The secret to any good grilled or smoked meat is preparation, and a big part of this is using a good BBQ rub.
While you might think that the meat alone should be enough to carry the barbecue flavor we all want, rubs are the key to a good bit of barbecue meat.
Rubs provide rich flavor, as well as beautiful texture, to add delicious and nuanced levels of taste to your meat.
Today we’ll be looking at the best rib rubs, but in the past I’ve written about best store bought brisket rubs, so if you haven’t checked that out yet then be sure to.
At a glance: Our pick of the best store bought rib rubs
What makes a good rib rub?
Pork is famously best matched with sweet flavors, hence why crispy bacon is heavily addictive when coated with maple syrup.
Sorry, I’m just taking a minute to think about maple syrup and bacon.
As well as sweet flavors, rubs with ingredients or flavors containing fruity notes like apple and pear also work really well.
Finally, look out for mustard. This might seem strange given how well pork might pair with sweet flavors, but a slight touch of mustard goes perfectly with the juicy flavors of the pork to help give it a deep and sharp flavor.
Famous Dave’s Rib Rub
If you prefer something a little lighter in terms of sweetness, than this rub from Famous Dave is a great alternative.
Because it’s a bit deeper and more subtle in taste, it can be used as a ‘layer’ rub and matched with other rubs to create a more nuanced flavor profile.
It has a smoky flavor that works in notes of garlic and red pepper flakes, before giving way to a good kick of heat.
For the best results, apply a layer of yellow mustard over your ribs first before then applying the rub.
Works well with apple or hickory wood when smoking.
Plowboys BBQ Yardbird Seasoning Rub
This competition winning rub won the 2009 American Royal Championship, and has remained a popular favorite ever since then.
And when you taste this one, it’s not hard to see why.
Containing, sugar, paprika, chili pepper, and mustard seed, it has a beautiful deep and sweet flavor that enhances ribs while not overwhelming them.
Killer Hogs The BBQ Rub
Killer Hogs’ popular rib rub is made with a blend of sugar, salt and spice (i.e. everything you need) to create a simple but effective rub.
If you just want something simple that doesn’t overpower your ribs then this is the rub for you.
It has a subtle flavor profile that allows the natural flavors of the pork to come out, and helps to develop a mahogany bark across your rack of ribs.
Trader Joe’s BBQ Rub and Seasoning with Coffee & Garlic
The addition of coffee here might make you sit up and take notice, but it’s far more than just a gimmick. It helps create a far deeper and mature flavor mix than a lot of other store bought rib rubs do.
The coffee adds a little umph to your ribs, and matches perfectly with the garlic. It’s a flavor combination that I probably wouldn’t have immediately thought of, but I’m glad it exists!
It sears beautifully to create a delicious bark on your ribs, and makes a great alternative for anyone who doesn’t want something sickly sweet or outrageously spicy on their pork ribs.
Health Riles BBQ Honey Rub
If you like your ribs sweet, then this might be the right rub for you. Containing a rich honey flavor, it also contains pecan to add layers of sweetness that match perfectly with ribs.
Just a word of warning: If you have a sweet tooth then you might find this stuff addictive.
Pork Barrel BBQ All American Seasoning Mix
This rub found its audience through the tv show Shark Tank in 2009 and has remained a household favorite ever since then.
This gluten-free rub is an all purpose seasoning blend that contains garlic, onion, chipotle pepper, and paprika. All of these come together to make a deep, earthy blend, that has a little touch of spice to round of a great BBQ rub.
While I would say that this is primarily a rib rub, this can definitely be used with almost any BBQ meat. While this is generally a good thing, it does mean that it’s lacking in the sweetness that we might want for ribs. However if that’s important to you then you can add a touch of brown sugar to help bring that sweetness to the fore.
There’s no getting around the fact that this seasoning mix is quite high in salt, so if you’re not into that then it’s probably best to avoid this one.
Special Shit Premium All Purpose Seasoning
The name of this blend might be alarming, but the Big Cock (they’re not subtle, are they?) brand have every right to brag.
This is a brilliant BBQ rub.
It works great as a base layer for your ribs, giving you a deep flavor and element of heat that you want as a foundation before you then add your own sweetness or added spice in line with your own preferences.
It’s pretty heavy on pepper, salt and garlic, but if that’s to your liking then this might well be your new favorite BBQ rub.
How to apply rib rub
The big appeal with dry rubs is that they’re quick and easy to apply to your meats. This is just as true for ribs as it is for any other cut of meat.
To begin, place your rack of ribs on a kitchen surface. If you haven’t already, be sure to remove the membrane off the top layer.
Pat down the entire cut of meat with paper towels to help get rid of any excess water or moisture.
Coast both the topside and underside of the rack with olive oil. This will help the meat retain moisture while it cooks, but will also help create a kind of adhesive for the rub to stick to.
For this, use the ‘wet hand dry hand’ method, whereby you use one wet hand to apply the rub, and then one dry to firmly work the rub into the flesh of the meat.
Be sure to generously season both sides, and work it into any gaps or crevices you might find (although in the case of ribs this isn’t common).
As one final measure, form a fist with your dry hand and use the knuckles to work the rub into the ribs one final time.
Then you’re good to go and grill your ribs!