This easy all-purpose barbecue rub seasoning is made with pantry staples and is perfect for all of your favorite barbecue dishes!
Why this recipe works
But don't stop there, it's awesome to add flavor to a wide variety of dishes. Try it on beef like tri-tip, shrimp, or even roasted potatoes and other veggies for a great pop of flavor!
What is a rub?
The seasoning blend for barbecue is called a "rub". It's mix of spices that you'll apply to the meat to season it before cooking. Despite the name, you don't actually have to "rub" it onto the meat.
There are really no rules to making a BBQ rub and many regions have a slightly different flavor profile. In Texas barbecue it’s simply a blend of Kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper. Memphis style rub is typically more savory. And Southern style barbecue rub tends to be sweeter.
What you'll need
For this simple BBQ rub you'll need salt, pepper, brown sugar, and a variety of dried spices to create a well balanced salty-sweet rub with just a little heat.
You can easily customize the rub to your taste too. Here are a few variations to try:
- To make a sweet BBQ rub increase the sugar by 1-2 Tablespoons.
- If you like more heat, you can up the amount of cayenne pepper or chili powder for a spicy BBQ rub.
- For a smokier flavor you can use smoked paprika. This is a great option if you're baking barbecue in the oven.
- Ground cumin will add a little Southwestern/Mexican flavor and earthiness.
- You can even try adding in ground coffee, the options are endless!
How to make a rub
The process for making a barbecue dry rub is simple, just combine all of your ingredients in a small bowl and stir with a fork or whisk to combine.
And if you want to make this dry rub into a wet rub like I use for my grilled chicken legs, you can simply combine the dry seasoning with a mild flavored oil like vegetable oil.
How to apply barbecue rub
Rinse your meat and pat dry with paper towels. Then liberally sprinkle the rub onto the meat. If time allows, do this the night before and refrigerate until about 30 minutes before you're ready to cook. Then remove the meat and allow it to sit at room temperature to remove the chill. This will help the meat cook more evenly.
If you want an extra thick coating of rub, you can lightly coat the meat with mustard before applying the rub. This will help the seasoning stick to the meat.
To season chicken I recommend using your fingers to work the rub underneath the skin to flavor the meat.
You can also use the rub mixed with vinegar and water, apple juice, or even beer to create a mop sauce which can be applied to the meat as it cooks.
To make a vinegar based mop sauce combine 1 cup white or apple cider vinegar, ½ cup water, and ¼ cup of rub and stir. Then baste the meat with the sauce occasionally during cooking.
Tips and FAQs
I recommend applying the rub the night before to allow the meat to absorb the flavors of the rub. This is known as a dry brine, and the salt will pull the moisture from the meat and it will reabsorb, allowing the seasoning to penetrate into the meat.
Store any leftover rub in an airtight container or jar for up to 6 months. Be careful to not contaminate your rub if you plan on storing it. Avoid touching raw meat then putting your hands in the rub. I recommend using a spice shaker to apply the rub to avoid this.
Commercial rubs typically have anti-clumping additives bet this homemade version does not, so it may clump a bit in storage. Just give it a quick stir with a fork before use to break it up.
If you are cooking your meat over high heat, reduce the amount of sugar in the rub. The sugar will burn easily when exposed to high heat.
I highly recommend using sugar in the rub. The sugar plays a part in creating the delicious "bark "or crusty exterior on your barbecue. You will not get the same result using an alternative.
If you need to avoid sugar for dietary reasons, it's best to avoid sugary sauces and instead use something like a Carolina style vinegar sauce.
All-Purpose Barbecue Rub
- 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 Tablespoons sweet paprika
- 2 Tablespoons kosher salt
- 1 Tablespoon black pepper
- 1 Teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 Teaspoon onion powder
- ½ Teaspoon dry mustard powder
- ¼ Teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Add all of the ingredients to a small bowl and, using a fork or whisk, stir to combine.
- Transfer to an airtight jar or container to store.
* All nutrition information we provide are estimates based on third party calculators. We encourage you to calculate these on your own for accurate results.