A good BBQ rub can make good meat taste better and turn plain ‘ol ribs into award-winning meat. Despite being very secretive with their recipes, you will find a variety of pitmasters, who are selling their best and competition-winning rub recipes.
This article brings you nine BBQ rubs, some from award-winning pitmasters, that you can get your hands on and BBQ cook delicious food.
Types of BBQ Rub 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.
How do I choose 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: BBQ Rubs
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.
The 9 Best BBQ Dry Rubs Reviews (2022)
OK, so you are here looking for the best BBQ rub, I have compiled a list of the best BBQ rubs, including every flavor profile and for different types of meat.
This BBQ Rub is the creation of two competitors, Malcolm and Waylon Reed, who dominated several BBQ competitions. 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 with a good flavor. Spices include peppercorn, dill, weed, turmeric, and natural flavors.
This is one of those types of brands I mentioned earlier. 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 all kinds of pork rubs, including a Texas Brisket Rub and a beef rub.
Flavor Profile: Sweet and Spicy
Main ingredients: Salt, sugar, and paprika
Best for Pork including Shoulders and Ribs
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.
Trager states this rub is 100 percent natural and is GMO and gluten-free. Make sure to explore Trager’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
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”.
Flavor Profile: Savory
Main ingredients: Includes Sugar, salt, pepper, paprika
Best for: Beef, steaks, pork
Another great option for those serious about flavor and a popular brand is killing it. 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 for pork, poultry, and beef. This is an American product, and it is very well rated by the backyard warriors.
Flavor Profile: Southern!
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 Soo, 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 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
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 rub has a great rating, and it is not only because of its name. It is a great spice for chicken, and it adds a nice “kick” to the sweetness.
It has a chipotle taste for individuals who like their food spicy. Other components include chipotle (smoked jalapenos). There is no sugar in the meal.
Yardbird Rub from Plowboys
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.
Other Popular Brands
Lillie’s Q ‘No. 16 Carolina Dirt’ BBQ Rub
The Salt Lick Original Dry Rub
Santa Maria Grill Seasoning by Oakridge BBQ
Santa Maria style beef grilling developed in California and is influenced by Mexican cuisine. A salt, pepper, onion, and garlic foundation combined with heat keeps things interesting.
Awesomeness—Rub and BBQ Seasoning
This BBQ rub is quite neutral and works well with a variety of flavor combinations. It is a sweet rub with a lot of tasty ingredients, yet it is still quite tasty.
It has a distinct apple flavor and serves as a subtle undertone for the remaining spices. Except for the chipotle powder and flake, which steal the show here, they are all rather subdued.
The ingredients are relatively straightforward: smoked paprika, chipotle powder, chipotle flakes, black pepper, garlic, onion, granulated honey, and smoked applewood sea salt.
That final ingredient is the true star here, providing a distinct apple flavor and a pleasant light taste to the rest of the spices, which are mostly muted save for the chipotle powder and flakes.
That may put off anyone who is not a lover of chipotle flavor, but if you enjoy an apple-tasting sweet BBQ from the south, well, you have it here.
Lambert’s Sweet Rub ‘O’ Mine (12.5 oz.)
This product is great and simple. It has the simplest recipe, which is excellent, however, it does include MSG. As previously stated, some people are put off by artificial flavor enhancers such as MSG. If you are sensitive to MSG or simply do not enjoy swallowing chemicals like it for whatever reason, avoid this one.
The other components, on the other hand, are rather tasty. Turbinado sugar, salt, dehydrated onion, granulated garlic, evaporated cane juice, chile pepper, mustard flour, and a few more spices make up the base. In addition, there are a few items that are only there to intensify the color.
Overall, this rub is wonderful and reasonably priced, but it suffers from a lack of uniqueness. Everything in it, with the exception of the turbinado sugar, which is different from other sugar types, can be found in a thousand other BBQ rubs. The components are of high quality, yet there is nothing that distinguishes this rub from the herd.
There is a good amount of brown sugar and spices, including mustard powder. Mostly items that make colors pop.
The Squeal Hog Rub by Cowtown
This rub is fantastic on pork shoulder and pork ribs. It has a delicious hickory smoke taste that goes well with pork. If you enjoy pork and do not mind hot spices, this is a good rub to try.
Za’Atar Seasoning by USimplySeason
Zaatari has a very distinct taste. This is a barbecue rub like nothing you’ve tried before. It combines the unique flavors of sesame with herbal mixes of oregano, thyme, and marjoram, followed by the acidic flavor of red sumac.
This seasoning works great for paleo-friendly diets and folks who follow Mediterranean diets. It has no artificial sweeteners or salts. Roasted nutmeg, thyme, and sumac are among the other ingredients. There is no MSG, no salt, and no genetically engineered or animal-derived goods.
Ford’s Gourmet Foods Bone Sucking Sauce Rib Rub
This rib rub was originally adapted from a Raleigh, NC family recipe. The rub and sauce are exported today to more than 80 nations.
In addition to pork ribs, it can be used with beef and vegetables. Some of the ingredients include chili peppers, onion powder, tin flakes, citrus acids, and aroma. It has no artificial products, and it has gluten-free content.
Secret Weapon Pork & Chicken Rub from Oakridge BBQ
This is a good rib rub. It has a sweet, creamy sweetness that gives you that warm feeling.
Some ingredients: chilies, paprika, and ancho.
New Zealand Lamb Rub by Colorado Spice
It is made with lemon peel, basil, and spearmint and will transport you to Greece rather than New Zealand. It also has salt, fructose, and black pepper in it. Lamb and mint are always a great pairing.
Spearmint is used in the rub, and it is excellent. The Lamb Rub was created specifically for, you guessed it, lamb.
Fructose, peppermint, sesame, lemon peels, basil, and spices are among the other components. Kosher certification The items are devoid of dyes, artificial colors, and MSG.
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.
This is hard, but our vote goes to Killer Hogs and Kosmos.