While many famous pitmasters prefer to keep their rub recipes a secret, there are some excellent ready-made rubs that other BBQ champions and experts in cooking meat are happily sharing and offering on the market.
Choosing the right BBQ rub is essential for the taste of any cut of meat or meal you prepare on the grill, barbecue, or smoker.
Here are the best BBQ rubs for 2021 for all types of meat and uses.
Main ingredients: salt, sugar, paprika, celery, dehydrated garlic, dextrose, spices, and extractives
Basic flavors: mild taste, peppery and smoky
Works with: beef, chicken, pork, turkey, fish, seafood, and vegetables
The Holy Gospel BBQ Rub by Meat Church is among the most popular and most universal dry rubs on the market.
It combines two of the other popular rubs by the company, including Gospel and Holy Cow, and takes the best of both. It is not too peppery but does have a punch to it.
It is an excellent choice for ribs, chicken, beef, steak, burgers, and roast veggies.
You can choose from the large selection of dry rubs offered by Meat Church here.
Main ingredients: sugar, brown sugar, paprika, chili pepper, dehydrated garlic, and orange peel, evaporated cane juice, mustard flour, onion powder, paprika extractives, turmeric, and dill weed
Basic flavors: balanced, smoky, and sweet
Works with: pork but works well with poultry, and beef, and vegetables as well
Created by the Killer Hogs BBQ team, who are champions in many major competitions, this rub offers a balanced and slightly sweet smoky taste, as well as a unique mahogany-colored bark to the meat.
Main ingredients: brown sugar, sugar, salt, spices including paprika, dehydrated garlic, and onion
Basic flavors: sweet, garlicky
Works with: low and slow-cooked ribs and pork, and a sprinkle for pulled pork
This sugar-based dry rub is named Carolina Dirt because the sprinkle resembles the red clay-colored soil of Carolina.
No.16 comes from 2016 – the year in which the team used the rub as a secret ingredient which won them the Memphis in May World Championship BBQ contest.
Main ingredients: black pepper, Kosher salt, granulated garlic, ground mustard, ancho powder, thyme, coriander
Basic flavors: mild, salty with a kick
Works with: chicken, pork, shrimp, fish, eggs, potatoes, and pasta
This sugar-free and zero-carb BBQ rub is suitable for all kinds of meat, including pork, beef, shrimp, fish, chicken, potatoes, and pasta, and is even keto-friendly.
This mild meat rub is a popular choice, but if you prefer something spicier, you can try Lane’s SPF 53 rub for pork and chicken.
Main ingredients: salt, sugar, chili pepper, other spices, dehydrated onion and garlic, citric acid, and natural hickory smoke flavor
Basic flavors: rich, peppery, and spicy
Works with: beef steak, brisket, burgers, fajitas, and even poultry
This red and spicy Cow cover rub is the mix of spices that helped the Kosmos Q team win the World Steak Championship in 2015.
If you like to try out more of the dry rubs by Kosmos Q, you can buy this set of all 8 dry rubs included in the Kosmos Q Rub Variety Flavors Combo.
Related content: The Best Smoker Grill Combos for 2021
Main ingredients: not available
Basic flavors: sweet and savory with notes of fennel, red wine, and garlic
Works with: chicken, fish, roasted vegetables
This subtle and sophisticated dry rub by Traeger is a creation of famous winemakers Lydia and Rob Mondavi.
It has a unique taste with a hit of red wine, fennel, and garlic and is a superb dry rub to use for preparing delicate fish and chicken rather than on red meat.
While the ingredients have not been published, like all other rubs by one of the leaders in the pellet grill industry Traeger this one is gluten-free, GMO-free, and Kosher.
If you want to try out more traditional and universal dry rubs offered by Traeger, you can buy this Holiday Rub Bundle of 3 different smaller-sized dry rubs.
Main ingredients: garlic, sea salt, rice vinegar powder, smoked paprika, other spices, and sunflower oil
Basic flavors: herb flavor with a kick
Works with: pork, chicken, beef, fish, vegetables, and pasta sauces, chili, stew, or braises
This Moss herb BBQ rub will remind you of fresh moss and nature, with a nice kick to it. It is a universal rub and spice mix which you can use for meat, fish, and for cooking all types of stews, sauces, braises, and more.
Like all other dry rubs offered by Spiceology, this dry rub doesn’t contain any fillers, MSG, preservatives, and non-irradiated herbs.
The company has a wide selection of exciting spice mixes and rubs, including this Sriracha Blends 6-pack set made in collaboration with Huy Fong or the fantastic Black and Bleu Cajun and Blue Cheese Rub.
Main ingredients: sea salt, maple sugar, cane sugar, granulated garlic, black pepper, chili, paprika, shitake powder, Worcestershire powder, celery seed, and citric acid
Basic flavors: umami, smoky and garlicky
Works with: beef brisket, steak, burgers, sausages, and tri-tip
This dry rub for beef was created by pitmaster Harry Soo, who has 27 Grand Championship titles and more than 80 first places around the world.
It contains some ingredients like the shitake powder and the Worcestershire powder, which are not typically used for BBQ, but thanks to them and the other ingredients, this rub brings an amazing umami flavor to any beef cut or meal.
Main ingredients: sea salt, garlic, black pepper, sugar, onion, chili powder, activated carbon
Basic flavors: mild, peppery, salty with a spicy kick
Works with: beef steaks, BBQ, and red meat
This Black beef rub contains activated carbon which will help form a dark and beautiful bark on beef steaks and other red meat.
Like all other dry rubs by Hardcore Carnivore, this one is entirely gluten-free, MSG-free, and is keto-friendly.
