The Best BBQ Rubs and Spices for Grilling - Backyard Boss
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The Best BBQ Rubs and Spices for Grilling

If you have a love of BBQing and grilling, you recognize that the spices or rubs have a significant impact on the flavor of your meals. While many BBQ lovers make their spice blends at home, there are also many delicious spices and rubs available on the market.

In this guide, we will look at different BBQ rubs and spices for each type of food. It includes looking at which flavors are suited for each protein option, how to properly apply a dry rub, tips and tricks for choosing the best BBQ rubs and spices for your next meal, and more. We have also put together a list of our top 5 favorite products for you to try.

The Backyard Boss Top BBQ Rubs and Spices for 2021

Spiceology Smoky Honey Habanero Sweet & Spice Rub - The Best BBQ Rubs and Spices for GrillingSpiceology Smoky Honey Habanero Sweet & Spice Rub
  • 5.7 oz
  • Honey, Brown Sugar, Paprika, Salt and Habanero Powder
  • Ideal for All Proteins and Vegetables
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McCormick Grill Mates Brown Sugar Bourbon Seasoning - The Best BBQ Rubs and Spices for GrillingMcCormick Grill Mates Brown Sugar Bourbon Seasoning
  • 9.75 oz
  • Brown Sugar, Bourbon, Garlic, Onion and Salt
  • Ideal for Pork, Seafood, Chicken and Steak
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Traeger Chicken Rub with Citrus and Black Pepper  - The Best BBQ Rubs and Spices for GrillingTraeger Chicken Rub with Citrus and Black Pepper
  • 9 oz
  • Citrus and Black Pepper
  • Ideal for Chicken
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Lambert’s Sweet Rub O’ Mine - The Best BBQ Rubs and Spices for GrillingLambert’s Sweet Rub O’ Mine
  • 12.5 oz
  • Onion, Garlic, Paprika and a Mix of Spices
  • Ideal for Pork
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Fire & Flavor All-Natural Salmon Rub - The Best BBQ Rubs and Spices for GrillingFire & Flavor All-Natural Salmon Rub
  • 2.7 oz
  • Spice Blend including Paprika and Ancho Chile Pepper
  • Ideal for Seafood, Chicken and Pork
Check The Price!

Why You Can Trust Us

As outdoor lovers, my husband and I often rely on our BBQ or grill for meals while we are on the go. While we love the natural flavors that come from options like cooking over a charcoal grill or open fire, there is no denying that high-quality BBQ rubs and spices can take your meal to the next level. For this reason, we often create our spice blends or experiment with the many different products currently available on the market.

In doing so, we learned how to choose the best spices and rubs, which features to consider, proper application of a dry rub, and more. In this guide, I have combined our experience with research into a wide variety of different products and options to help you shop for BBQ spices and rubs with confidence.

Best Multi-Use BBQ Spice Rub

Spiceology Smoky Honey Habanero Sweet & Spice Rub
    This spicy and sweet combination is a great choice regardless of what you are planning on BBQing this season including beef, chicken, fish, seafood, pork, vegetables and wild game.



Why We Like It: Spiceology Smoky Honey Habanero Sweet & Spice Rub is a versatile BBQ rub, suitable for any protein or vegetable. 

This unique blend of honey, brown sugar, paprika, salt, and habanero powder is a great option for beef, chicken, fish, seafood, pork, and vegetables. Available in both 5.7-ounce and 1.5-pound (24 ounces) sizes, there are options for every BBQ lover from the occasional hobby griller to the hardcore grilling enthusiast.

This BBQ rub is packaged fresh in the United States; however, it is packaged in a facility that processes tree nuts, dairy, and peanuts. If you do suffer from an allergy to any of these items, be aware of the risk. It is all-natural, preservative-free, free from MSG, and includes no fillers.

Who Should Buy It: If you are searching for a BBQ spice option that will work for a wide variety of different meals, the Spiceology Smoky Honey Habanero Sweet & Spice Rub is a great solution.

Best for Beef

McCormick Grill Mates Brown Sugar Bourbon Seasoning
    This sweet and savoury BBQ season is a great low-cost option to add some delicious flavor when BBQing pork, seafood chicken or steak.



