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  • Writer's pictureMikey

A Scientific Guide To BBQ Rubs And Spice Blends

Image of Smoked Bros Employee Creating a handcrafted blend of BBQ Spices as the cover of A Scientific Guide To BBQ Blends and Rubs

As the weather starts warming up, it's time to dust off the grill and plan your next BBQ. But if you want to take your BBQ game to the next level, you must have the right spices. In this blog post, we'll take a look at the science behind BBQ spices and blends. The team at Smoked Bros is famous for our love of spices and for creating exotic flavor profiles. We believe that spices are one of the keys to making great food, especially when it comes to BBQ. Here are some reasons why BBQ spices are a must-have product:

Spices are the secret weapon of any BBQ enthusiast looking to elevate their grilling game. When used correctly, the right combination of spices can transform a bland piece of meat into a mouthwatering masterpiece that will have your taste buds singing.

By using a mix of sweet, spicy, and smoky flavors, you can create a well-rounded taste that will tantalize your palate. Sweet flavors, such as brown sugar, honey, and maple syrup, are perfect for adding a touch of sweetness that can help balance out spicy and smoky flavors.

The 5 Ss: A Guide to Making the Perfect BBQ Rub

When it comes to a good BBQ rub, it's all about the five Ss. Think of it like a symphony orchestra, where each instrument plays a vital role in creating a harmonious masterpiece. If you're looking to up your BBQ game and impress your guests with mouthwatering flavor, a good BBQ rub is a must-have. A BBQ rub is a combination of herbs, spices, sugar, and sometimes salt that is rubbed onto meat prior to grilling or smoking. But what makes a good BBQ rub? So, what are these five Ss, you ask?


First up, we have sugar. Sugar is a crucial ingredient in BBQ because of the sweet taste it imparts to the meat and the creation of a caramelized crust, also known as the "bark." This bark is formed when the sugar melts and caramelizes upon exposure to high heat, creating a mouthwatering outer layer that enhances the meat's flavor, texture, and appearance. Sugar also plays a balancing role by offsetting the spiciness of other ingredients in a BBQ rub and creating a more complex and well-rounded flavor. However, using too much sugar can lead to burning and an overly sweet taste, so it is essential to use it in moderation. With the proper balance of sugar and other spices, a BBQ rub can elevate the taste of your meat to a whole new level, delivering a truly satisfying experience.


Next, we have savory. The umami taste derived from amino acids is a crucial component in BBQ, as it adds a layer of complexity and richness to the meat's flavor. This savory taste comes from glutamate, a naturally occurring amino acid found in meat, mushrooms, and other food items. As the meat is cooked over high heat, the proteins break down and produce this savory flavor, known as umami. To enhance this taste, ingredients such as soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce, which are high in glutamate, can be added to the BBQ rub. The addition of these savory flavors can also help to balance out the sweetness or spiciness of the rub. In summary, the incorporation of savory flavors from amino acids is essential in achieving a well-balanced and delectable BBQ experience.

Standout Ingredient

Just like in music, a standout or signature ingredient is crucial to make the blend truly memorable. It could be a particular type of chili pepper, an exotic spice like saffron or sumac, or even a unique combination of flavors. This special ingredient not only adds a distinct flavor to the blend but also helps it stand out from the crowd. When people taste or smell that ingredient, they will immediately recognize the blend and associate it with that specific flavor. That's the power of a standout ingredient in a spice blend, and why it's essential to consider when creating one. So, when crafting your next spice blend, think about what unique ingredient can make it truly remarkable and unforgettable.


Now, let's add some heat with the spicy S. Hot pepper sensations, often called spicy flavors, can add excitement to your BBQ dish. But, be sure to use them in moderation, as not everyone enjoys a lot of heat. Black pepper, cayenne, and chipotle are all great options to consider.

When it comes to spicy flavors, there are countless options to choose from. You can go for classic options like cayenne pepper, chili powder, or black pepper, or you can mix things up with unique options like chipotle, paprika, or even wasabi. The key is to use just enough spice to add some excitement to your dish without overpowering the other flavors.


Finally, we have salt. Almost all bottled commercial rubs contain salt, and it's pretty much a standard ingredient. Salt is important because it penetrates deep, amplifies flavor, and helps meat retain moisture. But, if you're making your own rub at home, it's best to leave out the salt.

So there you have it, the five Ss that every BBQ rub needs to create a delicious, harmonious flavor. Experiment with different combinations and find the perfect balance of sweet, savory, spicy, and salty flavors to take your BBQ game to the next level.

A blue ceramic bowl filled with Smoked Bros Sweet and Zest Knuckle Dragger Rub as it is being handcrafted

Why is Salt Important to Creating Perfect BBQ?

Salt is an indispensable ingredient in any BBQ rub, not only because it enhances the flavor of the meat, but also because it helps to retain moisture and improve the texture. In scientific terms, salt helps to break down meat through a process called denaturation, in which salt disrupts and unfolds protein molecules. This creates a more tender structure in the meat, allowing the flavors of the other ingredients in the rub to penetrate more deeply. Salt also draws out moisture from the meat, which is then reabsorbed along with the salt, resulting in a juicier and more flavorful end product. By penetrating the meat, salt helps to amplify the taste of the meat, making it more savory and delicious. In the absence of salt, a BBQ rub may lack complexity of flavor, and the meat may end up dry and tough. Therefore, it's essential to use the right amount of salt in a BBQ rub to achieve the perfect balance of flavor and moisture.

Pork Loin on baking tray being rubbed with Smoked Bros Premium Craft Spices

What is Denaturation?

When salt is applied to meat, it penetrates deep into the muscle fibers, helping to break down proteins and allowing the flavors of the other ingredients in the rub to penetrate more deeply as well. Additionally, salt helps to amplify the flavor of the meat, making it more savory and delicious. Without salt, a BBQ rub may lack depth and complexity of flavor, and the meat may end up dry and tough. That's why salt is such an important ingredient in any BBQ rub, and why it should be used in the right amount to achieve the perfect balance of flavor and moisture.

Salt helps to break down meat in a process called denaturation. Denaturation is the disruption and unfolding of protein molecules, which occurs when they come into contact with salt. Salt works by creating a high concentration of positively charged ions, which then interact with the negatively charged proteins in the meat. This interaction causes the proteins to unwind and then re-form into a looser, more tender structure.

Additionally, salt helps to draw out moisture from the meat, which is then reabsorbed along with the salt, resulting in a juicier and more flavorful end product. The salt also helps to penetrate the meat, allowing flavors from other spices and seasonings in the rub to permeate more deeply into the meat. Overall, the addition of salt to a BBQ rub is essential for both the taste and texture of the final product.

When it comes to BBQ, one of the biggest decisions is whether to use a dry rub or a wet rub. Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages, so it's essential to understand them before making a decision. Let's explore the pros and cons of each method in-depth:

Dry Rubbing BBQ Pros And Cons

Dry rubbing involves coating the meat with a dry mixture of spices and herbs by rubbing it with your hands. Here are the advantages and disadvantages of this technique:


  • Dry rubs create a crispy crust on the meat when cooked, adding texture and flavor to the final product.

  • You have complete control over the amount of seasoning that goes on the meat.

  • Dry rubs are easier and faster to apply than wet rubs.

  • You can use dry rubs on any meat, including pork, chicken, and beef.


  • Dry rubs can sometimes overpower the natural taste of the meat.

  • Applying dry rubs can be messy and create waste if not used correctly.

  • If the seasoning is not applied correctly, it may not fully penetrate the meat, resulting in an uneven flavor.

Wet Rubbing BBQ Pros And Cons

Wet rubbing involves creating a spice mixture that is mixed with a liquid such as oil or vinegar to create a paste that is applied to the meat with a brush or your hands. Here are the advantages and disadvantages of this method:


  • Wet rubs penetrate the meat, resulting in a more even flavor.

  • The liquid in wet rubs helps to tenderize and keep the meat moist during cooking.

  • Wet rubs add a lot of flavor without overpowering the natural taste.

  • Wet rubs can be used as a marinade for several hours, allowing the flavors to develop fully.


  • Wet rubs can be more difficult to apply than dry rubs, as the paste may not stick to the meat as well.

  • Wet rubs require more preparation time than dry rubs.

  • Wet rubs can create a messier cooking environment.

Ultimately, the choice between dry rubbing and wet rubbing comes down to personal preference and the type of meat being cooked. Dry rubs are quick and easy to apply, while wet rubs can create a more even flavor and tenderize the meat. Consider the pros and cons of each method before deciding which one to use for your next BBQ dish.

What is a Binder or Slather in BBQ?

When it comes to BBQ, using a binder or slather is a classic technique that can take your flavor game to the next level. The binder is a thin liquid that you can apply to the meat using a brush or spray bottle. Think of it as a glue that will help the rub stick to the meat and create that mouthwatering crust. You can use a variety of liquids as binders, from tangy vinegar to bold hot sauce to even beer.

Now, if you want to go one step further, you can try using a slather. This is a thicker mixture that you apply by hand, and it not only helps the rub adhere to the meat but also adds a ton of flavor to the final product. You can create a slather using ingredients like ketchup, barbecue sauce, honey, and molasses, and really let your creativity shine.

When it comes to BBQ, a binder or slather can be a game-changer. Not only do they help the rub adhere to the meat, but they also add a boost of moisture and flavor during cooking. As the meat sizzles away, the binder or slather works its magic, infusing the surface with a delicious crust that's sure to make your taste buds sing.

However, it's worth noting that not every BBQ recipe calls for a binder or slather. Some pitmasters prefer to let the rub take center stage, while others opt for a simple spray of oil or water to help things stick. Ultimately, it's up to you to decide which method works best for your taste buds and desired outcome. But if you're looking for an extra pop of flavor and juiciness, don't be afraid to give a binder or slather a try!

Pork Shoulder Rubbed in Mustard Inside a Refrigerator Prepping for Smoked Bros Craft Spices

How to Properly Apply BBQ Rubs

  • First things first, make sure your meat is dry. Use a paper towel to pat it down and remove any excess moisture. This helps the rub stick to the meat and create a delicious crust.

  • Next, give your meat a good massage with a binder. Rub it down with a thin layer of oil to help the rub stick and create an even coating. You can use a brush or just use your hands to spread the oil evenly.

  • Now it's time to apply the rub. Be generous with it, but make sure to spread it around evenly on all sides of the meat, including the sides and bottom. Get your hands in there and really work that rub in!

  • Once the rub is on, it's time to let it sit and marinate. The longer the meat sits with the rub, the better the flavors will meld together. For maximum deliciousness, let it sit in the fridge for at least an hour, or even overnight.

  • When you're ready to cook, take the meat out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature before cooking. This helps it cook more evenly and ensures that the meat stays juicy.

  • Now it's time to cook up your BBQ masterpiece! Whether you're grilling or smoking, make sure to follow the proper cooking techniques and times for your specific cut of meat.

Smoked Bros Honey Badger Being Rubbed On Pork Ribs On Top Of Cutting Board

So there you have it, folks. With these tips, you'll be able to create the delicious BBQ and take your food to the next level. Remember, it takes time and attention to detail, but the end result is totally worth it. So go ahead, get creative with your cookin'!

About the Author:

Smoked Bros is a company that knows a thing or two about flavor. They’re veteran-owned and operated, with a mission to bring craft seasonings to the masses. But this isn’t just any company — they’ve got military precision when it comes to their flavor profiles. Just like defending our great nation, creating the perfect seasoning blend takes skill, dedication, and attention to detail.

Smoked Bros has traveled the world, discovering unique BBQ techniques, cuisines, and spices that are lesser-known but no less delicious. They use only the highest quality ingredients, ethically sourced from around the globe. And, they don’t just make great seasonings — they’re also committed to giving back. With every purchase, they donate to our brave warfighters, First Responders, and underserved communities.

So, whether you’re a BBQ fanatic or just love good food, Smoked Bros is a company worth checking out. They’ve got the flavor, the expertise, and the heart to make a real difference.

Smoked Bros Premium Craft Spices Products Being used to season burgers on the grill

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