Which BBQ rubs should I buy? BBQ rubs - also known as dry rubs, spice rubs, seasoning rubs or dry marinades - are typically made with a mix of salt, brown sugar and spices. The salt brings out the flavour of the meat, while the sugar caramelises during cooking for a hint of sweetness.There are a variety of spice rubs, each one blended with different ingredients, from smoky steakhouse to hot Cajun seasoning. In this article we compare and contrast our best BBQ rubs to help you choose the seasoning that’s right for you.
What are BBQ rubs?
BBQ rubs - also known as dry rubs, spice rubs, seasoning rubs or dry marinades - are typically made with a mix of salt, brown sugar and spices. The salt brings out the flavour of the meat, while the brown sugar caramelises during cooking for a hint of sweetness and thick crust. BBQ rubs can be made using only dry ingredients, or contain oils, honey and maple syrup to create a liquid BBQ rub.
The primary purpose of a BBQ rub is to enhance the flavour of your meat, fish, or vegetables, from roast chickens to juicy ribs to whole sea bass.
What are BBQ rubs made of?
The ingredients vary in every BBQ rub, however salt and brown sugar are two ingredients you’ll often find in a seasoning:
- Salt brings out the flavour of the ingredient you’re cooking, be it ribs, brisket or salmon.
- Brown sugar adds a hint of sweetness to the ingredient, and during the cooking process, caramelises to produce a rich colour and thick crust.
- Chilli powder is found in many BBQ rubs to add a punchy flavour and heat.
- Garlic powder adds umami notes to BBQ dry rub - great when you want a super savoury flavour.
- Other ingredients you might find in BBQ rubs are there to add extra flavour. These include paprika, allspice and even ground coffee!
How to cook with BBQ rubs?
When cooking with BBQ rubs, it’s down to personal preference how much or how little of the seasoning you use. However it’s worth considering the heat of the spice rub you’re using - if the main ingredient is chilli, you might want to use less than a BBQ rub that has garlic as the key ingredient.
If you’re using the BBQ rub as a dry marinade, it’s best to add the seasoning at least 2 hours before cooking, although ideally you’d leave the meat overnight in the fridge to fully absorb the flavour.
Despite the name, BBQ rubs aren’t exclusively for barbecue cooking. Sprinkle the dry seasonings over popcorn, deviled eggs or French fries as a way to pep-up even the simplest of dishes.
Which BBQ rub should I buy?
Best BBQ rib rub
Bone Suckin’ original seasoning and rub is a must-try for those that love pork ribs. Spiced with chilli pepper and paprika, and with super savoury notes, this BBQ rub is fantastic for red meat. Alternatively, sprinkle it over popcorn, roast potatoes or pan-fried green beans for a punchy flavour.
Best unique BBQ rub
Sucklebusters espresso BBQ rub has the unusual addition of ground coffee – and it really works! The deep earthy flavours go brilliantly with warming black pepper. Use it on seared beef for a dark and powerful BBQ crust. The coffee is freshly ground for each batch of the spice mix, so you get maximum flavour from your rub.
Best seafood BBQ rub
Zingy with lemon juice powder, lemon oil and garlic, use this dry seasoning when cooking salmon, shrimps and meaty scallops. Pair this BBQ dry rub with white fish, chicken and green vegetables for a fresh flavour.
Best brisket BBQ rub
Bring the flavours of Texas to your own home with this smoky paprika BBQ rub. With a rich sweetness and kick of pepper, it’s perfect for slow-cooked brisket. Simply apply a thick layer to your brisket before putting the meat in the pit, or use it as a finishing season for steaks or seafood, fresh off the grill.
Best Cajun seasoning BBQ rub
With a secret mantra of less salt, more spice, Slap Ya Mama ‘original’ Cajun seasoning is the ultimate BBQ rub for making New Orleans gumbo. With a slow-building heat of Cajun red peppers, the dry spice rub is excellent with stews, seafood or chicken.
Best BBQ chicken rub
Blue Hogs dry rub is a best-loved American BBQ seasoning - fans of the rub keep a pot on the table to use alongside salt and pepper! Hot and smoky, the seasoning is wonderful when cooking whole roast chicken, pork ribs or beef brisket.
Best steakhouse seasoning
Terre Exotique’s steakhouse spice rub is a blend of smoky spices and aromatic herbs to use when cooking steak and red meat. The mix of onion, fresh voatsiperifery pepper, paprika and rosemary is fantastic used as a dry rub for steaks, mixed with breadcrumbs for stuffing, or infused in cream sauces for pork.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the best barbecue rub?
Everyone will have their own personal favourite dry rub depending on what they’re cooking. For ribs, briskets and steaks, you want a strong, robust BBQ rub to cut through the richness of the meat. If you’re cooking white fish or vegetables, go for a BBQ rub that has gentler notes, so as to not overwhelm the more subtle flavours of the ingredient.
How long should I leave rub on ribs?
When cooking ribs, it’s best to leave the dry rub for between 30 minutes to 2 hours. Alternatively, massage the dry rub into the ribs and leave in the fridge overnight. The longer the dry rub is left on the ribs, the thicker the crust outside of the ribs will be.
Can you leave a rub on too long?
If you do leave the dry rub on ribs overnight, it’s best to leave for a maximum of 12 hours. If the dry rub is left on for longer, the salt in the blend could start drying out the meat.
Ellie Edwards is a food writer for Sous Chef. Previously she worked at olive magazine, writing about exciting new ingredients, UK restaurants and travelling the world to find the best cinnamon buns. When she's not exploring the likes of Belize, Kerala and Zanzibar, Ellie loves rustling up a feast in her London kitchen, with a particular passion for porridge, sourdough and negronis.