A good rub can bring out the best in any cut of meat, making it an essential tool in the toolbox of every pitmaster.
Some pitmasters develop their secret recipe rubs, keeping it a closely guarded secret and only whispering it to their firstborn child on their deathbed.
If you’re only just starting, or if you don’t have time for experimental BBQ alchemy, the good news is there are plenty of excellent off-the-shelf rubs. Here are the best bbq rubs you can buy.
Our favorite barbecue rubs
In no particular order, these rubs are the best of the best. You can play by the “rules” and follow the suggested proteins found on most labels, but these rubs have all been tried and tested with all kinds of meat.
1. Smoke Kitchen – Pitmaster’s Pick
Primary Flavors: Sweet, balanced heat with a hint of smoke
Main ingredients: Sugar, salt, chili peppers, including aleppo, gochugaru and serrano, honey granules (sugar, honey), brown sugar, spices, and garlic
Is it biased of us to put our Smoke Kitchen rub in first place? You betcha.
But after tasting hundreds of different rubs and spending countless hours refining our recipe, we are confident our Pitmaster’s Pick can stand with the best of them.
We wanted a versatile BBQ rub that would enhance anything you put it on. All good barbecue rubs have some heat, but you don’t want it to overpower. Aleppo chilies are known for bringing out the natural flavor of food with half the heat and twice the flavor.
All Smoke Kitchen rubs are small-batch, produced, and packed fresh in the United States.
Primary Flavors: Balanced, sweet, smokey.
Main ingredients: Brown sugar, sugar, salt, paprika, spices including chili pepper, evaporated cane juice, dehydrated garlic and orange peel, onion powder, mustard flour, extractives of paprika, dill weed, and turmeric.
Used by the Championship winning Killer Hogs BBQ team and simply titled ‘The BBQ Rub,’’ this mix has been thirteen years in the making. The team continually refined the rub it in light of their successes at major barbecue competitions.
This rub is characterized by its balance of sweet and smokey with a hint of chili kick at the end, inspired by the Reed brothers’ southern upbringing.
Primary Flavors: Mild, smokey, and peppery.
Main ingredients: Sugar, salt, spices including paprika, dehydrated garlic, dextrose, celery, and spice extractives.
If you’re going to brand your rub as the ‘Holy Gospel’ of seasonings, it better be good. Thankfully, this smokey and peppery offering from Meat Church really lives up to the hype.
The rub is a combination of Meat Church’s ‘Holy Cow’ and ‘Gospel’ rubs. Meat Church listened to the customer feedback that said Gospel lacked punch, and Holy Cow was too peppery and combined the two to solve both problems.
With a mild and (unsurprisingly) peppery taste, this rub works as well on ribs, chicken, and beef as it does sprinkled over roast vegetables.
Meat Church also does a range of other rubs you might also enjoy, such as the Cajun-inspired Holy Voodoo and the deeply southern Honey Hog BBQ Rub.
Primary Flavors: Sweet, salty, and garlicky.
Main ingredients: Paprika and other spices, sugar, brown sugar, salt, dehydrated onion, and garlic.
A sugar-based rub from Lillie’s Q, the ‘Carolina Dirt’ adds a rich sweet flavor to beef, pork,
chicken, and turkey. The rub itself is called No16 because it was the secret ingredient that allowed the Lillie’s Q team to win the Memphis in May BBQ championship in 2016.
A sprinkle, rather than a rub, this mix doesn’t need to be rubbed into the meat and works just as well as a seasoning for pulled pork and fries as it does for slow-cooked ribs.
Primary Flavors: Mild, salty, has a kick.
Main ingredients: Black pepper, kosher salt, granulated garlic, paprika, ground mustard, thyme, ancho powder, coriander.
Lane’s BBQ Signature Rub is an all-around seasoning mix that you can literally apply to every part of a meal to bring out the best of its flavors. This rub works fantastically on your standard chicken, pork, and beef and works exceptionally well with fish, shrimp, potatoes, eggs, and even pasta.