Why We Like It: McCormick is a well-known name in the world of grilling, making a wide variety of low-cost spice blends and BBQ rubs. 

This delicious blend of brown sugar, bourbon, garlic, onion, and salt is no exception. Depending on your needs, this spice blend is available in both 3-ounce and 9.75-ounce options. The company recommends using approximately one tablespoon of seasoning for every 1 pound of meat for optimal flavor.

For BBQ lovers that are working with dietary restrictions, this is a great solution. It is free from MSG, gluten, and artificial flavors while packed with guilt-free and delicious flavors. However, the first ingredient is salt. For those who are limiting salt intake, consider reducing the amount of this spice blend used.

Who Should Buy It: BBQ lovers searching for a low-cost spice blend to elevate your next steak, we recommend trying the McCormick Grill Mates Brown Sugar Bourbon Seasoning.

Best for Chicken

Traeger Chicken Rub with Citrus and Black Pepper
    Designed to bring out the optimal flavours in your chicken or poultry, this citrus-based BBQ rub is a delicious option.



Why We Like It: The Traeger line of BBQ spices and rubs are each specifically formulated with a specific protein source in mind.

They are designed to optimize the specific flavors of your meal in a way that a multi-use spice can’t. One of the best-known compliments for chicken when grilling is citrus, making this citrus and black pepper rub the ideal solution. The spice blend is made in the USA. It is kosher, gluten-free, and GMO-free for a wide variety of dietary restrictions.

While we are specifically highlighting the chicken rub, the company also offers other blends, including beef rub, prime rib rub, veggie rub, pork & poultry rub, and coffee rub spices. Each blend comes in a stackable aluminum tin container for easy storage.

Who Should Buy It: Specifically formulated with a single protein in mind, Traeger Chicken Rub with Citrus and Black Pepper is sure to impress any BBQ lovers that enjoy creating chicken-based meals.

Best for Pork

Lambert’s Sweet Rub O’ Mine
    This unique blend and balance of spices is an award-winning dry rub for use on pork or other protein sources.



Why We Like It: This award-winning BBQ rub was perfected by three-time World Champion BBQ pitmaster Mark Lambert and was used during his 2013 Memphis win on pork shoulder. 

Specifically designed with pork in mind, this unique blend of spices and flavors can also be used on a wide variety of other protein options depending on how adventurous you’re feeling. Some of the flavors found in this blend include turbinado sugar, onion, garlic, paprika, chili pepper, and more.

Unlike many of the other options on the list, this specific blend is not recommended for those with dietary restrictions as there is no indication of it being gluten-free or free from MSG. It contains 2% or less tricalcium phosphate to prevent caking when stored.

Who Should Buy It: Pork lovers that are interested in trying an award-winning BBQ rub at home should consider grilling with Lambert’s Sweet Rub O’ Mine.

Best for Seafood

Fire & Flavor All-Natural Salmon Rub
    A delicious all-natural salmon rub with ancho chili and paprika, this BBQ rub is also perfect for use on poultry, beef, pork, and other seafood.



Why We Like It: Designed to provide delicious flavor with no calories, the Fire & Flavor All-Natural Salmon Rub is a great option for any BBQ lover. 

While it was formulated with salmon in mind, it is also a good choice for poultry, beef, pork, and other seafood. The spice blend includes assorted chilies (specifically featuring the ancho chili pepper), paprika, brown sugar, onion, and garlic.

This BBQ rub is a great option for those concerned about dietary restrictions as it is labeled kosher, gluten-free, and non-GMO verified. In addition to the salmon rub featured here, the company also offers other blends, including burger seasoning, a soy and ginger Asian rub, coffee rub, steak rub, turkey rub, and more. The company recommends that you allow their spices to sit refrigerated before cooking to enhance the flavors.

Who Should Buy It: The Fire & Flavor All-Natural Salmon Rub is a great option for all BBQ enthusiasts with a love for salmon and other forms of seafood.

