The right rub can make good meat taste great, and great meat taste absolutely exceptional.
Now, while many pitmasters and grill specialists are intensely secretive about their preferred rub recipe, you can find many outstanding rubs pre-made. Indeed, the quality of readymade rubs is so high these days that you really can’t go wrong.
You certainly could go wrong, though, if you rush in and grab the first rub that catches your eye. While rubs are ostensibly very simple, the number of variables means it’s worth spending a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the basics before whipping out your credit card.
Rub is an umbrella term used for a mixture of spices you rub onto meat before grilling or smoking to intensify the flavor.
While the premise of a rub is simple, finding the right one can be tough with so many different flavor permutations. Ultimately, it will come down to personal taste and preference, so don’t expect to find one universal BBQ rub that is guaranteed to please.
Here are a few things to consider when you’re looking for the best BBQ rubs:
Dry rub or wet rub
Most rubs are dry rubs. These contain a mix of blended spices and dried herbs. You rub dry rubs directly into your meat before cooking. When the rub mixes with the juices of the meat, the overall flavor is enhanced.
A wet rub is more like a paste. You add this, along with some sauce or oil, to the mix. Mixing a dry rub with equal parts of mustard, apple cider, and apple cider vinegar delivers the same result
Style of rub
There are four main type of rub – Texas style (brown sugar, cayenne, chili powder), Memphis and Tennessee style (sweet, tangy, and savory mix), Carolina BBQ style (ideal for pork), Kansas City style (thick and sweet sauce ideal for smoked meats
Taste and versatility
Most rubs contain salt, pepper, sugar, paprika, garlic, and onions
Salt is cheap and often used as a bulking agent in commercial rubs for this reason. High-grade rubs will use salt to bring out the best in the other ingredients rather than relying on it as an inexpensive filler
Sugar burns at 375F, so if you are looking to grill meats above that temperature for extended periods, rubbing with a sugar-heavy rub will lead to burning and bitterness
OK, if you keep these pointers in mind, you should now be perfectly positioned to explore our showcase of the best BBQ rubs on the market. See which of these would make the best fit for your backyard grill or smoker.
Table of Contents
- Best BBQ Rubs
- 1. Meat Church Holy Gospel BBQ Rub
- 2. Killer Hogs The BBQ Rub
- 3. Traeger Grills Pork and Poultry Rub
- 4. Bad Byron’s Butt Rub
- 5. Lawry’s Perfect Blend Chicken Rub
- 6. Plowboys Yardbird Rub
- 7. Hardcore Carnivore Black Rub
- 8. Kosmos Q Dry Rub
- 9. The Salt Lick Original Dry Rub
- 10. Traeger Grill Saskatchewan Dry Rub
- 11. Lillie’s Q Carolina Dirt BBQ Rub
- 12. Pitmaster Harry Soo’s Slap Yo Daddy BBQ Sauce
- 13. Lambert’s Sweet Rub of Mine
- 14. Tom Douglas Rub with Love
- 15. Bad Byron’s Butt Rub
- 16. John Henry’s Texas Brisket Rub
- 17. Szeged Rib Rub
Best BBQ Rubs
1. Meat Church Holy Gospel BBQ Rub
First up in our collection of the best BBQ rubs and our overall favorite is the Holy Gospel BBQ rub from Meat Church.
One of the key selling points here is the versatility of this rub. You can season pretty much any dishes you plan to grill and you’ll enhance them with a delicate blend of sugar and salt along with garlic, paprika, and celery.
While most users seem satisfied with this rub, we found some complaints concerning the calorie and carb content. If you’re watching your waistline, this might not be the best rub for you.
You can slather the rub onto your meat and fish and leave it overnight, or you could apply it just 30 minutes before cooking and you’ll still generate lip-smacking results.
- Size: 14oz
- Flavors: Sugar, salt, paprika, celery, and garlic
- Best for: Chicken, beef, pork, ribs, seafood
- NO MSG
- Ready to cook in 30 minutes
- Heavy on carbs and calories
2. Killer Hogs The BBQ Rub
Next up is a tasty rub from Killer Hogs BBQ ideal for enhancing a broad spread of grilled dishes. Whether you want to intensify the flavor of chicken and beef or you’re whipping up a handful of burgers, a liberal coating of this excellent dry rub will improve the end result.
The rub was developed for competition use, and pitmasters and grilling fans the world over have been using it for the past ten years.
