Good BBQ rubs can make good meat taste better and transform plain ‘ol ribs into award-winning meat. Even though pitmasters are very secretive about their recipes, many of them sell their best and competition-winning rub recipes online.
I have compiled a list of the best BBQ rubs, including every flavor profile and for different types of meat, including ribs, chicken, fish, and beef.
My favorite BBQ dry rub is Killer Hogs, but this list has something for everybody and every taste palate.
Top 10 Best BBQ Rubs we Tried and you Can too
1. The BBQ Rub by Killer Hogs: Best for Pork
Malcolm Reed, who has won several barbecue competitions, came up with this BBQ Rub. Aside from the cool name, this brand has been highly rated and praised both by backyard cooks and experts alike. This rub yields an interesting mahogany bark and good flavor. Ingredients include brown sugar, paprika, dehydrated orange peel, and natural flavors, among other spices.
This business and brand are owned by BBQ pitmasters, so you know they know a thing or two about butt rub barbecue seasoning.
This is a US company, and their products are made here in the US. They pride themselves on only using the best ingredients and manufacturing practices and have been making some of their products for over 10 years.
Killer Hugs is known for its pork rub, but they also make other BBQ seasoning mixes, including a Texas Brisket Rub and a steak rub.
Why our top pick:
We picked Killer Hogs as the best BBQ rub because it delivers balanced flavor. It has a sweet kick but not too much, making it a good bbq dry rub for most people. Other brands emphasize one flavor over others; some have too much pepper, others have too much spice, and the flavor balance is thrown off.
- Flavor Profile: Sweet and Spicy
- Main ingredients: Salt, sugar, and paprika
- Best for: Pork ribs
2. Lane’s BBQ Signature Rub – All Purpose
Lane’s BBQ offer a superb line up of perfectly balanced dry rubs for everything from beef, to pork and seafood. My favorite flavor is their Sweet Heat, which has a spicy taste to it yet the sweetness is right along the entire bite and ample.
It is not only a matter of blending the right spices in a salt and pepper recipe; the mixture must be nicely balanced for the flavors to be pleasant. This is the case with Lane’s BBQ Signature Rub, which is an all-purpose dry rub.
3. Traeger Grills Pork and Poultry Rub – Best for Chicken
Traeger is well known for their pellet grills and smokers, and if you are not familiar with their pellet grills, well, let’s just say they got the formula down right. But Traeger not only makes some of the best pellet smokers and grills, they also make some darn good dry rubs.
This pork and poultry dry rub is well balanced, which is why it works well with both pork and chicken. Expect a hint of salt and savory flavor with a bit of sweetness from the apple and honey powder.
Traeger states this rub is 100 percent natural and is GMO and gluten-free. Make sure to explore Traeger’s many rub flavors; they carry a good selection for all kinds of meats and cooking styles.
- Flavor Profile: Sweet, Apple, and Honey
- Main ingredients: Sweet and Savory
- Best for: Pork ( ribs, shoulders ) & Poultry
4. Kosmos Q ‘Cow Cover’ Rub – Best for Beef
I love Kosmos’ story; this is one of those brands that started small, from home, and because of pure value and quality, quickly made it to the top. Kosmo’s is what most would consider a small company, and the type of brand I love the most. The story of this company is the American Dream, and I invite you to read it.
The guy literally built his company by competing in every BBQ competition he could find and kicking everyone’s pork butt, literally. (He started from his house.)
I tried their “Cow Cover” rub and I was impressed. Kosmos carries a wide range of rubs for everything from pork to fish, and their winning blends are making them very popular among BBQ enthusiasts and pitmasters alike.
They have every rub and seasoning under the sun, including keto-friendly seasoning. This is an American company, and their products are made in the “US of A.”
MeatChurch also makes a good beef rub called “Holy Cow,” but I find it to have way too much pepper. Nevertheless, the maker of Holy Cow is from Texas, and Texas BBQ packs heat.
- Flavor Profile: Savory
- Main ingredients: Includes sugar, salt, pepper, and paprika.
- Best for: beef, steaks
5. Butt Rub from Bad Byron’s Butt Rub – Best Rib
The Bad Byron’s Pork Seasoning is my go-to for ribs. I have gone through a few bottles of this stuff, and it never disappoints. I like that this seasoning brings that sweet smoky flavor we all enjoy with pork, but it also has a noticeable smokey “heat” flavor. It is great for pork but also for chicken, and it adds a nice “kick” to balance sweetness, which many seasonings lack.
