Essential Rub for Pork Ribs or Shoulder

Essential Rub for Pork Ribs or Shoulder

My Essential Rub for Pork Ribs or Shoulder might just be the kitchen sink of rubs; there’s a bit of almost everything in here! This is not just your basic rub for pork ribs or shoulder. It has a complex, pungent and mildly spicy flavor and it’s perfect to cut through the buttery richness of your pork shoulder or ribs, no matter how they’re made.

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork


Over the years, I’ve tweaked and tinkered with my Essential Rub for Pork Ribs or Shoulder until I think it’s exactly where I want it. It rides the line between sweet, savory with just the right touch of heat to keep things interesting. I’m guessing you might want to tinker, too; it seem that most people that use rubs like to tweak things a bit, and if you do I’d love to hear how you’ve changed this up.

About Essential Rub for Pork Ribs or Shoulder:

And while I developed my Essential Rub for Pork Ribs or Shoulder, I gotta admit it finds itself on chicken wings for parties or during the summer, dusted over grilled chicken breast. Now and then, it shows up on a few grilled veggies, maybe grilled corn or a plank or two of potato. This rub is great, too, in a buttermilk marinade for chicken or shrimp.

I’ve done a fair amount of smoking pork shoulders, the occasional brisket and ribs over the years, usually by rigging my gas grill, so I know how good this Essential Rub for Pork Ribs or Shoulder is on anything smoked. Smoking, though, and long, slow barbecued food is really beyond the scope of my site, especially when there are so many experts out there. On my site, you’ll see Essential Rub for Pork Ribs or Shoulder on my Slow Cooker Pulled Pork and treating even a slow cooker recipe just like I do when I barbecue makes it out of this world delish. Even in the slow cooker, that pork with this rub forms it’s own bark.

My favorite thing about Essential Rub for Pork Ribs or Shoulder is that it is so good on barbecued items served dry, which is really how I like to serve my ribs and usually my shoulder (although I might add a touch of barbecue sauce to my pulled pork) but it’s magical with a sauce, too. A sweeter sauce takes the edge off and a vinegar based sauce will compliment it nicely. And a barbecue sauce that’s just a little spicy will round out the flavor. It’s the perfect rub to use if you’re going to serve your bbq with a choice of sauces; it’s like a little black dress or those fave jeans – it goes with everything.

Essential Rib & Pork Shoulder Rub

Essential Rib & Pork Shoulder Rub

Making Essential Rub for Pork Ribs or Shoulder:

Feel free to tinker to your heart’s content with Essential Rub for Pork Ribs or Shoulder. This blend is heavy on the pepper, both black and white, which gives it a bit of raw heat, with the other flavors playing a more subtle role. It has what I’d describe as a clean taste, a sweet heat, but on the milder side, with no herbaceous notes or any flavors that “muddy” the taste. I’d call it a mix of Down South, with a hint of Southwestern and Cali, all playing together.

Essential Rub for Pork Ribs or Shoulder makes about a cup of rub, so increase or decrease as you will. If you have rub left store it in a jar in a cool, dark cupboard, preferably not over the stove or fridge, which both give off heat. It will keep well for a couple of months, but if the color is faded out, you can bet the flavor is diminishing. If Essential Rub for Pork Ribs or Shoulder or any other rub that has brown sugar in it starts to clump, just put it in a food processor and whiz away or in a Ziploc and run a rolling pin over it. Good as new.

Any time I go beyond two to three hours for a rub, brine or marinade, I use kosher rather than table salt. Here’s a great conversion chart from Morton. (Not all kosher salts use the same conversion ratio.)

Over the years I’ve seen advice to really massage a rub into your pork shoulder or ribs, most recently I’ve heard that doing so clogs the pores, making it impossible for the rub to penetrate the meat. I’m not sure if that’s true or not or if there is a scientific basis for this, and in my experience, the rub doesn’t really penetrate either way. Lately, I’ve been sprinkling on my rub and just giving it a gentle pat to make sure it holds in place. It’s hard to say, I suppose without a side by side comparison, but I thought I’d toss it out there.