The rub itself is sugar-free, making it Keto diet-friendly.
If you’d prefer something with a little more kick to it, then Lane’s also offer their Sweet Heat rub with Cayenne Sriracha Powder or, for the more hardcore spice lover, their SPF 53 Rub, which is guaranteed to make you sweat.
Primary Flavors: Rich, spicy, and peppery.
Main ingredients: Salt, chili pepper and other spices, sugar, dehydrated garlic & onion, paprika, natural hickory smoke flavor, citric acid.
According to Kosmos Q, the best way to describe their ‘Cow Cover’ Rub is “red,” but we think we can do a little better than that. This rub helped the Kosmos Q team win the 2015 World Steak Champion and makes for a fantastic accompaniment to steak, burgers, fajitas, and brisket.
Unlike some of the other rubs on this list, this one was formulated specifically for use with red meat, hence the name. You can also get the Cow Cover Rub as part of Kosmos Q’s Rub Combo, which includes eight other excellent spice mixes, including their famous Texas Beef and Dirty Bird HOT rubs.
Primary Flavors: Notes of fennel, garlic, and red wine.
Main ingredients: N/A
As well as being a famous manufacturer of grills and the OG king of pellet grills, Traeger also has their own line of rubs.
Unlike a lot of the deep south inspired rubs on this list, their Winemaker’s Napa Valley Rub is light and sophisticated, working better with chicken and fish rather than red meat. It also goes very nicely over some roast vegetables.
If you’d like to try Traeger’s rubs, but want something a little more red-blooded, then Traeger also offers a smaller three-pack of their more traditional beef, pork, and poultry and prime rib rubs for you to sample.
Unusually for a rub manufacturer, Traeger doesn’t list their full ingredients, but their mixes are all Kosher, GMO-free, and gluten-free.
Primary Flavors: Sweet, spicy, with a hint of coffee depth.
Main ingredients: Spices, granulated brown sugar, espresso powder, activated charcoal, salt. Contains mustard, coconut.
Named after the mythical apeman of the forests of North America, this gutsy rub goes especially well with red meat and creates a dramatic and delicious crusty bark.
The addition of espresso powder to the rub won’t make anything taste of coffee; it simply works as a flavor enhancer and adds a bit of the earthy depth you get in a good cup of java.
Spiceology does a range of exciting spice mixes with original flavors, from their Black & Bleu mix with real dehydrated bleu cheese powder and Cajun blackening spices to their Maui Wowee Hawaiian Teriyaki rub make with real pineapple.
Primary Flavors: Garlicky, smokey, and umami.
Main ingredients: Sea salt, maple sugar, granulated garlic, cane sugar, chili, paprika, Worcestershire powder, black pepper, shitake powder, citric acid, celery seed.
Slap Yo Daddy BBQ Rub comes from the talented hands of TLC’s BBQ Pitmasters Head Cook Harry Soo. Harry has, so far, won himself 27 Grand Championships and over 80 First Place awards in the US, Canada, Hawaii, and England, so he knows a thing or two about BBQ.
Crated to add some punchy flavor to brisket, steaks, hamburgers, tri-tip, and sausages, the Slap Yo Daddy ‘Moola’ Beef Rub contains a few ingredients that aren’t generally seen in BBQ rubs, such as Worcestershire sauce powder and shitake mushroom powder.
These not-so-secret ingredients give red meat a rich umami flavor with hints of sweet brown sugar and chili heat.
Primary Flavors: Salty, peppery, and a hit of spice.
Main ingredients: Sea Salt, garlic, sugar, black pepper, chili powder, onion, activated charcoal.
The Hardcore Carnivore ‘Black’ BBQ Rub earns its name by creating a visually appealing black crust on your meat. Don’t worry. The rub won’t make anything taste like BBQ fuel. The blackness comes from food-grade activated charcoal made from coconut husks.
The flavor of the rub itself is relatively mild and natural, which means it works just as well on chicken as it does on a brisket. All of the Hardcore Carnivore rubs are MSG and gluten-free.
