10 Best BBQ Rubs

By Bob McCarthy

Rubs are a key component to great BBQ, introducing flavors that compliment the natural taste of food or amping it up and taking it in new directions. Some are relatively simple, comprised of just salt, pepper, and a few herbs and spices, while others are more complex, bringing together layers of flavors from around the world.

But what makes one rub better than another? If you look at the label, most BBQ rubs use similar, if not identical, ingredients. What separates the best from the rest is the quality of those ingredients and the balance of the blend.

At FireCraft, we’re fortunate. Not only do we have access to high-quality BBQ rubs that aren’t available in most stores, but we get to sample everything that comes through the door, including seasonings from the biggest names in BBQ and grilling. The ones we love, we use religiously and recommend to anyone who asks. While we truly like every rub we carry, some stand out.

Best Go-To BBQ Rubs

Everyone needs a versatile go-to rub that, with just a few magical sprinkles, can make almost anything taste better. Keep it in your cupboard and reach for it when in doubt.

A great balance of sweet and spicy, Three Little Pigs Kansas City Championship Rub fits the bill of a go-to BBQ rub. In fact, it’s our go-to competition rub. Made by Chris Marks, 8 time Grand Champion of the American Royal, Three Little Pigs Championship is fantastic on everything from brisket to pulled pork and chicken.

It’s a funny thing, but Plowboys Yardbird Rub was originally created for chicken (and, no surprise, it tastes incredible on poultry). However, it turned out that Yardbird was even better on pork. That type of serendipity has led Yardbird to become one of the most popular all-around BBQ rubs. Because it’s on the saltier side, Yardbird can even be used on beef.

Best Spicy BBQ Rubs

BBQ and heat go great together, which is why you see so many spicy BBQ rubs on the market. In terms of intensity, they run the gamut from eye-watering hot to a subtle heat that builds over time. Not everyone will agree, but we’re not fans of hot-for-the-sake-of-hot rubs. However intense or mild a rub is, it should ultimately taste good and add to the overall flavor.

If you’re looking for a flavorful rub that has a decent kick, you can’t go wrong with Smoking Guns Hot Rub. Great on just about anything, many BBQrs swear by it on brisket. It probably won’t give you the sniffles like some of the hotter rubs out there, but it should satisfy your desire for a little extra oomph.

For those who like a more subtle heat, Kosmos Q Killer Bee Chipotle Honey has the heat you want with the balance you’re looking for. Made by BBQ Champion Darian “Kosmo” Khosravi, it delivers honest to goodness sweet heat, using real honey to temper the spicy chipotles.

Best Specialty Rubs

There are hundreds of rubs made for traditional BBQ, but there are times when you want to put a unique twist on your food. Even if you don’t use these all the time, they could quickly become one of your favorite seasonings.

Created by World BBQ Champion and BBQ Pitmaster Dave Bouska, Butcher’s BBQ Hickory Seasoned Salt adds a little something extra to the simplest and most effective of all seasonings: salt. Hickory smoke is added to give the salt added depth and flavor that’s amazing on chicken, pork, beef, and seafood.

Dizzy Pig has made a name creating unique rubs. If you’re looking for something different, check out their line of rubs, starting with Dizzy Pig Red Eye. Using coffee for a bold, malty base, this robust rub brings big bold flavor to beef, lamb, and even wild game.

Best Buy Rubs

For many people, cost and quality are of equal consideration. Before you go grabbing a cut-rate seasoning that’s probably not particularly fresh or flavorful, take a look around. There are a number of high-quality rubs that can be had at a good price.

Honestly, all of Head Country’s products could fall into this category. Not only are they reasonably priced, but they taste great. Appropriately named, Head Country Sweet & Spicy is a perfect balance of sweet heat that can be used on just about anything.

Sometimes value is defined by how much you get for your money. Bad Byron’s Butt Rub is a great example. One of the most popular pork rubs around, Butt Rub is available in a large 26oz container that costs only slightly more than bottles half its size. That makes it easy to stay stocked up and ready to BBQ.

Pair one of these great rubs with a sauce. Read 8 Great BBQ Sauces You Must Try.