How to prepare RUBs for food smoking

How to prepare RUBs for food smoking

Posted on: January 10, 2023

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.

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.

Do the Test and See for Yourself

Try smoking two racks of ribs: one with a rub and the other with nothing. Brush them both with BBQ sauce after smoking and taste. The rack of ribs with the spice rub is far superior, as it has much deeper flavours 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?

The Three 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. Others are more specific spices and do not necessarily work with all meat and seafood.

• Herbs like thyme, oregano, basil and more are great for chicken and seafood. Besides, they can work as a blend for herb and garlic rubs, or even a Cajun rub.

• Try and experiment with these exotic spices: cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. And because they are bold, use them with caution. Great for jerk seasonings and Moroccan flavours, just small amounts can provide a wonderful flavour for lamb and other meats.

• To provide a completely different layer of flavour and heat, use cayenne and chipotle powder. This can be effective with smoking virtually any meat or seafood.

Salt and Sweetness

Salt is quite possibly the most important seasoning when cooking pretty much anything. Smoking meat or seafood is no exception. Salt wakes up the flavours that are both found in the rub and meat.

Not only it intensifies sweetness and counteracts bitterness, but it also has a curing effect on meat and sea food. It results in one more layer of depth and complexity when smoking.

The level of sweetness in a rub is probably undervalued as sugar has the ability of drawing all the spices together, balancing out the flavours.

Be Generous!

On top of that, meat that has a generous amount of rub and is 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.

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. It will 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.

Get your hands in there and rub the spices back and forth on the surface of the meat. This helps spices penetrate 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

The same way as a marinade, it is best to let the spices rest on the meat before smoking. After rubbing with the spice blend, place the meat back in the fridge for a while.

As spices sit on the meat, they are drawn in, intensifying the flavours. Keep it 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.


Steve’s BBQ Rub

This is my ‘go-to’ rub. Especially good not only on pork ribs and pork shoulder/butt roasts, but also for chicken and beef brisket. I make it in large quantities because I use it all the time.

Just check the ingredients you need, mix them together and store in an airtight container. Perfect to use on pork, chicken and beef.

Ingredients: ½ cup of salt and pepper, Paprika – ¾ c; Ground black pepper – ¼ cup; Cayenne pepper – 3 tbsp; Thyme – 2 tbsp; Dry mustard – 2 tbsp; Cumin – 2 tbsp and Sage – 1 tbsp

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!

You’ll need 2 tbsp of paprika, one tbsp of garlic powder, one tbsp dried oregano, one tbsp of dried thyme, one tbsp of basil, salt and black pepper, two tsp of cayenne pepper , two tsp of white pepper, two tsp of onion powder and two tsp of white sugar.


Just mix ingredients together and store in an airtight container like a mason jar. It goes well with shrimp, chicken, pork and other meats.

Moroccan Spice Rub

An excellent rub for both lamb and chicken to provide an exotic flavour to go with the smoke.

You’ll need 1½ tbsp of Paprika and white sugar each. Then add one tbs of each of the following seasonings: Cumin, Coriander, ground Cardamom, ground Cinnamon, ground Cloves, ground Nutmeg and Cayenne pepper.


All you have to do is to mix ingredients together and store in an airtight container. We suggest a mason jar, for example. Use on lamb, chicken and more.

By Steve Cylka