How to Apply a Dry Rub

A person holding a grilling spatula over a grill with flames
Image Credit: Vincent Keiman on Unsplash

Let’s start by looking closely at the name. It’s called a ‘dry rub’ for a reason. Simply sprinkling the spices onto the meat or vegetables that you are grilling will fail to deliver the flavor that you are looking

Take advantage of the natural grains of your meat and the textures of your vegetables. Rubbing the spice carefully all over the food that you are grilling will help it to find every nook and cranny. It means that less of it will fall off when you do place it on the grill.

Some rubs are best applied well in advance of BBQing, wrapping them in tight plastic and allowing them to sit for some time before the grilling time starts. While the time that the rub is applied changes, the process doesn’t.

Features to Consider When Choosing the Best BBQ Rub

A person shaking spices on shishkabobs on the grill
Image Credit: jirayu koontholjinda on Unsplash

If you want to add a BBQ spice or rub to your grilling routine, there are a few features to consider. These options will influence the taste, texture, dietary restrictions, and more.

Wet Rub vs. Dry Rub

There are many types of BBQ rubs available. However, they can be classified into two categories, wet rubs, and dry rubs. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ answer when choosing the best rub for grilling. Instead, you need to understand the differences between the different types of rubs and choose the options that best fit your taste preferences.

Dry rubs refer to the mix of spices and other dry ingredients that you commonly purchase at a grocery store or make at home. In addition to spices, dry rubs also include sugars or salts to add to the overall flavor profile.

Wet rubs are similar to dry rubs, but they include wet components. Some popular options include oil, alcohol (beer, bourbon, vodka), vinegar, and mustard. Not only do these wet components add to the flavor, but they also work to help adhere the rub to the meat or vegetables that you are grilling better than a dry rub would.


Do you have specific spices or flavors that you prefer when grilling? If so, pay careful attention to the various ingredients included in the options that you are considering. A BBQ rub is often a mix of spicy flavors, savory flavors, salty flavors, and sweet flavors. With so many different ingredients and options, your limit is your creativity!

MSG, Gluten, and Other Ingredients

With so many options available, there are BBQ spices and rubs that will fit any dietary restriction. It includes the ability to choose MSG-free, gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, and more. If you have a specific allergy or intolerance, choose a recipe that doesn’t include the troublesome ingredients.

How to Store A BBQ Rub

A man rubbing meat on a barbecue
Image Credits: Z Grills Australia – via Unsplash

Whether you are making your BBQ rub by combining your favorite spices or purchasing a commercially available BBQ rub like those listed above, proper storage can have a significant impact on its longevity.

Place your rub in an airtight jar, container, or sealable bag and label it with the date when it was created (or purchased). Properly stored, most rubs will be good for up to 6 months. However, the best flavor will be experienced in the first two months.

Store your rub in a cool, dry location, such as a dark cabinet, pantry, or in the basement. Avoid any exposure to heat or sunlight, as these can break down the flavors of the rub faster. If you are using ingredients that include moisture, like brown sugar, they can cause the rub to harden over time. To loosen it up, simply stir or shake it, breaking up the larger pieces.

How We Picked

Selecting the top 5 BBQ spices and rubs was a challenge because there are many available flavors and types. While there is an element of personal taste and preference, there are some flavors that are widely recognized as pairing well with different meats and protein sources. Using this information, we were able to narrow down and categorize our options based on the proteins that they are best suited for.

From here, we looked at important factors that can influence your grilling experience, including flavor profile, versatility, value, and ability to accommodate different dietary restrictions. It allowed us to narrow down the options to pick out five products that we believe will make your mouth water.

Choosing the Best BBQ Rubs and Spices for Your Next Grilling Project

While most of the products we listed are formulated with protein options in mind, the Spiceology Smoky Honey Habanero Sweet & Spice Rub stood out due to its versatility. This sweet, savory, and spicy blend of flavors is a great choice for all proteins and vegetables, making it a go-to solution for all your grilling and BBQ needs.

If you are searching for the perfect BBQ rubs and spices for you and your family, experiment with different flavors to discover your preferences. It will allow you to identify which flavors are a hit in your family and which fall short of everyone’s expectations. From here, experiment with different blends and formulas using those flavors to expand your flavor palette and keep your meals tasting fresh and exciting.


Feature Image Credit: Quaritsch Photography on Unsplash