Main ingredients: salt, pepper, garlic, onion, paprika, and smoked jalapeno (chipotle)
Basic flavors: salty, authentic, and smoky
Works with: pork butt, ribs, steak, pulled pork, chicken, and more
Not only does this rub have one of the most humorous labels, but the Bad Byron’s Butt Rub is also among the bestselling BBQ rubs for 2021.
It is an excellent seasoning for pork butt and pork of all types and is keto and paleo-friendly with no sugar, no gluten, and zero carbs.
Main ingredients: salt, paprika, garlic, mustard, sugar, and other spices
Basic flavors: sweet with a slight spiciness
Works with: barbecued ribs and pork chops, steak or chicken
This slightly sweet dry BBQ rub is offered in an old-fashioned tin and will help enhance the flavor of your delicious pork without overwhelming it.
It is a great rub to use if you are preparing Memphis-style ribs but can be used for seasoning all types of meat, fish, and meals.
Main ingredients: salt, sugar, paprika, chili pepper, onion, garlic, mustard flour
Basic flavors: mild with some sweetness and a slightly spicy hint
Works with: pork butt, ribs, chicken, and others
This rub was used for winning the 2009 American Royal Invitational BBQ competition and is still one of the top-preferred universal BBQ dry rubs on the market.
You can buy the Yardbird rub in combination with Plowboys Bovine Bold in this large-sized set of two.
Main ingredients: garlic, rosemary, paprika, sea salt, onion, parsley, thyme
Basic flavors: robust natural flavor of spices and herbs
Works with: chicken, poultry, ground beef for burgers, pork
This Perfect Blend Chicken Rub by Lawry’s is another bestselling dry BBQ rub that works perfectly with poultry but can be used for preparing burgers, making dressings, barbecuing pork, and others.
It is not as salty as other rubs and is made of flavorful herbs suitable for grilling, broiling, baking, and roasting chicken.
Main ingredients: they vary among the three different styles, but each contains salt, paprika, garlic, and spices as part of the mix
Basic flavors: classical (for the California style), hot and smoky (Kansas City style), and sweet (Texas-style)
Works with: pork, ribs, chicken, dish, seafood, chilies, steaks
This 3-pack is the perfect addition to your kitchen and pit. It contains three large-sized jars of BBQ rubs suitable for any meat or dish.
The set includes California, Kansas City, and Texas-style BBQ rubs. The California rub is excellent for brisket, ribs, smoked jerky, pork shoulder, and kabobs. The Kansas City rub is perfect for ribeye steak, seafood boils, and chilies. The Texas-style rub is suitable for brisket and any other meat which you want to enjoy with a sweet taste.
Main ingredients: brown sugar, paprika, garlic, and spices
Basic flavors: peppery, sweet with a touch of heat
Works with: ribs, all kinds of meat, fish, meatloaf, different dishes, popcorn
This is one of the most versatile BBQ rubs on the market, which can be used not only for preparing ribs, but for dishes like deviled eggs, meatloaf, green beans, vegetables, and even for popcorn.
It is a mild rub and is neither too salty nor too spicy, so it should work for most tastes and needs.
Main ingredients: salt, pepper, spices, cayenne pepper
Basic flavors: authentic Texas-style BBQ rub taste
Works with: pork butt, ribs, brisket
This original dry rub by Salt Lick is based on the authentic Texas-style dry rub, even though it contains cayenne pepper and some spices which are not so traditional for this style. Nevertheless, this is a well-made dry rub which is easy to apply on the pork cut, and will bring that traditional taste of Texas-style barbecue to your table.
Main ingredients: not available
Basic flavors: salty and peppery for the Signature Steak rub, fruity and sweet southern-style for the Perfect Pork rub, and herbal and savory for the Rosemary Roast rub
Works with: steak, prime rib, pork ribs, Kurobuta pork, poultry, others
This set of three seasonings and rubs by Snake River farms is a perfect idea for a gift for any pitmaster and pork lover. The three different rubs in the set include the Signature Steak Seasoning, the Rosemary Roast Seasoning, and the Perfect Pork Rub.
With a set like this which offers suitable seasoning for any type of meat and food, you will be covered no matter what you decide to grill or smoke next time.
Applying the rub properly
Choosing or making the perfect BBQ rub is only part of the food prep before barbecuing it. It is also important to apply the chosen BBQ rub properly if you want to get the best results in the end.
Here are some tips for applying BBQ rub:
- Sprinkle the rub with one hand and use your hand and a latex glove to spread and rub it in
- If you find that your store-bought BBQ rubs tend to get clogged due to the humidity, you can opt for a dedicated rub shaker that you can use for homemade and ready-made BBQ rubs
- Apply the rub evenly but without overdoing it if you don’t want to completely overwhelm the taste of the main star of your dish – the meat
When to apply the dry BBQ rub?
While some pitmasters choose to rub the meat and let it sit overnight, others prefer to do it only a few hours before putting the meat on the grill or in the smoker.
For some recipes, such as the smoked brisket by Aaron Franklin, the rub is applied only an hour before, and the brisket is left to rest at room temperature.
Some claim that leaving the rub on overnight can dry out the meat, but others argue that this is not really true because:
- Even though BBQ rubs which contain a lot of salt and sugar, can cause the loss of some moisture from the meat, the truth is that subjecting the meat to hours of heat and smoke will cause the loss of moisture anyway
- While salt is used to cure meat by dehydrating it, this process takes days, months, and sometimes years, so you shouldn’t worry about the salt in the rub causing your meat cut to dehydrate if you leave it for hours or overnight
By applying the rub, sauce, and other flavorings you will be using for prepping your meat for barbecuing or smoking on the night before, you will allow for the flavors to become better infused in the meat, and thus will end up with food with a stronger flavor.
But overall, it is a matter of personal preference and of the specific recipe you are using, so make sure you experiment with the rubs and other seasonings to find which method works best for you.