Primary Flavors (steak): Salty and peppery.
Primary Flavors (pork): Sweet and fruity.
Primary Flavors (rosemary): Savory and herbal.
Primary Flavors (Santa Maria Style): Peppery and garlicky.
Main ingredients: N/A
We’ve already spoken at length about how much we love Snake River Farms’ meats and their excellent delivery service, so we were overjoyed when they came out with their own range of equally great quality rubs.
This four-pack of Snake River Farms’ signature rubs contains one 6.5 ounce bottle each of their Signature Steak Seasoning, Rosemary Roast Seasoning, Perfect Pork Rub and Santa Maria Style Seasoning.
The Signature Steak is the perfect seasoning for your tenderloin without covering up that beefy flavor, the Rosemary Roast works on everything from turkey to fries, the Perfect Pork is a sweet slice of southern BBQ, and Santa Maria Style Seasoning is handcrafted to bring an authentic flavor to tri-tips.
Having these four in your spice cupboard means you’re covered for just about anything you might want to grill up.
Flavor: Mild, smokey & authentic.
Main ingredients: Black pepper, paprika, chipotle powder.
From the pink pig exposing his buttocks, to the slogan “a little Butt Rub makes everything better” we love everything about Bad Byron’s rub.
We would forgive you for thinking this was only for use on pork butts, the blend of onion, garlic, salt, pepper, paprika and smoked jalapeno makes for an excellent all-purpose seasoning.
A word of warning to go light on this rub as it is definitely on the salty side. We think this is a good thing though, especially on a big hunk of pork shoulder which needs a salty rub. If this is your first time using it you might want to use 1/2 to 2/3 what you normally would and then adjust based on your preferences.
One final tip – try rolling your pork butt in brown sugar once you’ve applied the rub to get a sweeter finish.
This rub is available in a variety of sizes so you can buy in bulk, or try a smaller pack. The picture above is the 7 pound jar which includes shaker holes. If that’s too large you can get it in 4.5 ounce and 26 ounce jars.
13. Szeged Rib Rub
While it says “rib rub” on the awesome tin it comes in, you can use this dry rub for seasoning pork, chicken and steak. In a world where every other company is using little plastic bottles, the old fashioned tin looks great in your kitchen.
Szeged rub works really well to enhance the flavor without overpowering it.
This can be difficult to pick up in stores, but can be found on Amazon in an economical 6 packs of 5 ounce tins. You’ll be glad it comes in a 6 pack after you’ve tried this rub. You’ll be looking for excuses to try it on everything.
Flavor: Mild with a touch of sweetness and a hint of heat.
Main ingredients: Salt, sugar, chili pepper, paprika, garlic, onion, mustard flour.
After winning the 2009 American Royal Invitational BBQ competition, Plowboys Yardbird rub has gone on to win it’s way into our best rub list. It’s a versatile rub that will work perfectly on ribs, pork butts and chicken.
If you’re a purist who always insists on making your own rub, give this one a go and see if it can change your mind.
The rub comes in a convenient 14 ounce jar so you can easily give it a try. You can also pick up a 12 ounce jar of Bovine Bold for a sweeter rub or Fin & Feather which is specially formulated for seafood and poultry (although to be honest you can mix and match and see what rub works best for your tastebuds).
Flavour: Robust blend of herbs and spices.
Main ingredients: Garlic, rosemary, sea salt, onion, paprika, thyme, parsley.
The smells oozing from the kitchen when you use this rub will have even the staunchest vegetarian drooling. It’s difficult to find in stores but you can pick up a 24.5 ounce bottle online for under ten dollars.
For some reason, companies insist on limiting their rubs to one type of meat on the label. Even though this is ideal for chicken, you can still get good results using this on pork and even dressings. It’s not too salty which can also be a bonus.
- New Orleans style – Salt, spices, paprika, garlic, onion, red pepper.
- Memphis style – Paprika, salt, brown sugar, garlic, spices, onion, red pepper.
- Carolina style – Salt, paprika, brown sugar, spices, red pepper.
