bbq-rubs.jpgThere’s nothing like the smell of your neighbour’s BBQ to get your stomach rumbling. Whenever I smell BBQ cooking it brings me back to when I lived in the southern USA for 3 years. There are BBQ houses everywhere, and the amazing smell of BBQ chicken or ribs was a daily thing there. We didn’t want to eat out all the time, so that left us with the option of starving or learning how to BBQ ourselves. We took the second option.

The thing I’ve noticed when eating BBQ here is that people tend to do a lot of hot dogs and hamburgers, and that’s about it. They don’t get really creative with it, but if you don’t experiment once in awhile and try something new, that BBQ of yours isn’t going to reach it’s full potential.

From my own experience, I can tell you that the best way to get creative with the BBQ is to use spice rubs. Spice rubs are made up of ground spices like salt, pepper, chilli pepper, and more. They’re very common down south and you’ll also find them in some French recipes too.

You can buy spice rubs in the store or create your own rub from scratch, and it’s so easy to use them you’ll wonder why you waited so long to try. All you have to do is coat the meat you’re using, whether that’s beef, chicken, or ribs, with the rub and BBQ as you normally would. If done right, you’re in for a definite treat for dinner.

The sun is shining and it’s the weekend again, so there’s never been a better time to try a rub before you BBQ. Here are a few of my favourite rubs.

Memphis BBQ Rib Rub


This recipe and photo are from, and I’ve tried it myself a few times. I guarantee if you’re a rib fan, you’re going to love these. For the authentic southern flavour, you’ll need to use 1 ½ cup wood chips soaked for 1 hour in cold water and drained. It might sound strange, but it really works for that smoky flavour.


3 racks baby back pork ribs (about 7 pounds), or 2 racks pork spareribs (6 to 8 pounds total)

1/4 cup sweet paprika

4 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

4 1/2 teaspoons dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons celery salt

1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

For the mop sauce (optional)

2 cups cider vinegar

1/2 cup yellow (ballpark) mustard

2 teaspoons salt



Prepare the ribs and rub: Remove the thin, papery skin from the back of each rack of ribs by pulling it off in a sheet with your fingers, using the corner of a kitchen towel to gain a secure grip, or with pliers.

Combine the paprika, black pepper, brown sugar, salt, celery salt, cayenne, garlic powder, dry mustard, and cumin in a small bowl and whisk to mix. Rub two thirds of this mixture over the ribs on both sides, then transfer the ribs to a roasting pan. Cover and let cure, in the refrigerator, for 4 to 8 hours.

Prepare the mop sauce (if using): Mix together the cider vinegar, mustard, and salt in a bowl and set aside.

Set up the grill for indirect grilling and place a large drip pan in the center.

If using a gas grill, place all of the wood chips in the smoker box and preheat the grill to high; when smoke appears, reduce the heat to medium.

If using a charcoal grill, preheat it to medium.

When ready to cook, if using a charcoal grill, toss the wood chips on the coals. Brush and oil the grill grate. Arrange the ribs on the hot grate over the drip pan. Cover the grill and smoke cook the ribs for 1 hour.

When the ribs have cooked for an hour, uncover the grill and brush the ribs with the mop sauce (if using). Re-cover the grill and continue cooking the ribs until tender and almost done, 1/4 to 1/2 hour longer for baby back ribs, 1/2 to 1 hour longer for spareribs. The ribs are done when the meat is very tender and has shrunk back from the ends of the bones. If using a charcoal grill, you’ll need to add 10 to 12 fresh coals to each side after 1 hour. Fifteen minutes before the ribs are done, season them with the remaining rub, sprinkling it on.

To serve, cut the racks in half or, for a plate-burying effect, just leave them whole.


Black peppercorn rub


This recipe is just for the rub, and it’s amazing on chicken. Even my kids love it, and it’s enough rub for 4 chicken breasts. Photo and recipe from


Combine 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns

1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves

¼ teaspoon salt

1 crushed garlic clove



In a mini food processor or mini chopper; pulse 8 to 12 times or until the mixture is coarsely to finely ground, as desired

BBQ Spice Rub


I had to include this rub, because everyone really needs to try a rub with brown sugar. This rub is great on chicken legs or breasts, and it’s by far the easiest way to spice up a basic chicken BBQ dinner. Recipe and photo from


1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup paprika

1 tablespoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)



Mix brown sugar, paprika, black pepper, salt, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne pepper in a bowl. Store in an air-tight container or keep in the freezer in a sealable plastic bag.

If you’ve been finding BBQ boring lately, rubs are the way to fall in love with chicken, ribs, and steak again. Here’s everything you need to get started making amazing BBQ.

Start with a great BBQ
Grind up your spices with a food processor
And grab your spatula and other BBQ Utensils!

Main image from

Shelly Wutke
Editor TV & Home Theatre
I'm a Vancouver freelancer and tech enthusiast. When I'm not writing you'll find me on my farm with my alpacas, chickens, and honeybees. Visit my website Survivemag