RUB 101

steves-basic-rub-recipe (1)
Posted on: March 24th, 2014 by Bradley Smoker

Rub 101
Anyone wanting to get serious about smoking, needs to learn the value of applying a rub to the meat before it goes into the smoker. The spices rubbed onto the surface of the meat are actually one of the most essential aspects of the smoking process. Try smoking two racks of ribs: one with a rub and the other with nothing. Brush them both with bbq sauce after smoking and then taste. The rack of ribs with the spice rub is far superior, as it has much deeper flavors and complexity. That will prove to anyone, beyond a doubt, the value and importance of adding spices and seasoning to the meat before smoking.
So, what is a rub and how does one best apply these spices to the meat anyway?

steves-basic-rub-recipe (1)

The 3 Parts of a Rub

Spice Blend
The blend of spices is what truly distinguishes one rub from another. There are base spices like paprika, garlic powder and black pepper that are good with almost any blend or rub. Then there are spices that are more specific and do not necessarily work with all meat and seafood.
• Herbs like thyme, oregano, basil and more are great for chicken and seafood and can work as a blend for herb and garlic rubs or even a Cajun rub.
• Exotic spices like cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg are bold and need to be used with caution. These are great for jerk seasonings and Moroccan flavors. Small amounts can provide a wonderful flavour for lamb and other meats.
• Cayenne and chipotle powder add a completely different layer of flavour by providing heat. This can be effective with smoking virtually any meat or seafood.

Salt is quite possibly the most important seasoning when cooking pretty much anything and smoking meat or seafood is no exception. Salt wakes up the flavours that are both found in the rub and meat. It intensifies sweetness and counteracts bitterness. On top of that, people just generally like the taste of salt. Salt also has a curing effect on meat and seafood that adds one more layer of depth and complexity when smoking.

The level of sweetness in a rub is probably undervalued, but it is very important when smoking meat. Sugar has the ability of drawing all the spices together and balancing out the flavours. On top of that, meat that has a generous amount of rub, and smoked low and slow, develops an outer layer that is caramelized from the sugars in the rub. This ‘bark’ has intense flavours of smoke and sweetness and is highly prized by any serious smoker.

Be Generous
Make sure that you put a healthy amount of rub on whatever meat you are smoking. It is important that the meat is essentially coated in the rub when it is added to the smoker. This helps to infuse the flavours and develop that incredible bark on the outside of the meat.

Rub means Rub
Applying a spice blend to meat is not done by merely sprinkling. It is not enough to shake some spices on the meat or just toss them in the rub. These blends are called a rub for a reason. It is important to actually rub the spices into the meat. This means getting your hands in there and rub the spices back and forth on the surface of the meat. This helps to penetrate the spices into the meat and truly maximizes the flavour. Some meat, like a pork shoulder, have crevices and it is important to make sure that the spices are rubbed in every ‘nook and cranny’ of the meat. Wearing latex gloves may be necessary for people with sensitive skin as the peppers can be an irritant on the hands.


Let it Rest
A rub is like a marinade and it is best to let the spices rest on the meat before smoking. After rubbing the meat with the spice blend, place it back in the fridge for a while. As it spices sit on the meat, they are drawn in, intensifying the flavours. Let the meat rest in the fridge for at least an hour, preferably two to three and, if possible, overnight. The salt in the rub will have a curing effect on the meat or seafood during this time in marinating.

rib rub

Steve’s BBQ Rub
This is my ‘go-to’ rub. Especially good on pork ribs and pork shoulder/butt roasts, this rub is also really good for chicken and beef brisket. I make it in large quantities because I use it all the time.
• ¾ cup paprika
• ½ cup sugar
• ½ cup salt
• ¼ cup ground black pepper
• 3 tbsp cayenne pepper
• 2 tbsp thyme
• 2 tbsp dry mustard
• 2 tbsp cumin
• 1 tbsp sage

1. Mix ingredients together and store in an airtight container like a mason jar.
2. Use on pork, chicken and beef.

Ragin’ Cajun Rub
This rub is excellent on seafood. Toss some raw, peeled shrimp in this rub and then throw them in the Bradley for a nice smoke. Amazing!
• 2 tbsp paprika
• 1 tbsp garlic powder
• 1 tbsp dried oregano
• 1 tbsp dried thyme
• 1 tbsp dried basil
• 1 tbsp salt
• 1 tbsp black pepper
• 2 tsp cayenne pepper
• 2 tsp white pepper
• 2 tsp onion powder
• 2 tsp white sugar


3. Mix ingredients together and store in an airtight container like a mason jar.
4. Use on shrimp, chicken, pork or other meats.

Moroccan Spice Rub
An excellent rub for both lamb and chicken to provide an exotic flavour to go with the smoke.
• 1½ tbsp paprika
• 1 tbsp cumin
• 1 tbsp coriander
• 1½ tbsp white sugar
• 2 tsp salt
• 1 tsp ground cardamom
• 1 tsp ground cinnamon
• 1 tsp ground cloves
• 1 tsp ground nutmeg
• 1 tsp cayenne pepper


1. Mix ingredients together and store in an airtight container like a mason jar.
2. Use on lamb, chicken and more.

By Steve Cylka