The balanced formula ensures you get consistent results every time. You get sweetness and flavor rounded out with a gentle kick to finish.
This generous 160z container makes this first-class rub a great bargain, too.
Made in the USA from an industry heavyweight, this is a flexible and delectable seasoning that deserves a place on any shortlist of the best BBQ rubs.
- Size: 16oz
- Flavors: Sugar, salt, paprika, garlic, and orange peel
- Best for: Chicken, beef, pork, burgers
- Exceptional brand heritage
- Highly versatile rub
- Made in the USA
- Could use more salt and pepper
3. Traeger Grills Pork and Poultry Rub
Traeger is the powerhouse brand that pioneered the original wood pellet grill and continues to dominate this market segment. How does their attempt at a BBQ rub stand up, then?
Rather than offering a multipurpose rub, Traeger serves up a deep bench of specialty rubs like this one intended for pork and poultry.
Laced with apple and honey, both of these ingredients complement chicken and pork dishes wonderfully. It’s not by accident that you see this combination on so many menus the world over.
GMO-free and containing no gluten either, the formula is kosher, too.
If your kitchen is overflowing with spices and storage space is at a premium, you’ll appreciate the stackable aluminum container.
The only complaints we could unearth in a sea of positive testimony concerning this rub relate to the presence of maltodextrin. If you are allergic or sensitive to this, give the Traeger rub a swerve. If not, you’re in for a treat!
- Size: 9.25oz
- Flavors: Apple and honey
- Best for: Pork and poultry
- Stackable aluminum container
- Made by a grill specialist
- Kosher and non-GMO
- Contains maltodextrin
4. Bad Byron’s Butt Rub
Next in line is the first of a couple of entries from the inimitable Bad Byron’s Butt Rub. How does this strangely-named seasoning stand and fall?
Firstly, whether you’re a backyard griller or a competition pitmaster, you’ll enjoy the all-purpose nature of this rub. It’s ideal for just about any meats, from chicken and steak through to pulled pork and racks of ribs.
The formula contains no carbs and no calories, so reserve your treats for the grilled food and sidestep the extra calories carb-heavy rubs can add to your meal.
Despite being easy on the waistline, this rub is packed with flavor. As well as all the usual ingredients contained in rubs – see our brief guide above – you’ll also benefit from chipotle to add a moderate kick.
Aside from not being especially salty, this is a universally popular rub that has many use cases. Treat yourself to a jar and you’ll be back for more.
- Size: 112oz
- Flavors: Sugar, salt, garlic, paprika, and chipotle
- Best for: Chicken, steak, ribs, pork, and pulled pork
- Vegan and carb-free
- Gluten-free seasoning
- Paleo-friendly and low calorie
- Not the saltiest rub
5. Lawry’s Perfect Blend Chicken Rub
If you’re looking for a dedicated rub for chicken and poultry next time you grill out, Lawry’s delivers a fine example here.
As well as bringing out the very best in all your chicken-based dishes, this rub also responds well when applied to burger patties.
While the rub is ideal if you’re grilling in the backyard, it also works well for roasted, baked, and braised dishes.
Although the vast bulk of user reviews of this rub are positive, we found some scattered complaints from consumers receiving damaged packages. We would suggest checking the contents of your delivery closely.
The substantial bottle means you’re getting great value for money as well, so what are you waiting for?
- Size: 24.5oz
- Flavors: Sugar, salt, garlic, onion, and rosemary
- Best for: Chicken, poultry, and beef burgers
- For grilling, roasting, baking, or broiling
- Great for burgers as well as chicken
- Generously sized bottle
- Some issues with damaged packaging reported
6. Plowboys Yardbird Rub
Plowboys Yardbird Rub flies off the shelves the world over, but what makes it so popular?
Firstly, this is specialty rub designed to bring out the best in either chicken or pork dishes. While a multipurpose rub is convenient and cost-effective, you may find these rubs lacking when you’re looking for something special for your favorite pork or chicken dish.
The formula contains no fat and there is no MSG either.
The container size of 14oz means you’ll have enough rub to keep you going all summer long, and you won’t need to dig too deep for the privilege either.
As an added kicker, while this rub is specifically designed for pork, chicken, and poultry, you’ll get impressive results when seasoning seafood, too.
