Smoked Chicken BBQ Rub Recipe

This smoked chicken BBQ rub recipe will add a beautiful woody  and smokey flavor to your meat, while adding a subtle layer of spice.

bbq smoked chicken rub recipe

There are not many things in life that are tastier than smoked chicken. While a lot of meat benefits from being cooked low and slow, smoked chicken is something else. When it has spent hours in a smoker, being cooked over flavored wood chips and prepared with a good dry rub and marinade, the taste is unlike anything else.

The key to a good smoked chicken lies in its preparation though, so it’s important to get the rub just right in order to season it perfectly, and get its herbs and spices just right.

Smoking chicken is a great means of cooking, but using a good rub will take it to a whole new level beyond that.

ingredients rubbed on a raw chicken

What is a dry rub?

A good dry rub is essentially just a blend of spices and herbs, mixed together and rubbed onto the surface of a chosen piece of meat prior to being cooked.

While in theory any cut of meat can have a rub applied to it, it’s especially great with ‘low and slow’ grilling and smoking because the long cooking times helps the spices and herbs dissolve into the meat. This is especially great with chicken because it’s the kind of meat that is much more accommodating to flavors, almost serving as a blank canvas for added flavors and seasoning.

different ingredients laid out for a good chicken rub

How to rub chicken

Like you would with any meat, it’s important to handle raw chicken carefully. Always wash your hands before and immediately after handling it. If you’re using a jar lid for example, don’t touch the lid until you have washed your hands.This will help ensure that any unused rub mix isn’t contaminated should the lid or inside of the jar come into contact with your bare hands.

When I use a dry rub, I like to be as liberal as possible. Try to cover all areas of the meat, including under the skin (if indeed your meat still has skin on it).

Brush away any excess powder, and move it to your refrigerator. My rule for sitting time is at least two hours, although in truth if I have time on my side then I try to leave meat overnight. This sitting period allows the salt time to bring out some of the moisture in the chicken, which in turn helps the other rub ingredients dissolve into the flesh of the meat. The longer you allow it to do this, the more flavor will lock into the chicken.

whole chicken and rub ingredients prepared on table

Smoked BBQ chicken rub recipe

Now onto the good stuff. One of the great things about dry recipes is that there’s so much room for experimentation, and as you make more of them you’ll soon realise what does and doesn’t work for you.

However the important thing is to find a recipe that improves the taste of your meat without completely overpowering it. I love cayenne pepper as much as the next person, but if I go in too hard with it then it’ll just ruin my chicken.

My rub recipe here gets that balance just right. It has a subtle spicy flavor, but still allows the woody smokey tastes from the chicken to come through.

This recipe should be enough for one whole chicken, or alternatively four regular chicken breast pieces.

Prefer grilling your meat? This recipe will work just as well on chicken for your grill.

how to make bbq chicken rub
4 from 7 votes

Smoked Chicken BBQ Rub

This smoked chicken rub has a subtle spicy flavor, but still allows the woody smokey tastes from the chicken to come through.
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine American, BBQ
Prep Time 10 minutes
Setting time 2 hours
Servings 1 whole chicken


  • 2 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp thyme
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tbsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tbsp kosher/table salt
  • 2 tbsp black pepper


  • In a medium sized bowl, combine all the ingredients thoroughly until it’s achieved a fairly consistent mix.
  • Apply to chicken. Rub thoroughly over all surfaces of the meat. If your chicken still has skin on it then rub the mix under the skin well too.
  • Place chicken in the refrigerator and leave for at least two hours, or overnight.
  • When ready, remove from refrigerator and place straight on the grill or in your smoker.

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