The 9 Best Barbecue Spices and Rubs for Mastering Smoked Meat and More

Plus, pitmasters share what to look for in a bold but balanced spice blend.

In This Article

Jump to a Section

We independently evaluate all recommended products and services. If you click on links we provide, we may receive compensation. Learn more.

best barbecue spices and rubs on a colored pattern background

Wherever you are in the world, there is barbecue. While the jury on whether barbecue sauces are a must remains hotly divided by state and region, nothing makes the most out of smoking and grilling like a dry rub. And the spice world has never been more exciting. As farmers have greater control over growing conditions and harvest cycles, the selection of single-origin spices spans from Szechuan chiles to citric citrus blends. The complexity and subtle flavors of a well-sourced spice blend will complement whatever food it touches, and make the familiar taste new again.

Read on for the best barbecue spices and rubs.

Burlap and Barrel Salt & Pepper Collection

Burlap and Barrel Salt & Pepper Collection

Burlap and Barrel

While pre-mixed spice rubs are a great introduction to flavor combinations, shopping Burlap & Barrel's collection of super-fresh, single-origin spices lets you curate a versatile collection. Start with basics like the Salt & Pepper Collection – Black Lime and Chili Salt and Zanzibar Black Peppercorn will rock your world. Experiment with Wild Mountain Cumin and Black Urfa Chili on brisket or, for a subtle flavor shift, replace the garlic powder in your pantry with Purple Stripe Garlic, sustainably sourced from Vietnam.

Price at time of publish: $30

Hardcore Carnivore Black Charcoal Seasoning

Hardcore Carnivore Black Charcoal Seasoning

Hardcore Carnivore

With a long-time love for live fire cooking, Australian-born chef Jess Pryles developed a seasoning and barbecue tools under the name Hardcore Carnivore. Made in her adopted state of Texas, seasonings like Black, a proprietary mix of coarse black pepper, garlic, and spices, helps perfect the bark (dark crust) of brisket and other barbecue. Its counterpart, Red, pairs with chicken and pork. Amplify, a newer release, amps up barbecue's savoriness with chicken fat powder as its star ingredient.

Price at time of publish: $15

Meat Church The Gospel All-Purpose BBQ Rub

Meat Church The Gospel All-Purpose BBQ Rub

Meat Church

Born in Texas, Meat Church specializes in barbecue spice rubs and seasonings with Southern and Southwestern flair. While its signature multi-purpose seasoning, The Gospel, is an excellent entry point, a pack of five of the brand's most popular barbecue accompaniments will take meat, seafood, shellfish, and vegetables to new heights.

Price at time of publish: $15

Momofuku Savory Seasoned Salt

Momofuku Savory Seasoned Salt


David Chang's collection of Momofuku pantry staples are the result of over 10 years of kitchen experiments that left chefs wanting more. With three varieties of seasoned salt – tingly, spicy, and savory – every palate will be pleased. Use in place of salt and pepper in any dish but especially grilled meats and veggies.

Price at time of publish: $25

Occo Crushed Red Chili Flakes

Occo Crushed Red Chili Flakes


Clear out those cabinets: spices do in fact have a three- to six-month shelf life. Occo packages single-origin spices in vacuum-sealed, single-serving capsule cards that let you experiment without wasting. It sources from sustainable farmers and small-scale merchants from as close to home as possible. For inspiration, its website features recipe cards for meals like Mei Lin's Pho Spiced Beef Shish Kebab and Nina Compton's Perfect Simple Citrus Chicken, with the option to order the exact amount of spices these dishes call for. You can also shop spices by type and as bundles.

Price at time of publish: $5

Snake River Farms Crafted Seasoning Pack

Snake River Farms Crafted Seasoning Pack

Snake River Farms

As Snake River Farms has built its reputation on rare cuts of Wagyu beef and Kurobuta pork ribs, the quality of its seasoning should come as no surprise. Each of its seasonings shines on its own, but the SRF Crafted Seasoning Pack has everything you need to make your backyard barbecue game a homerun: Rosemary Roast Seasoning, Perfect Pork Rub, Signature Steak Seasoning, and garlicky Santa Maria seasoning.