I also like that the blend has been grinned to a small mesh, creating a nice bark on pork, but you do not feel like you are chewing on pepper or spices. Compared to other brands, Byron uses a very small mesh and grind size for pepper and other spices, making it easy to cover meats evenly.
Another great option for those serious about flavor and a popular brand. This is a “sweet flavor” rub with a southern touch, and as ingredients you can find dehydrated garlic, salt, and sugar, making it a versatile rub.
This blend contains no MSG, is gluten-free, and can be used on pork, poultry, and beef. This is an American product, and it is very well rated by the backyard warriors.
My favorite flavor from Meat Church is their “Holy Cow” flavor. It is their beef salt and pepper option ( SPG ), but it also has paprika to add a smoked hot kick to the meat. This company is from Texas and they like their pepper, and pepper you shall get. The pepper grind is kind of big, I’m talking about a mesh size of 12 or so, around coarse black pepper size.
- Flavor Profile: Southern, Texas!
- Main ingredients: Salt, sugar, and paprika
- Best for: This is a good general-purpose rub and works well with chicken, pork, or beef.
You will often find very creative names when it comes to BBQ rubs, but Slap Yo Daddy BBQ Rubs takes the win here for sure. But don’t let the name fool you. Slap Yo Daddy is the creation of pitmaster Harry So, and he knows how to win too.
You can find variations of this rub for pork, beef, and all kinds of game. Their rubs are handcrafted in the US and are all “natural”.
- Flavor Profile: Spicy and sweet flavors – it has a little kick.
- Main ingredients: it includes chili power, salt, sugar
- Best for: This is a good General Purpose Rub, with a kick.
Another company with an interesting name, but their poultry rub is highly rated, to say the least, popular. If you like sweets with a kick, you will enjoy Plowboys YardBird Rub.
Flavor Profile: Spicy and sweet flavors
Best for chicken
9. Big Bull’s Texas Brisket by Obie-Cue’s – good for beef
So we have been talking a lot about sweet smoky flavors, but let’s talk Texas BBQ. As we mentioned before, Texas BBQ is one of the best styles in the US and is mainly made with salt and pepper, but there is always more than that.
This is a basic Texas-style rub. It increases beef flavor without overpowering smoke flavor. The taste is sweet and mild enough, great for brisket and those who are not too crazy about pepper.
This is a fantastic chicken and poultry-specific rub. It is extremely tasty, with a few tastes that do not blend well with other meats but really bring out the inherent flavor of barbecued chicken.
Salt, sugar, chili pepper, paprika, dried garlic, dehydrated onion, celery seed, mustard seed, a few additional blended spices, and certain artificial substances comparable to MSG that enhance savory flavors are all included.
MSG and related chemical additions are not inherently dangerous, but they cannot be termed “natural flavoring,” and some individuals have a sensitivity to these forms of flavoring, making them quite unpleasant to consume.
Types of BBQ Rubs explained
There are numerous regional barbecue styles with distinct flavor characteristics. Memphis or Tennessee-style barbecue, for instance, has a tendency toward sweeter flavors, with a mix of sour or savory but a pronounced use of sugar (typically brown sugar).
Another popular BBQ style is Texas BBQ. Texas is renowned for its BBQ food, and you can find plenty of places to try your favorite BBQ dish. Texas BBQ is known for its “heavy pepper flavor,” so barbecue rubs originating from that region will be heavy on black pepper.
Other BBQ styles are more “neutral” and use less sugar, pepper, or are less sweet (all-purpose). All-purpose BBQ rubs are great for poultry and other meats. Sweeter rubs tend to pair better with pork, and more savory rubs work well with beef. Therefore, more savory or salty rubs are classified as “beef rubs,” while sweet BBQ rubs are usually labeled as “butt rubs” or “pork rubs.”
All rubs are made up of a few key ingredients. Most rubs will have paprika, salt, garlic, onion, and black pepper as the primary ingredients. Many types of sugar are included in sweeter rubs, most commonly brown sugar.
Savory rubs can be flavored with a variety of ingredients, including cumin, dill, mustard, and chili peppers, to name a few.
All-purpose rubs often consist of the essential components plus a touch of sugar (usually brown sugar) and chili pepper to make them acceptable with everything.
What to consider when choosing a BBQ Rub?
Here in my state of Florida, it is BBQ season all year long. I know, rub it in, but if you are looking for the best BBQ rubs for your next BBQ, here is a guide to help you choose the best dry rub for your next cookout.
Whether you like Texas-style or my favorite Memphis-style BBQ, we cover all the different styles with the list of rubs below.
How do you decide on the best option? First, you need to understand what ingredients are in the BBQ rub and the BBQ-style flavor you want. Do you want spicy and sweet or the hotter, richer flavor of Texas?
Rubs are typically an inexpensive item, making it affordable to stack up your pantry with multiple options. Nevertheless, some brands have managed to build very successful marketing teams, and their prices are higher, but their products are not necessarily better than smaller brands.
Many rubs use common spices you already have in the fridge, and if you are feeling brave and know what you are doing, you can mix up a nice dry rub in a matter of minutes. However, when it comes to BBQ rubs, many times you are paying for the convenience of knowing the mix of flavors is dead on, since in some cases, these are proven mixes used by pitmasters and quality.
If the cost of such convenience and so-called competition mixes exceeds the market value of a good barbecue rub, well, maybe it might not be worth it for the average backyard warrior.
You would think that dry rubs are all natural and all equal, but you’d be wrong. Some brands use poor quality and ingredients to save on costs, and the result is an inferior product. Spices like kosher salt, garlic powder, ancho chili, sweet brown sugar, cayenne pepper, and other spices are very common ingredients found in the most popular commercial rubs.
Be wary of rubs that advertise vague marketing terms, such as “natural flavor,” or have chemicals such as silicon dioxide or MSG (monosodium glutamate) in them. These ingredients may not necessarily be bad, but if they’re among the highest ingredients, it means you’re getting more fillers and flavor enhancers than the real stuff.
Meat Pairings and Flavors
Not every piece of meat and rub pair well. For example, pork butt seasoned with a Memphis style rub will have a sweet flavor and make amazing pulled pork. However, the same cannot be said about beef. Sure, flavor is subjective and creativity plays a role. In general, all the rubs on the market have a recommended meat pairing.
Pork butt rub Barbecue seasoning also works great on other cuts besides pork shoulders, like pork chops, and can be used as a rib rub.
Beef is a different story, and when it comes to grilled steaks, brisket, and other cuts of beef, salt, and pepper are always a good combination. Traditionally, beef rubs are not as sweet as pork rubs.
Large Brands vs. Small Brands
This topic triggers a lot of controversies, and some will agree while others, well, disagree. I like using small brands because not only am I likely supporting a small business but also the owners of the brand who are either BBQ competitors or family-owned businesses with a passion for BBQ food.
There are large brands like Traeger who lead the market in pellet grill sales, and they know their stuff. However, from time to time, you will come across large brands putting out BBQ rubs just because they can.
These are the brands that have the resources and manpower to bring anything to market, but do not necessarily do the research to make great BBQ rubs; they just have the resources.
You will also come across brands offering specialty rubs; this is a very niche market. These brands cater to people on everything from keto diets to eco-friendly brands.
Tips on Rub Flavor Profiles for Different Cuts of Meat
The Best Rubs for Chicken
For chicken, I don’t like to use too much brown sugar. If you are smoking chicken, it is not that big of a deal, but if you are grilling the meat, the high temps can burn the sugar onto the meat, caramelize it, and also give it a bitter taste.
The Best BBQ Rubs for Pork
Rubs with maple sugar, brown sugar, seasoning salt, and other dried herbs work well with pork. Pork pairs well with sweaty flavors and smoky flavors.
Best Rubs for Beef
Beef is different meat, and although it pairs well with smoky flavors, You want to avoid sweet flavors and not overpower the beef’s natural flavors.
The most popular rubs for bee usually contains little or no sugar. In fact, some pitmasters use just salt and pepper on beef as a rub. These two are the main ingredients of most beef rubs and some traditional flavors, such as garlic, onions, or paprika.
Red meat is one protein where simple tastes better.
Rubs that are meant for pork might not work well for beef and vice versa. This is when general-purpose rubs come in. These are more balanced rubs with fewer ingredients, and they work well for most meats.
I have tried many BBQ rubs and seasonings and the truth is that many brands share many of the same mixes and blends, making it hard to notice the difference. This is hard, but our vote goes to Killer Hogs and Kosmos. However, like with everything related to food, personal preference plays a major role. So I recommend trying a few of these brands until you find your arrow.