that you can slather all over your meat before throwing it on their grill! 

This particular rub is a pork and poultry rub. It contains cane sugar, salt, paprika, dehydrated apple, onion, spices, maltodextrin, corn starch, chili pepper, honey, and paprika extract.

It has a beautifully sweet taste that comes from the cane sugar, apple, and honey. It also has a smokier undertone thanks to the paprika. It is delicious with pork. The apple in particular pairs well with pork butt and ribs. 

Packaged in a stackable aluminum tin, this stuff will keep for the whole barbeque season.

The stackable feature will probably come in handy as Traeger have a whole range of rubs for any kind of meat or vegetable. They also have a generic rub that goes well with pretty much anything.

We picked the pork and poultry to showcase because the flavors are just so dang delicious. 

Traeger rubs are made here in the USA. They’re based in Oregon which isn’t a place you usually associate with barbeque but they make it work!

The only real complaint from customers seems to be the sizing. They love it so much they wish it came in a bigger tin!

Pros

  • Beautiful sweet apple and honey flavor.
  • Packaged in a stackable aluminum tin.
  • Available in a wide range of flavors.
  • Packs a decent amount of flavor so you don’t need to use too much. 

Cons

  • Could do with a larger amount.

RUNNER UP

Rub with Love Smoky Barbecue Rub By Tom Douglas, 3.5-ounce

The first thing to note about this rub is that it is the cheapest rub on our list and also the company with the most flavor options. Rub with Love literally have a rub for every occasion! 

Their smokey barbeque rub uses all-natural ingredients to produce a deep, southern-style barbecue flavor. It contains paprika, allspice, garlic, onion, and a variety of chili peppers.

The peppers give a nice little kick without killing your taste buds in the process. 

The only major downside is that the tub is so dang small! It’s the kind of rub you just can’t get enough of so why doesn’t it come in bigger quantities?

Pros

  • Huge range of flavor options. 
  • All-natural ingredients. 
  • Has a deep barbeque flavor with a bit of a kick. 
  • Not overly coarse like some rubs. 

Cons

  • Only available in a 3.5oz tub.

RUNNER UP

Killer Hogs The BBQ Rub | Championship Grill Seasoning for Beef, Steak, Burgers, Pork, and Chicken | 16 oz

This is a barbeque rub made by a pair of barbeque champions. Brothers Malcolm and Waylan Reed have used this rub to win barbeque competitions all over the country. 

It has a deep, traditional southern barbeque flavor that pairs well with any meat, despite the pig centric name.

If you want a smoky, sweet flavor that caramelizes to give a crispy bark, then this is a great choice. 

The rub includes orange peel and mustard flour as well as the usual paprika, onion, and garlic.

The orange peel helps to lift the taste a little bit and stops it from becoming too overwhelming to the palette. 

The downside to this rub is that it contains quite a lot of MSG and sugar. If you’re not bothered by additives then this is perfect for you.

If, however, you prefer to let natural flavors do their thing, you might want to look elsewhere. 

Customers also report that you need to use quite a lot of this rub to get the right amount of flavor.

This ultimately means that you go through a lot of it. 

Pros

  • A rich, sweet barbeque flavor.
  • Creates a beautiful mahogany bark when slow-cooked. 
  • Created by master grillers for grillers.
  • Traditionally, mouth-watering southern style. 

Cons

  • High MSG and sugar content.
  • Does not stretch very far. 
  • Fairly expensive compared to other rubs. 

Best BBQ Rubs Buying Guide

Where do you start when you’re faced with hundreds and thousands of products with an exponential number of variants?

How do you narrow it down? How do you zone in on the perfect rub for you? 

Well, a good place to start is at the beginning. Let’s look at what a rub is before we dive into a whole world of flavors. 

What is a rub?

Do not, Google the above question. The first result takes you to Urban Dictionary which will tell you everything you didn’t want to know about the word rub. 

In the culinary world, a rub is a mixture of herbs and spices that are applied to foods to infuse them with flavor. The name comes from the action of rubbing the mixture into the food. 

There are two types of rub, a wet rub, and a dry rub. Both are good for barbequing and smoking and contain mostly the same ingredients. 

A dry rub uses dry ingredients. Lots of powders, dried herbs, and grated spices. It should look like a fine powder when you’re done. You don’t want big clumps of garlic or pepper. These will be unpleasant if you get a bit of them. 

A wet rub uses all the goodness of a dry rub but adds a liquid like honey, alcohol, or oils to create a paste. This can then be slathered all over your thighs. Your chicken thighs that is. 

The difference between the two tends to come out in the cook. A wet rub tends to caramelize and create a bark. Think about that crispy outer layer you get on ribs. That tends to be from a wet rub. 