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

Saving Money on Essential Rub for Pork Ribs or Shoulder:

I shop carefully for my ingredients and the ingredients for Essential Rub for Pork Ribs or Shoulder are no exception. I go through a fair amount of spices so I buy the basic ones, the paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder (or others that I might see) in the larger plastic containers. You’ll find those at the grocery or the buyers clubs like Sam’s or Costco and might even find them in the discount area of the store or the dollar stores. I also buy the bags of spices from the produce department.

I always keep my eye open in the spring when McCormicks often has coupons and Catalinas and restock my spices. A Catalina is when you buy so many items and a coupon spits out with a dollar amount to save on your next shopping trip. Pay attention to those slips that spit out with your receipts; they’ll notify you of Catalinas and so will your coupon matching sites if you have a good one. There are more money-saving tips and a lot more rubs and spice blends on my post for Spice, Herb or Flavor Packet Substitutes Post.

I used to buy all my brown sugar, until I realized just how much more inexpensive it is to make your own. Brown sugar is just molasses and white sugar and both are pretty cheap. That makes brown sugar about 3x times the amount to buy. If I’m baking, I can add in the white sugar and a touch of molasses, but for this rub you’ll want to whip up the brown sugar from my post, Homemade Light or Dark Brown Sugar if you’d like to give it a go.

Essential Rub for Pork Ribs or Shoulder

Essential Rib & Pork Shoulder Rub


Essential Rub for Pork Ribs or Shoulder

  • Author: mollie
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: about 1 cup 1x
  • Category: Spice & Herb Blends
  • Cuisine: American


  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
  • 2 tablespoon paprika (I like smoked paprika or blend of both in this, now & then)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons granulated onion or 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons granulated garlic or 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder


Mix all ingredients together. Store in a jar, tightly lidded, in a cool, dark place. Makes a little more than a cup.

Use as desired, light or heavy, on barbecued items. Massage this into the meat, then tightly wrap. Let rest for two to three hours minimum and up to overnight in the fridge.

Keywords: Barbecue, Spice & Herb Blends

Did you make this recipe?

Share a photo and tag us — we can't wait to see what you've made!


9 thoughts on “Essential Rub for Pork Ribs or Shoulder

    • FrugalHausfrau

      Hmm, that’s a tough one! I think you’re on the right track if you make our own.

      First of all, sometimes people can eat a dried ingredient when they can’t abide a fresh one. Could that be the case for you? The reason i ask is that my ex husband hated onion but didn’t mind onion powder. If it’s not just taste but a physical reaction, that won’t help you though.

      I think for this rub, I’d be tempted to just leave the garlic out~great barbecue has been made for decades and I’m sure many or even most of them over the years haven’t had garlic! There are so many flavors you probably won’t even miss the garlic.

      If you feel that it needs more of an aromatic note without the garlic, add in a little more onion powder to balance out the other ingredients..

      Another option I wonder about is if you could add in a few dried chives, ground up in the blender to a powder? Or a spice grinder if you have one. They won’t be a substitute for the garlic, and the flavor isn’t really strong once they are dried but will help add an additional aromatic note beside just the onion, which will make it a little more complex. I wouldn’t leave them in little chunks like they come out of the jar because they might get a burnt flavor when used as a rub.

      When I work on a rub, I write down what and how much I put in it, and when I taste the finished rub after whatever I cooked is done but before any sauce goes on, I make a few notes. I might note something like all i taste is chili powder, cut back next time or too much heat, cut back on red pepper, or too herby, leave out the oregano. You can do the same, start somewhere, taste and make notes, then next time you’ll adjust. do the same. When you finally hit the perfect combination for you of salty, sweet, smoky, herby, aromatic and spice that you LOVE you’ll know it! It will taste like magic to you! It never hurts to have friends over, too, to taste and compare with you!

      That’s all I’ve got! I hope it helps and i hope you experiment and that you’ll find your own “signature rub” that you love! Without garlic!

Hearing from you makes my day! Comment below.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.