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The choice of a BBQ rub is an important one when you’re thinking about barbequing. Whether you make one on your own or buy somebody else’s, it’s one of the main determiners of your meat’s flavor, with only a sauce (if you even decide to make a wet barbeque) having more sway over how the meat will taste once you’re done.
To that end, I’ve put together a list of some great BBQ rubs and what makes them great. Unlike a lot of products, what makes a good BBQ rub is a bit more of a subjective measure. It’s all up to personal preference on what makes the taste good. To that end, the list below is more focused on giving you a broad variety of flavor profiles to choose from in brands that are made with high quality ingredients.
More secrets revealed here: Our top bbq and grilling books for you.
Here are the best bbq rubs you can buy:
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Top 9 Best BBQ Dry Rubs Reviews (2021)
This is the perfect simple, modifiable rub for most kinds of barbecue, with everything I like to look for in a great BBQ rub.
You have some good simple ingredients: sugar, salt, paprika, chili powder, garlic, orange peel, onion powder, dill weed, and turmeric, plus a few other ingredients for extra color and mild flavor. This gives the basic BBQ rub a nice, sweet flavor that compliments many meats well, especially pork and all types of ribs.
The hot variant of this is much the same rub, though with less of the sweetening agents (dehydrated cane juice, orange peel, etc.) for a bigger spicy kick from the other elements.
Both are quite nice, and as I mentioned: easily modifiable. The ingredients are simple and easily paired with other commonly used spices, since the rub itself doesn’t have an overwhelming flavor of any kind to stand out. It works great both on its own and as mixed with anything else.
A pair of good sized shakers for a reasonable price.
Simple and largely natural flavors that pair well with most meats, and are easily modified.
Good taste on its own, without being overpowering.
Thick granules for easy rubbing.
While it’s nice for mixing with other things, the lack of intense flavor might be less appealing to some who want an all in one seasoning.
Unlike the Killer Hogs BBQ rub above, this one has a good deal of its own flavor, and it’s one I quite like.
It comes in this convenient stackable aluminum container, which also works quite well to keep the rub fresh and fragrant for a long time.
The ingredients are also quite nice: cane sugar, salt, paprika, dehydrated apple, onion, chili pepper, honey, a few assorted other spices, and some natural binding agents (maltodextrin and corn starch).
This imparts a very nice, but distinctly sweet flavor to whatever you put on it. The apple is subtle, but noticeable under the other flavors, and compliments quite a few meats very well. While made for chicken originally, Traeger themselves realized this rub works great on pretty much anything, especially pork.
In terms of flavor, this is probably my favorite on this list, though it’s a bit more difficult to modify and combine with other seasonings than others, so it gets a slight bump down. It is distinctly sweet and apple flavored, which severely limits your options for seasonings that go well (adding dill, for example, would be ill advised).
Great sweet, apple-y taste.
Convenient stackable container is made of aluminum, and keeps spices fresh longer.
Kosher and non-GMO ingredients.
Distinct apple flavor is delicious, but makes the recipe difficult to modify or add onto.
This is a great set of BBQ rubs, in three different Southern styles. I’m most partial to Carolina style rubs and sauces myself, but all of these are quite nice and flavorful in their own way, complimenting other dry rub additions or sauces very well.
The Carolina rub is simple, containing salt, paprika, garlic, onion, and red pepper, plus some other basic spices for these rubs. It has a nice spicy kick to it that I like, but may be a bit much for others’ tastes; some think that the spice overpowers the natural flavors of the meat too much.
The Memphis style rub is probably what most people think of when considering BBQ rubs, a nice sweet rub with salt, paprika, brown sugar, a hint of red pepper (powder rather than flakes this time), and simple spices. This one has a more subtle sweet flavor that goes well with just about anything.
The New Orleans style rub is similar in many ways, with the addition of garlic and onion as well as the more standard paprika, salt, sugar, brown sugar, red pepper, and silicon dioxide. Besides the addition of the silicon dioxide, I quite like this one; all around I like it better than the Memphis style for most basic purposes.
All are quite good, and together give you 3 excellent starting places for cooking any kind of meat you’d want to consider.
Great selection of three versatile spices for a good price.
Good sized shaker bottles.
Great flavors; all are usable for a variety of purposes.
Carolina style rub may be a bit overpoweringly spicy for some people.
Silicon dioxide is technically safe to consume, but is an unwelcome addition to the New Orleans rub.
Despite the silly name, this BBQ seasoning is no joke. It’s quite a good Southwestern inspired rub, with a collection of nice flavors and a naturally smoky profile.
You’re looking at a mix of: salt, black pepper, granulated onion, granulated garlic, paprika, and chipotle powder, with microcrystalline cellulose as an anti-caking agent. It’s quite a good mix, and is the core of a very good blackened seasoning with a few minor adjustments, and is naturally savory instead of sweet, unless you choose to make it that way (brown sugar works perfectly well with this rub’s flavoring).