- Size: 14oz
- Flavors: Sugar, salt, paprika, chili, garlic, and mustard
- Best for: Chicken and pork
- No fat
- Also great with seafood
- Fairly hot
7. Hardcore Carnivore Black Rub
If you cook lots of beef, steaks, and other red meat on your grill, it makes sense to look for a specialty rub to bring out the best qualities in that meat.
Hardcore Carnivore delivers a formula containing no gluten and no MSG. The ingredients are assembled in Texas, and the rub is a keto-friendly taste sensation.
Packed with activated charcoal, you’ll add a great burst of color to your meat. According to a handful of user reviews, the charcoal is not especially noticeable, so don’t buy this based purely on the marketing campaign.
The 130z shaker won’t eat up too much space in the spice cabinet while giving you enough rub to grill out for the rest of summer and beyond.
Setting this issue of subtlety aside, most user reviews sing the praises of this rub from one of the best-known names in this space.
- Size: 13oz
- Flavors: Sea salt, sugar, garlic, onion, spices, and activated charcoal,
- Best for: Beef and red meat
- No MSG or gluten
- Made in Texas
- Lacks charcoal flavor
8. Kosmos Q Dry Rub
Kosmos produces an excellent dry rub that works wonderfully for a broad spread of grilled and smoked dishes. Bring out the best in your steak and burgers, season a rack of ribs, or make your tender brisket even more succulent using the Q rub.
This is a nicely balanced blend giving you a savory profile that’s undercut with gentle heat that adds to your grilled meats without overpowering them.
That said, some customers complain about the flavor being too subtle.
You could also try using this rub with casseroles or baked potatoes, giving you a truly versatile addition to the kitchen cabinet.
This is an award-winning blend that’s been used in professional competitions all over the world. Why not bring some of that experience into your backyard with Kosmos?
- Size: 10.5oz
- Flavors: Sugar, salt, paprika, onion, and garlic
- Best for: Steak, burgers, ribs, and brisket
- Great balance of heat and savory profile
- Makes brisket even more tender
- Tested in global competitions
- Not the boldest flavor
9. The Salt Lick Original Dry Rub
The Salt Lick has a deep bench of rubs, with this Original Dry Rub and enduring favorite of grillers all over the world. What do you get for your money, then?
Firstly, this dry rub is all-natural and not plagued with MSG or any other artificial flavorings. Instead, you get an alluring blend of salt, pepper and spices. With both black pepper and cayenne pepper in the mix, you add a great extra dimension to your chicken and beef.
There are several options available when it comes to sizing. This bundle gives you 3 x 12oz containers, so you’ll have ample rub to grill all summer long.
You can buy with complete confidence from this manufacturer, in the business since 1967.
- Size: 12oz
- Flavors: Salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and spices
- Best for: Chicken and beef
- Perfect for grilling beef or chicken
- Subtle dry rub
- No MSG or flavor enhancers
- Loaded with pepper
10. Traeger Grill Saskatchewan Dry Rub
We have another entry from the highly reputable Traeger next. As you would expect from a wood pellet grill specialist, this manufacturer knows just how to bring out the very best in a range of meats.
The Blackened Saskatchewan Dry Rub contains garlic along with a proprietary blend of spices designed to enhance the flavor of a wide range of foods from beef and pork to chicken, poultry, and vegetables.
As with all Traeger rubs, you benefit from exquisite packaging and a stackable aluminum container to streamline storage.
Kosher, GMO-free, and gluten-free, this rub is a good fit for anyone with allergies, sensitivities, or special dietary requirements.
Aside from some scattered complaints about quality control, this is one of the best BBQ rubs you’ll find from an industry giant.
- Size: 8oz
- Flavors: Garlic and signature spices
- Best for: Beef, pork, poultry, and veggies
- Gluten-free and non-GMO
- Stackable container
- Versatile dry rub
- Weak quality control
11. Lillie’s Q Carolina Dirt BBQ Rub
Next up comes an award-winning rub from Lillie’s Q in the form of this Carolina Dirt Rub.
Perfect for all slow-cooked meats you plan to grill or smoke, this rub also adds a great edge to fries.
Named for the dirt-red soil in Carolina where this pitmaster-approved blend is manufactured, you’re getting a subtle but powerful flavor intensifier for a true southern-styled barbecue experience this summer.
The container is tiny at just 3.5oz, so this is not one of the most cost-effective rubs on our shortlist. If you’re a fan of cooking low and slow, though, there’s no better accompaniment to your meats.