The only time where you categorically don’t want to use a wet rub is if you are trying to create a sear. The rub will heat up before the meat manages to sear and it will go wrong. 

The rubs we have featured in this list are all dry rubs. They are by far the most common kind of rub used in barbeques. Also, the dried nature of a dry rub means that it keeps far better and is, therefore, easier to ship and handle. 

Ingredients

The key to that finger-licking barbeque flavor is a blend of sweet and salty.

Barbeque sauces, barbeque flavored chips, barbeque flavored anything plays on that delicate relationship between the two opposite flavorings.

Most barbeque rubs tend to have the following base ingredients:

  • Paprika 
  • Salt
  • Garlic
  • Black pepper

From there, you’re free to go wild. For a sweeter barbeque flavor, rubs tend to use brown sugar. Paprika has a fairly sweet flavor as well, so you’ll find a lot more paprika in sweeter rubs. 

For a smokey flavor, you’ll notice that roasted garlic tends to be used. There’s usually more black pepper in smoky rubs as well as some dried mustard and smoked paprika. 

Some rubs add a bit of spice for an extra dimension to the flavor. Chili flakes and powders are the obvious choices.  Cayenne pepper is actually hotter than most chili powders. This is why you’ll find it in spicier rubs. 

Other common ingredients used in barbeque rubs include onion powder, cumin, thyme, and coriander. 

Make sure to check the ingredients of the rub if you have any allergies. Most rubs tend to be allergen-free. You may come across a few which use nuts which should be avoided if you have a nut allergy. 

Pairing Rubs with Meats

All the products we have listed will taste amazing on any meat. Feel free to rub your brisket, turkey legs, and pork ribs with any of the above. 

That being said, some herbs and spices do tend to go better with different meats. Here’s a handy table for you to consult while browsing rubs.

meat

Herbs and Spices

Beef

Basil, bay leaf, black pepper, cayenne pepper, cumin, curry powder, mustard powder, garlic, onion, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme.

Poultry

Basil, bay leaves, cilantro, curry powder, cinnamon, garlic, marjoram, mint, onion, paprika, parsley, tarragon, thyme.

Pork

Allspice, cloves, coriander, garlic, ginger, mustard, onion, paprika, sage. 

Lamb

Basil, cinnamon, cumin, curry powder, garlic, marjoram, mint, onion, oregano, parsley, sage, thyme.

Seafood

Cayenne pepper, curry powder, chives, dill, marjoram, mint, onion, paprika, tarragon, turmeric, thyme.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you apply a rub?

You rub it, duh! 

It’s no good just sprinkling the rub over the meat. It will fall off as soon as you move it. 

It’s best to apply a rub with a gloved hand. This way you don’t have to walk around with paprika stained hands for the next few days. 

Hold the meat firmly with one hand and rub with the other. If the meat is marbled, follow the marbling. This will help the flavors sink deeper into the meat.

If your cut has skin that you’re going to leave on, try your best to get some of the rubs between the skin and the meat.

Usually, you’ll be able to slip a finger under the end of the skin. Just put a bit of the rub under there. Again, it will help flavor the middle of the meat.

How long do you need to leave a rub on before cooking?

This is a hotly debated topic amongst barbeque enthusiasts. If you listen to some over-enthusiastic pitmasters, they’ll tell you you needed to rub the meat before it took its first steps. 

The point of leaving a rub on is that it has time to, uh, penetrate the meat. It’s supposed to help the inside of the meat absorb flavor as well as the outer part. 

At the bare minimum, you should leave the rub on for 15 minutes. This won’t do much in terms of infusing flavor but it does allow the meat juices to dry up around the rub. This forms a bit of a crust that is less likely to fall off the meat like pixie dust. 

If you have the time, leaving the rub on for about 2 hours before cooking will allow the flavors to infuse your meat. 

If you leave the rub sitting on the meat in the fridge for too long it can become mushy. This is why I take issue with the whole ‘sit for 24 hours’ rule. It just doesn’t work. 

Can you use a dry rub and barbeque sauce?

Barbeque sauce can be used to turn a dry rub into a wet rub for a sticky barbeque glaze. You can do this before cooking but you’ll need to watch out.

Barbeque sauce traditionally has quite a high sugar content which can burn. 

The best way to combine barbeque sauce and a dry barbeque rub is to sauce your meat towards the end of it’s cooking time.

Use the dry rub as normal but in the last hour or half-hour of cooking, baste the meat with barbecue sauce. 

This prevents the sauce from burning and turns the sauce into a sticky glaze.

Last update on 2020-11-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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