For a very reasonable price you get quite a good amount of this rub as well, a great sized 26 ounce bottle for a low price. It’s easily modifiable and goes well with most meats, though excels at pork in particular (this rub made, as the name implies, for Boston butt roasts and makes an excellent flavor for pulled pork sandwiches). We got here the best pulled pork recipes.
I really like the taste and texture of this one, and its versatility can’t be overstated, given it’s made from simple, natural ingredients that pair well with almost anything.
Great smoky flavor.
Subtle and easily mixed with other flavors.
Savory rather than sweet.
Huge bottle for the price.
Chipotle goes great with pork and chicken, though is less good on beef.
This is an excellent chicken and other poultry specialized rub. It’s quite nice, with a few flavors mixed in that don’t go as well with other meats, but really bring out the natural taste of barbequed chicken.
You’ve got an excellent mix of salt, sugar, chili pepper, paprika, dehydrated garlic, dehydrated onion, celery seed, mustard seed, a few other mixed spices, and some artificial ingredients similar to MSG that enhance savory flavors.
That last one might be a dealbreaker for some people. MSG and similar chemical additives aren’t in and of themselves unsafe, but they certainly can’t be called natural flavoring, and some people have a sensitivity to these kinds of flavoring that makes them very unpleasant to eat.
That’s really the determining factor here; it’s an excellent, highly flavorful rub that I’d recommend for any poultry recipe, so long as you’re fine with the chemical additions. If not (whether that’s because you have a sensitivity or simply don’t like to have chemical additives in your foods), unfortunately you should give this one a pass.
Extremely tasty flavor for chicken.
Good sized bottle for a solid price.
Chemical additives are tasty, but undesirable (or even inedible) for some people, either based on preference or sensitivity.
Flavor profile isn’t as good for pork, beef, or other meats.
This all natural BBQ rub is truly delicious, and compliments a lot of flavors very well. This one is definitely a sweet rub, with a lot of sweeteners in its ingredient list, but it’s still quite good.
You have a pretty concise list of ingredients this time: smoked paprika, chipotle powder, chipotle flakes, black pepper, garlic, onion, granulated honey, and smoked applewood sea salt.
That last ingredient is the real centerpiece here, giving this its unique apple-y taste, a nice light undertone to the rest of the spices, which are overall pretty understated, save for the chipotle powder and flakes, which really steal the show here.
That’s something that might turn off anyone who’s not a fan of chipotle flavoring, or who doesn’t want it on the majority of their barbeque, but if you like a bit of apple tasting Southwestern flair, it’s a real good rub.
The price is also a bit expensive for what you get. There’s only 7.1 ounces of barbeque rub in this container, and you pay a decent price for it. It’s not exorbitantly expensive or anything, just a bit overpriced for the container’s size. You really pay a premium for those all natural ingredients.
All natural ingredients.
Tasty, very sweet flavor.
Extreme sweetness combined with niche chipotle flavoring might not be for everyone.
All natural ingredients are great, but drive the price up considerably.
This is a really interesting and unique one. It’s a specialized beef rub with a really nice earthy flavor, and very simple all natural ingredients with no fillers, something this rub really prides itself on.
You’re looking at a concise mix of brown sugar, espresso powder, activated charcoal, salt, and a few other spices like black pepper.
This makes for a very interesting flavor on meat, especially beef, but also pork. I wouldn’t really recommend it for chicken, unfortunately; the flavor’s a bit too rich and would overpower the light taste of chicken or fish.
But on that beef? It’s really good. Espresso is a really interesting seasoning for a lot of things, because it acts more as a flavor “enhancer” than something that really stands out on its own. This makes the other, subtler flavors like the sugar and charcoal stand out a bit more, as well as anything else you’d like to put it in, including spicier flavors if your tastes trend that way.
While not what I’d call an “everyday” spice, this stuff is really nice to have around the house to experiment with, and is sure to get people commenting on your food once you start working with it.
Great flavor works as an excellent enhancer to other spices or the meat’s natural flavors.
Really unique and interesting flavor profile.
Really good price for the amount.
All natural flavors with no filler.
Works great for beef and pork, but overpowers chicken and fish.
apportioned with other flavors like “Jailbird Chicken”. Of these though, this is my favorite, and it weaponizes one of my favorite underrated seasonings: cumin.
You get a nice mix of flavors with sea salt, cane sugar, maple sugar, granulated garlic, chili, paprika, and cumin among a few other spices to round things out. Unfortunately this rub is nowhere near all natural, with quite a few fillers like soy lecithin rounding things out.
It tastes pretty good, despite that, and goes well with pretty much anything. As an all purpose rub it tastes good on any kind of meat you’d care to test it on, and it imparts a really nice flavor to whatever meat you’re cooking. It works especially well for making pulled meats, like a Mexican pulled pork, which already calls for cumin anyway.
The main issue here is the price; you pay a premium for “name brand” rubs, and I’m not entirely sure it’s worth it in this case. It’s undeniably good, but not so good I need to pay a whole lot extra for it. The truth of the matter is with any rub, that if it ends up more expensive than just mixing it up yourself, it’s not worth it, and this mix falls into that category.