Most users praise this rub, but we can’t say the same for feedback concerning quality control.
- Size: 3.25oz
- Flavors: Sugar, salt, paprika, onion, garlic, and blended spices
- Best for: Ribs, pulled pork, and fries
- Award-winning rub
- Ideal for slow-cooked meat
- Also works well for seasoning fries
- Some complaints about damaged packaging
12. Pitmaster Harry Soo’s Slap Yo Daddy BBQ Sauce
Pitmaster Harry Soo’s Slap Yo Daddy Rub is memorably named, but are the contents equally memorable?
In a word, yes. The sweetness of this rub is accompanied by a gentle heat that’s unmistakable but not dominant.
The all-natural blend has no MSG, and there’s no gluten either.
Ideal for rubbing into a wide range of ingredients, this is one of the most adaptable rubs on our shortlist. There is also a beef and a chicken rub if you fancy something more laser-targeted.
Handmade in small batches in the USA, you can buy this competition-grade rub with complete confidence.
It’s not only perfect for grilled and smoked food, but can also be used for popcorn, tofu, eggs, and potatoes.
Although this is certainly not the cheapest BBQ rub you can find, it’s right up there among the very best. When you consider the celebrity endorsement and the versatility offered, it suddenly doesn’t seem so expensive.
- Size: 26oz
- Flavors: Sea salt, maple sugar, paprika, garlic, and chili powder
- Best for: All purpose
- Sweet flavor undercut with heat
- Free of gluten and MSG
- Works well with most ingredients
- Reasonably pricey
13. Lambert’s Sweet Rub of Mine
Lambert’s Sweet Rub of Mine stole the prize at 2013’s Memphis in May, so what can you expect from this award-winning BBQ rub?
If you grill lots of pork dishes, this combination of sugar, salt, and spices will bring out the very best in this meat.
That said, you could also apply the rub to poultry and burgers, but it’s recommended for use with a variety of pork dishes, including pulled pork.
Designed and created by world class pitmaster Mark Lambert, you’re benefiting from all of his expertise and knowledge.
The balance of flavors means this rub doesn’t overpower your meat, but it will certainly bring out its very finest qualities.
As you would expect from any celebrity-endorsed product, this rub isn’t especially cheap and the 12.5oz bottle is reasonably small. This set aside, you’re getting one of the best BBQ rubs out there, so why not treat yourself?
- Size: 12.5oz
- Flavors: Turbinado sugar, salt, paprika, onion, garlic, chili pepper, mustard
- Best for: Pork
- Championship-grade rub
- Balanced flavors
- Award-winning rub
- Not the most versatile rub
14. Tom Douglas Rub with Love
Next in line is a dinky 3.5oz container of Tom Douglas Rub with Love. This brand has a deep bench of rubs in a variety of imaginative flavors, including this mushroom sensation.
Ideal for just about any meat and also working well with seafood and veggies, you get a very versatile rub here.
If you feel this rub container is too small, you can buy larger packs of 16oz or 1 pound.
The flavor profile is earthy and nutty as you would expect given the porcini mushrooms packed in. The addition of paprika and herbes de Provence adds a wonderful dimension to your grilled food.
Experiment with the wide range of flavors and benefit from the experience of a rub specialist with Tom Douglas.
- Size: 3.5oz
- Flavors: Porcini mushrooms, herbes de Provence
- Best for: Chicken, beef, seafood, and veggies
- Works well with most meats and seafoods
- Earthy and nutty
- Subtle flavor profile
- Small container
15. Bad Byron’s Butt Rub
Bad Byron’s Butt Rub is a favorite of grill masters all over the world and with good reason.
Containing all the usual rub ingredients along with some chipotle for a slight kick at the finish, this rub is one of the most versatile you’ll find without compromising on performance. Chicken, beef, and pork all respond well to this rub. It brings out the best in pulled pork, and you can also rub it onto fish and vegetables. There’s pretty much nothing this subtle blend won’t enhance when sparingly rubbed in.
There is no safety seal in place, and this means a few customers have complained about packages arriving with some spillage.
With the generous 26oz package, you’re getting great value for money as well as one of the best BBQ rubs out there.
- Size: 26oz
- Flavors: Sugar, salt, paprika, garlic, onion, and chipotle
- Best for: Chicken, steak, ribs, pork, and pulled pork
- Used by pitmasters
- Superb all-purpose rub
- Great price/performance ratio
- No safety seal on package
16. John Henry’s Texas Brisket Rub
As we near the end of our quest for the best BBQ rubs, we have a superb Texas brisket rub from John Henry’s.