Buying rubs online can be tricky. Do you really want to be stuck with a 26 ounce jar of rub you wouldn’t give to your worst enemy? Diversify your rub investment with this 3 pack containing Carolina, Memphis and New Orleans style rubs.
This is a great option if you are just getting started with smoking meat. You can experiment with different styles of rub without investing in a larger jar.
Don’t stress over which meat you use them on either. Try the Memphis style rub on some ribs or the Carolina style on a smoked pork butt.
Flavor: Sweet and peppery with just a little bit of heat.
Main ingredients: Brown sugar, paprika, garlic, spices.
Don’t be confused by the name “Bone Suckin’ Sauce”. This is an incredibly versatile rub that can be used for all your barbecue meats, as well as vegetables, steaks and even popcorn!
This is definitely a crowed pleasing rub. It’s mild enough that diners won’t find it too salty or too spicy. It’s also a versatile rub to keep in the pantry and can be used to get some flavor on veggies or seafood.
You can pick up a 3 pack of 5.8 ounce jars off Amazon.
Flavor: Authentic Texas dry rub.
Main ingredients: Salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, spices.
It’s kind of ironic for a barbecue rub called the Salt Lick to be on the peppery side. While some would argue that cayenne pepper and spices isn’t 100% authentic Texas style, the combination works excellently for ribs, pork butt and even brisket.
One of the advantages of store bought rubs you can see here is the consistent grind size. This has a surprisingly large effect on the quality of your barbecue as the smaller particles you typically get at home loose their flavor faster.
This dry rub comes in a pack of 3 12 ounce bottles
That wraps up our list of the best bbq rubs you can buy online. You can find these rubs in various sizes on Amazon, otherwise the guys over at BBQ Pro Shop stock a nice selection of rubs as well so check them out too.
If you know of a delicious rub we’ve missed out let us know in the comments section below, otherwise stick around and learn some tips on the best way to apply your new rub, as well as all you ever needed to know about how long to apply a rub before cooking.
How to apply a rub
Barbecue geeks really love to obsess over the smallest details. What could be more straightforward than applying a barbecue rub? There’s actually a bit more to know than you might expect.
Here are a few tips to consider:
- Use one hand to sprinkle the rub, and the other to handle your meat (but not that meat!). Use a latex glove like in the picture below to avoid cross-contamination.
- While most store bought rubs can be shaken, they tend to get clogged up, especially in humid climates. We like to use a proper adjustable rub shaker (which is also super useful when you make your own rubs).
- The biggest mistake people make is applying too much rub. You want to coat the meat sloshing layer after layer of rub on it.
A lot of it does come down to personal preference. Nothing beats practice, tweaking and perfecting as you go.
There is a lot of debate about “rubbing the rub” (this is all starting to sound rather dirty!) Meathead doesn’t think you should worry about this though:
What you need to know about applying a dry rub overnight
Everyone has a strong opinion on when to apply a rub. You’ll hear someone say to always apply the night before, while offers swear that you only need to apply a few hours before cooking. Lots of people will apply their rub right before they put their meat on.
In Aaron Franklin’s guide to smoking brisket he puts the rub on an hour before, while the brisket is getting up to room temperature. When advice varies by this much it’s more about personal preference.
Some people claim that applying a rub overnight will dry meat out, but this doesn’t really stand up to basic food science for a couple of reasons:
- While rubs with large amounts of salt and sugar can cause some moisture to come out of your meat, your about to subject it to hours of heat and smoke. Moisture will be drawn out whether you put your rub on hours or a day ahead.
- It takes much longer than a day for moisture to be drawn out of the inner parts of the meat, so while you may loose some moisture from the surface within an hour it should be minimal.
At the end of the day the texture and flavour of your barbecue has a lot more to do with how you cook it, and what sauces & rubs you apply. If anything applying a rub overnight will result in a slightly stronger flavor.
On your next barbecue try rubbing a few ribs a day before. Compare the taste and see if you like one style better.
Feature CC Image courtesy of Fiftyknightshades on Flickr