Good sized bottle.
Cumin goes well with a lot of foods.
Way overpriced for what it is; cheaper to just mix it yourself without the additives.
Ending us off today is another good sweet rub. It has a minimum of additives, which is nice, though does include MSG. As mentioned above, artificial flavor enhancers like MSG are a bit of a dealbreaker for some people. If you have a sensitivity to MSG or just don’t like ingesting chemicals like it for whatever reason, stay far away from this one.
The other ingredients are pretty good though. You’ve got a solid mix of turbinado sugar, salt, dehydrated onion, dehydrated garlic, evaporated cane juice, chili pepper, mustard flour, and a few other spices. Plus a few things that are there just to deepen the color.
All in all this rub is good, and comes in at a very decent price, but it suffers just for not being very unique. Everything in it, save maybe the turbinado sugar as opposed to other sugar variants, can be found in a thousand other BBQ rubs just like it. The ingredients are quality, but there’s simply nothing that makes this rub stand out from the crowd.
Good sweet taste.
MSG enhances savory or umami flavors.
Not very uniquein either flavor or ingredient quality.
Some people have a sensitivity to MSG that could make this an undesirable rub.
I have 3 favorites on this list: the Killer Hogs BBQ rub(s), the Sasquatch Dirt, and the Traeger Grills BBQ rub. They represent essentially three different “schools” of BBQ rub; a simplistic all-rounder BBQ rub, an extremely savory rub, and an especially sweet BBQ rub.
The others on this list are a mixed bag. None are bad, but have some flaw with them that makes them hard to recommend. Either they’re too expensive, too specialized (like any poultry rubs I put on the list), too artificial, or have some other problematic issue to keep in mind when buying it.
Basically, only buy those if they have some unique feature that appeals to you and you can overlook their lesser points, whether because they don’t matter to you or are something you actually view as an upside (like the addition of MSG).
How to Pick a BBQ Rub
When summer arrives, it’s a sign that BBQ season for Memphis, Texas, California and many other states has arrived, and it’s always good to have a box of ingredients ready for when you have a barbecue. Since there are a lot of choices to look for, how can you pick what’s good or not?
First and foremost, what you want to look for is what kind of flavor profile you want. There’s essentially three different kinds of rub: sweet rubs, savory rubs, and more all-rounder rubs that trend toward being a good combo of sweet, savory, and salty.
Types of BBQ Rub Explained
There are a lot of regional barbeque traditions that make use of different flavor profiles. As an example, Memphis or Tennessee style barbeque trends toward a more sweet flavor, with a mix of a bunch of different tangy or savory flavors, cut by a generous addition of some kind of sugar (usually brown sugar), and sometimes several, which is perfect if you are making Maple Glazed BBQ Ribs.
Other BBQ styles might be more primarily savory, with less or even no added sugar to the mix. All-rounder rubs sit somewhere in between the two, as the name implies.
Sweeter rubs tend to go better with pork than beef, and similarly more savory rubs go well with beef, and so the more savory rubs you come across may be called a “beef rub” while sweet ones could be called “butt rubs” or “pork rubs”.
All-rounders are great for both, but I think really excel at being used on chicken.
In all cases, there are a few primary ingredients that make up all rubs. Most rubs are going to have a combination of paprika, salt, garlic, onion, and black pepper as the core ingredients of the rub.
Sweeter rubs add sugar, sometimes multiple kinds, and most often brown sugar.
Savory rubs can add a whole host of things; cumin, dill, mustard, chili peppers, the list goes on; the possibilities are almost limitless.
All-purpose rubs tend to just go with the core ingredients and maybe a bit of sugar (usually brown sugar, again) and chili pepper to make it palatable with anything.
A rub is usually better when it uses all natural ingredients. This basically means to watch out for any rub that prominently lists things that are vague like “natural flavors” or has chemical additives like silicon dioxide or MSG.
These ingredients are not necessarily a bad thing in themselves, but if they are one of the foremost ingredients, that means that you’re getting less of the actually good stuff, and are instead eating mostly filler.
Is MSG Bad For You?
No more than most other foods, really. MSG in and of itself is not really very harmful. What it is is harmful in very high doses…but so is ingesting way too much salt.
I bring it up because quite a lot of savory rubs use MSG (or something similar) to enhance the savory or “umami” flavors in the other ingredients.
One last thing that’s worth noting: some people have adverse reactions to MSG. For that reason I’ll bring it up whenever one of these rubs includes it or a similar chemical. While the chemical itself is relatively safe, it’s similar to an allergen some people should watch out for, as it can cause asthma attacks or headache sin some individuals.
A good rule of thumb when buying a BBQ rub, or any seasoning mix, is asking yourself a question: “Is this more expensive than just making it myself”? Many rubs use very common ingredients you have in your pantry. This in itself is fine; you’re essentially buying convenience in pre-measuring the amounts of each ingredient for you.
But if the price of that convenience too far outweighs the cost of making it yourself, avoid. A good rule of thumb is about $1 per ounce of rub.
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