This rub is purpose-made to bring out the best in brisket. It will help to hold in the juices as you smoke your brisket slow and low all day long. As it cooks, a smoky flavor will be imparted throughout the brisket.
While the rub comes fully into its own when you’re smoking brisket, you’ll find it surprisingly versatile and capable of enhancing the flavor of chicken and ribs as well as fish and seafood.
You get no gluten and no MSG in this formula, and the spices are delicately balanced so you’re in no danger of overpowering your food. The drawback of this for some consumers is a flavor that’s not especially pronounced.
If you prefer to use subtle rubs and you cook a lot of brisket, try adding some John Henry’s East Texas Brisket Rub to your arsenal.
- Size: 11oz
- Flavors: Sugar, salt, paprika, onion, garlic, and lemon oil
- Best for: Brisket, chicken, ribs, and fish
- No gluten
- Balanced blend of spices
Not the strongest smokiness or flavor
17. Szeged Rib Rub
To round out our collection of the best BBQ rubs, we have a rib rub from Szeged well worth popping on your shortlist.
Now, multipurpose rubs are perfectly fine, and they remain the preferred option for many grillers, especially those who cook a wide variety of meats, fish, and veggies. For anyone cooking lots of ribs, though, it pays to consider some specialty ribs designed with the needs of ribs uppermost.
You get a half-dozen 5oz packs so you’re getting outstanding value as well as the perfect accompaniment to your ribs.
Most user feedback concerning this rub is positive, but some disappointed customers found the flavor too subtle. If you’re happy with a less pronounced seasoning, give this great rub a try. If you want something packing more of a punch, explore some of the many great BBQ rubs above.
- Size: 5oz
- Flavors: Salt, paprika, garlic, and mustard
- Best for: Pork and ribs
- Delicate flavor
- Ideal for pork-based dishes
- Multiple sizes available
- Some find flavor too subtle
How do I best apply a rub before barbecuing meat?
You should hold the meat with one hand while using your other hand to sprinkle on the rub. Wearing a latex glove on one hand will help you to avoid any cross-contamination.
Although most store-bought rubs are designed to be shaken, they often get clogged up, especially in humid conditions. Consider investing in a dedicated rub shaker.
This will also come in handy if you decide to branch out and start making homemade rubs. If it’s properly shaken, you should then add a sparing amount of rub. All you need to do is coat the meat rather than trying to add layer after layer after layer.
Is it true that rubbing a rub will spoil the meat?
No. Meat is muscle that’s been cut so the bones and fat are removed. The surface of the meat, then, has already been sliced apart, along with muscle fibers. Beyond this, the surface of meat is pitted with crevices and pockmarks as well as pores in the surface.
Given that this surface is not smooth, rubbing the meat will not in any way spoil it. This is a myth, but one that unfortunately endures.
Does applying a dry rub overnight dry out your meat?
Many grillers claim that rubbing meat overnight causes it to dry out. This is not based on sound science, though. Although some rubs – especially those packed with salt and sugar – draw some moisture out of your meat, you should bear in mind that the meat is about to be subjected to hours of heat and smoke.
This means moisture will be drawn out regardless of whether you rub your meat an hour before grilling or the previous night. For moisture to be drawn from the inner parts of meat, though, takes more than a day, meaning you can safely apply your rub overnight. As with many urban myths surrounding grilling, it makes sense to look at the objective facts and to then form your own opinion.
How can I make sure my rub sticks to the meat?
Some grillers insist that the juices of the meat cooking are sufficient to hold a rub in place. Others use some form of binding agent like yellow mustard or olive oil.
How long does a BBQ rub last?
If you opt for a wet BBQ rub, this will last for several weeks, if properly refrigerated. Dried herbs and spices used for rubs will last for up to a year after they’re opened.
If you came here to Madiba today without any real idea about how to choose the best BBQ rubs, we’ve hopefully cleared up the confusion.
The most important thing to bear in mind with rubs and seasonings is that there is no right or wrong rub. If you take some time to familiarize yourself with the various styles and ingredients on offer, you should easily find a rub that enhances your preferred grilled dishes.
Whether you prefer the idea of an all-purpose rub, or you like the idea of specialty rubs, we tried to provide something for everyone today, so we hope you find something you love!
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