Best Dry Rub for Ribs: The Pitmaster’s Recipe

June 2, 2023

Simply put, the perfect rib rub to bring the hot dang out of your ribs is a simple mix of brown sugar, kosher salt, ground mustard, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, and roasted cinnamon, with the smokey, fiery kick of smoked paprika and black pepper.

During my two-decade-long gig as a steakhouse prep cook, I have tried and served many dry rubs to our regulars. This spice rub remains my go-to for ribs for three reasons.

For starters, the ingredients are easily available and affordable. Two, this rib seasoning is super easy to throw together so it comes in handy when you are pressed for time. Three, it stores well in an airtight container or ziplock bag. 

In this article, I will show you how to make my favorite spice mix for your ribs, how to tweak it to your liking as well as how to store the leftover rib rub.

best dry rub for ribs

My Hot Dang Fine Spice Rub for Ribs

The key to good cooking is preparedness so start by gathering these ingredients in the following quantities:

  • 2 tbsp sweet brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tbsp onion powder
  • 2 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp ground mustard
  • 2 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp roasted cinnamon

Then, pour your ingredients into a mixing bowl and use a spoon to give it a good mix. Voila! your dry rub is ready.

How Do I Apply The Dry Rub On My Ribs?

How to apply the rib rub on meat differs across pitmasters but it boils down to personal preference As for me, I like to cover all bases which is why I always recommend applying a binder on the meat before applying a rib rub. The binder helps the spices stick to the meat.

Without a binder, most of the rib rub will fall off the meat and you will end up with an uneven bark. Some portions will be well-seasoned while others will be bland.

There are several binder options to choose from that will get the job done. They include olive oil, sunflower oil, melted butter, Worcestershire sauce, barbecue sauce, and yellow mustard. I prefer the subtle tart taste of French's Classic Yellow Mustard.

Coat the ribs evenly, making sure to get the binder into every nook and cranny. Once you are done, generously sprinkle your rib rub all over your ribs and gently pat it down with your fingers or a wooden spoon.

Lightly shake off the excess spices and your ribs will be ready for the grill.

Dry Rubbed Ribs Ready to Grill

Can I Customize This Dry Rub?

Absolutely. The best part about homemade rib rub recipes is that the only limit is your imagination. You can customize this recipe by changing some ingredients and portions until you nail your preferred taste. Here are alternative ingredients you can experiment with:

Hot & Fiery

If you fancy hot firey ribs, go heavy on chili powder and black pepper. Alternatives include chipotle powder, cayenne pepper, finely ground jalapeno peppers, and ghost peppers.

Super Sweet

Sugar is an essential part of any rub because it is critical for the formation of the inviting reddish-brown crust we love on pork ribs and beef cuts.

This is made possible by the Maillard reaction which refers to a reaction that takes place between amino acids in the meat and the sugar in the rub. It is also referred to as the browning reaction.

For those with a sweet tooth, add an extra teaspoon of dark brown sugar to your spice rub. Alternatively, you can use molasses.

If you don’t mind a little moisture in your rub, instead of brown sugar, consider using honey, maple syrup, or agave nectar. I use Agave In The Raw Nectar in my wet rubs since it marries well with smoked ribs.

Smokey Flavor

If you are anything like me, you know that grilled pork ribs are not complete without some wood-fired notes. This is why I don’t skip out on the smoked ingredients including smoked paprika, smoked salt, and roasted cinnamon.

However, if you are going to smoke the ribs, your smoking wood is more than enough to impart a bold smokey flavor to your ribs.

Coarse Rib Rub vs Fine Rib Rub

With dry meat rubs, there’s always the choice between fine and coarse rubs. I recommend the fine rub for 2 reasons:

For starters, it is much harder, dare I say impossible, to get a course rub evenly on the meat because the particles are comparatively large and highly irregular.

This in turn leads to an uneven crust full of spots that have more flavor than others. As for the fine rub, getting it evenly on your ribs only involves sprinkling it over the surface of the meat and gently patting it down.

Second, a coarse rub almost always ends up as burnt-up spice bits after hours of smoking, unlike fine rubs that easily blend with the ribs.

Slow Roasted Beef Ribs with a Dry Rub

However, if you are a coarse rub die-hard, all you have to do is go for ingredients that are not finely ground to get a mouth-watering coarse rub that is sure to elevate your bark. I assure you, the flavor will not be compromised. Swap out the following ingredients:

Measure your ingredients into a small bowl and mix them thoroughly before rubbing the spice mix on your meat.

How To Store This Dry Rub For Ribs?

I know transparent storage containers look cute on a shelf but what if I told you that exposure to sunlight, heat, and humidity degrades your spices making them less potent?

Don’t panic though because as I mentioned earlier, one of the best things about this rib rub recipe is that it stores well when handled properly.

Dry rib rub is best stored an airtight container or a ziplock bag. They keep the rub from absorbing moisture from the air and losing its quality.

If it absorbs moisture, with time, your dry rub for ribs will clump up into chunky ineffective bits that you will probably have to toss out.

Additionally, store your rub away from direct sunlight and heat because they break down the essential oils that give the spices their signature flavors. In some cases, the rub becomes moldy, musty, rancid and completely lacking in flavor.

If you have to store your rib rub in a glass container, make it an opaque container to limit the effect of sunlight and heat. Equally important, storing it near your cooking area, near the window, or next to the microwave will is not advisable.

Lastly, label your zip lock bag or storage container and jot down the date it was preserved such that the batch that goes into storage first is the first to use. First in, first out!

If you use fresh spices and follow these guidelines to the tee, your dry rub for ribs will store for a year. I recommend using it within 6 months for optimum results.


1. How Do You Keep Dry Rub Ribs Moist?

This dry rub for ribs is ideally meant to be lacking in moisture content. However, if you prefer it moist, add a little olive oil, yellow mustard, Worcestershire sauce, or a dab of your favorite bbq sauce.

For beef ribs, pork ribs, and pork chops, I am partial to Killer Hogs The BBQ Sauce which works well for both grilling and smoking recipes.

2. Is It Better To Put Dry Rub On Ribs Overnight?

Putting the rub on beef and pork ribs hours before cooking gives the spices time to penetrate and flavor the meat.

I usually let the rub sit on my ribs for 2-4 hours in the refrigerator. You can opt to leave it longer but ensure it is refrigerated to avoid the danger zone.

Filet Prepped with Dry Rub

Just To Recap

This spice blend is all you need to take your grilling game to the next level. It is the best rib rub recipe because it is easy to whip up and easier to use.

Moreover, the ingredients can easily be swapped to land your desired flavor profile and it stores really well. What more can you ask for in a rib rub? Give it a try!

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API. CatHead's BBQ is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for website owners to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon (.com,, .ca etc) and any other website that may be affiliated with Amazon Service LLC Associates Program. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
More like this ...
Hungry Yet? Lets Grill Some!
Copyright 2023 CatHead's BBQ, all rights reserved.