This flavorful BBQ dry rub recipe is best and only backyard seasoning you’ll ever need!
If you’ve ever enjoyed true Memphis barbecue at world famous joints like Paynes, Cozy Corner, Rendezvous, or the Bar-B-Q Shop then you know that the “go-to” dish is Memphis dry rub ribs. Unlike BBQ ribs in other parts of the country that are slathered in sauce, Memphis pitmasters dress ribs with nothing more than a flavorful spice blend that lets the perfectly smoked meat shine through. Or as the rack of ribs once said to Elvis Presley: Rub Me Tender, Rub Me True! (click here to share this pearl of wisdom!).
But while there are scores of commercial BBQ rubs on the market, this Memphis dust bbq dry rub recipe is the only Memphis rib rub for smoking that you’ll ever need! The best part about this Memphis rub is the fact that it’s not only extremely easy to make but you can add or subtract ingredients in order to suit your own taste. In Memphis they season the meat with the BBQ seasoning before smoking then apply a second light coating just before serving.
So why do barbecue rubs make smoked meats so flavorful? There is a reaction between the rub and the surface that helps form a nice crust, called bark. This great all purpose pork rub recipe is carefully formulated to add flavor, color, and a proper crust to the meat after it is done cooking low-and-slow. It’s so good that several competition teams use it.
And when you are asked “What’s your secret?”, you can answer as the pros do, by saying “It’s my rub, man.” Of course if you like your pork “wet” (with sauce), seasoning the meat well with the BBQ dry rub before cooking then lightly brushing with sauce during the last few minutes of the smoking process is the way to get it done.
Since there is no salt in this recipe, (click here to read why our rub recipes do not have salt), salting the meat first is a must. This process is called dry brining. Salt will penetrate deep into meat so you should get it on in advance, perhaps overnight. The rest of the spices and herbs cannot penetrate very deep, so the rub can go on anytime, even just before you start cooking. The general rule of thumb is 1/2 teaspoon Morton Coarse Kosher Salt per pound/453.6 grams of meat (don’t include bone, and ribs are about half bone).
Some put a rub right on the meat and then massage it in. Others lay down a mustard base first to act like glue, others make a wet rub by mixing it with water, oil, or booze. I just get the meat wet with water by wetting my hands and patting the meat and then I sprinkle the BBQ dry rub seasoning on top.
After using it on my Last Meal Ribs and my Perfect Pulled Pork, try it on salmon, raw celery stuffed with cream cheese, on the rim of Bloody Mary’s, and even popcorn.
Reading my article on the Science of Rubs is great background for this recipe
Makes:About 2 1/2 cups/591.5 ml
- ¾ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
- ¾ cup white sugar
- ½ cup American paprika
- ¼ cup garlic powder
- 2 tablespoons ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons ground ginger powder
- 2 tablespoons onion powder
- 2 teaspoons rosemary powder
Bottom line: This recipe is a very successful rub from a taste and chemistry standpoint. I urge you to make it as specified the first time. About the rosemary. Several readers tell me they hate rosemary and leave it out. Trust me, it hides in the background and you will never know it is there. But it is. It is subtle and important in this blend. Substitute thyme or oregano if you must, but I think rosemary is the best choice. If you can find ground rosemary, well, it is hard to find. So just grind the rosemary leaves in a mortar and pestle or in a coffee grinder or a blender. It will take 2 to 3 tablespoons of leaves to make 2 teaspoons of powder. Again, please don't leave it out. About the ginger. Like the rosemary, I think ginger is a very important ingredient. If you don't have any, get some. About the paprika. If you read my discussion of paprika by clicking this link you'll learn about the different kinds of paprika. In short, garden variety grocery store paprika has little flavor and is used mostly for color. But fresh Hungarian or Spanish paprika have mild but distinctive flavors. In many European countries, paprika is hot. Not in the US. If you wish, you can use smoked paprika, especially good if you are cooking indoors, or even mix in some stronger stuff like ancho (slightly spicy), chipotle powder, cayenne, or chili powder (not very hot). Chipotle can be quite hot, so be thoughtful of who will be eating your food. I usually go easy on the heat in deference to the kids and wimps (like me) and add it to the sauce or put chipotle powder on the table for the chile heads. About the salt. Remember, kosher salt is half the concentration of table salt so if you use table salt, use half as much. Click here to read more about salt and how it works.
These recipes were created in US Customary measurements and the conversion to metric is being done by calculations. They should be accurate, but it is possible there could be an error. If you find one, please let us know in the comments at the bottom of the page
- Prep. Mix the ingredients thoroughly in a bowl. If the sugar is lumpy, crumble the lumps by hand or on the side of the bowl with a fork. If you store the rub in a tight jar, you can keep it for months. If it clumps just chop it up, or if you wish, spread it on a baking sheet and put it in a 225°F (107.2°C) oven for 15 minutes to drive off moisture. No hotter or the sugar can burn.
- Since our rub recipes contain no salt (we explain why in the headnote above), we recommend you sprinkle on 1/2 teaspoon of Morton Coarse Kosher Salt per pound (453.6 g) of meat up to 12 hours in advance. For most meats, dampen the surface of the meat with water and sprinkle enough Meathead's Memphis Dust on to coat, but not so much you can't see the meat below. Apply the rub thick enough to make a crunchy crust. Keep your powder dry as the old expression goes. To prevent cross-contamination, one hand sprinkles on the rub and the other hand does the rubbing. Don't put the hand that is rubbing into the powder or use it to hold the bottle.
Meathead's Whole Hog Dust
- If you are doing whole hog on a cinderblock pit over direct heat, you don't want to risk the sugar burning, so use the same recipe for Meathead's Memphis Dust but omit the sugars.
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