Meathead’s World Famous Memphis Dust Rub Recipe

BBQ dry rub on a rack of ribs

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 BBQ dry rub recipe, salting the meat first (click here to read why rubs should not have salt) is a must. Salt will penetrate deep into meat so you should get it on in advance, perhaps overnight. The general rule of thumb is 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt per pound 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

Meathead's Memphis Dust Dry Rub Recipe


memphis dust on ribs
Tried this recipe?Tell others what you thought of it and give it a star rating below.
4.76 from 2117 votes
Here's my recipe for a great all purpose pork rub. It is carefully formulated to flavor, color, and form the proper crust when cooked at low temps. Try it on chicken, fish, and vegetables too. The amount here is enough for about 24 slabs of ribs when using 2 tablespoons rub per slab. Use enough to cover the meat surface but still let some meat show through. Store the extra rub in a zipper bag or a glass jar with a tight lid.

Course: Sauces and Condiments
Cuisine: American
Difficulty: Easy

Makes:

About 2 1/2 cups
Servings: 480 1/4 teaspoon servings

Takes:

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 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
About the sugar. I encourage readers to experiment with recipes, and "no rules in the bedroom or dining room" is my motto, but I have gotten some emails that require a response. I appreciate that many of you feel the need to reduce sugar in your diets but sugar is in the recipe for more than flavor enhancement, it helps form the crust (called bark by the pros), an important part of the texture of the surface of ribs and smoke roasted pork. It mixes with the moisture and caramelizes making special unique flavors.
There are only about 2 tablespoons of rub on a large slab. Of that about 1 tablespoon is sugar. Some of it falls and drips off during cooking. If you eat half a slab, you're eating about 1 teaspoon of sugar. The glycemic load (GL) is about 3. Compare that with a slice of white bread with a GL of 10.
And for those of you who object to white sugar for non-dietary reasons, and use brown sugar instead, you need to know brown sugar is just white sugar with molasses added. It is not unrefined sugar as many people believe. I use brown sugar for the flavor and white sugar because it improves the bark.
If you want to cut back on carbs, leave off the sweet barbecue sauce. It has a lot more sugar than the rub. Switch to a Lexington sauce which is mostly vinegar, or just eat the pork with rub and no sauce. It's mighty good that way.
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.

Method

  • 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 oven for 15 minutes to drive off moisture. No hotter or the sugar can burn.
  • Serve. If you have time, sprinkle on 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt per pound of meat up to 12 hours in advance. For most meats, wet the surface of the meat with water and sprinkle just enough Meathead's Memphis Dust on to color it. Memphis style ribs without a sauce, apply the rub thick enough to make a crunchy crust, perhaps 2 tablespoons per slab of St. Louis Cut (Center Cut) and a bit less for baby backs. To prevent contaminating your rub with uncooked meat juices, spoon out the proper amount before you start and seal the bottle for future use. 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.

Nutrition

Serving: 0.25teaspoon | Calories: 3kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 1mg | Potassium: 5mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 56IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 1mg | Iron: 1mg

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Published On: 4/17/2017 Last Modified: 4/29/2021

  • Meathead - Founder and publisher of AmazingRibs.com, Meathead is known as the site's Hedonism Evangelist and BBQ Whisperer. He is also the author of the New York Times Best Seller "Meathead, The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling", named one of the "100 Best Cookbooks of All Time" by Southern Living.


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