Price at time of publish: $49

Spiceology Extra Coarse Ground Black Pepper

Spiceology Extra Coarse Ground Black Pepper


Spiceology serves as a one-stop shop for chefs and those looking to up their game. From Korean BBQ with sesame seeds, maple sugar, and orange peel to Adam McKenzie's line of rubs, including Coffee Junkie and Smoke Junkie, your barbecue may never be the same. Or dive into chef collaborations like Chad White's Brisket Bomb and Lawrence Duran's Rotisserie Chicken Seasoning for a delicious dish to share.

Price at time of publish: $21

Spicewalla Carolina BBQ Rub

Spicewalla Carolina BBQ Rub


Begging for some time over live fire, Spicewalla's bold barbecue and grilling blends include Carolina Pork Rub and a three-jar collaboration with North Carolina's Buxton Hall Barbecue. If that's not enough to peak your interest, check out the Modena Balsamic Rub for a transformative experience.

Price at time of publish: $12

This Little Goat Spice Collection (5 Count)

This Little Goat Spice Collection

This Little Goat

Chicago restaurateur and Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard has found success in her newest venture, a line of sauces and spice mixes that nod to global flavors. The Little Goat takes barbecue to the next level with seasonings based on Belize, Cuba, Morocco, India, and Grillville, which you can snag as a set.

Price at time of publish: $40


Spice mixes and rubs help make barbecue an event to remember, but these seasonings work wonders on other foods, too. Take advantage of unique producers and experiment with different seasoning blends, or combine spices to make your own.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • How do you apply a dry rub to meat?

    There isn't one way to correctly apply rubs to meat. "The way I apply rub depends on the desired effect," says David Sandusky, pitmaster and owner of Beast Craft BBQ in St. Louis. "Some meats require a shake of rub for seasoning, and others require more pressure to make the rub stick in order to form a bark. For better bark, I recommend coating the meat in cheap yellow mustard before adding rub to help the rub stick to the meat."

    Esaul Ramos, pitmaster and co-owner of 2M Smokehouse BBQ San Antonio, also recommends mustard, which he lathers on brisket in a 50/50 ratio with pickle juice. "Give it a gentle pat to make sure the seasoning sticks," he says.

    A wet applicator like mustard, gochujang, or honey helps spices adhere, but it's not always necessary, says Jason Dady, chef and owner of Two Bros. BBQ Market in San Antonio. "The most important part of applying the rub is to season from up high: a minimum of 12 inches above the meat so that you get a nice, even layer of spice applied," he says.

    Others, like chef Aaron Bludorn of Bludorn in Houston, insist that planning ahead matters most. "I rub the meat the day before. It helps marinate the meat and lets the protein interact with the spices, especially if salt is involved. The salt draws out the moisture and in turn takes in the spices and flavor from the rub. Think of it as a dry brine or cure. When spices are involved, the flavor is deeper in the meat," he says.

  • Can you use dry rub and barbecue sauce?

    Yes. Dry rubs and barbecue sauces can complement each other. "The rub directly flavors the meat, and the sauce can then penetrate deeper and give more flavor," says Bludorn, who also cautions that sauce can turn the burnt ends of meat from crispy to soggy.

    With this in mind, think of barbecue sauce as a finishing sauce, like a glaze, that doesn't go on the meat till the last 30 minutes of cooking, says Dady. Ramos finishes meat with barbecue sauce once it reaches the desired internal temperature. Sandusky suggests smoking meat with a rub and finishing it with sauce in the barbecue pit or on the grill.

  • What makes a good barbecue rub?

    A good barbecue rub comes down to personal preference. For many Texans, like Dady, this means either coarse salt and coarse pepper or a blend of seasonings, including salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, coriander, mustard powder, and brown sugar, he says. Ramos prefers a combination of unique flavors, like orange-pepper or hibiscus-rosemary, with ingredients high in sodium and acidity.

Our Expertise

Alissa Fitzgerald is a chef, recipe developer, and food writer with over 15 years of experience in the food industry. For this piece, she interviewed Aaron Bludorn of Bludorn, Esaul Ramos of 2M Smokehouse BBQ, Jason Dady of Two Bros. BBQ Market, and David Sandusky of Beast Craft BBQ to find out what the pros look for in barbecue spices and rubs. She then used their insights and her own expertise and market research to curate this list.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles