How To Make A Dry Rub For Ribs – A Complete Guide

Grilling is one of the best hobbies you can get into, and its result is completely dependent on a good rib rub. So, making a dry rub for ribs is probably one of the most asked questions for all new BBQ enthusiasts.

dry rub for ribs featured

That is why we prepare this thorough guide for you along with some common mistakes to avoid. We hope that you can make your own specialized rib rub after reading through it.

Table of Contents

    How To Make A Dry Rub For Ribs

    We call this best dry rub for ribs the Classic BBQ Rib Rub, as it will infuse your piece of meat with the BBQ flavor that you fell in love with. It also has an acidic punch that the traditional barbeque sauce doesn’t have.

    With the ingredients below, you will be able to make a portion enough to serve at least 8 eaters.

    All in all, you only need to spend 10 minutes on the preparation process.

    Step 1: Prepare The Ingredients

    You need to prepare the exact amount that we will be mentioning below. Even a slight miscalculation can lead to the rub having a weird taste, as it relies on the balance between the ingredients. 

    delicious ribs
    Proper balance between the ingredients makes your rib rub delicious.

    First of all, you need exactly 2 cups full of brown sugar to act as the base for the rub. Enhance the kick of your rib rub with a half-cup of sweet paprika and 1/4 cup of black pepper. 

    If you are a fan of spice blend, take things even further with either chipotle or ancho, but limit the amount to 1/4 cup. 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper can also do the trick when mixed with 1 tablespoon chili powder and granulated garlic powder. 

    This combination of spices is our secret ingredient.

    Now, we would need to add in a little bit of complexity for the rub. 

    The best ingredient for complexity is, of course, cumin, so you would need about 1/4 cup of cumin mixed with some white pepper. 

    Of course, the umami flavor is also a must-have, so prepare 1/4 cup of kosher salt as well as 1/4 cup of granulated onion.  When these two combine with a 1:1 ratio, you will get an explosion of flavor. 

    Step 2: Measurement And Mixing

    The next thing to tackle is, naturally, the measurement step. We recommend that you measure all the ingredients with prep bowls, as they are pretty precise.

    You can try to put them into smaller bowls first before mixing them in the final bowl. By doing this, you can fix things up quickly if there is anything wrong with the measurement.

    After ensuring that all the measurements are correct, you can start mixing the ingredients. Add the spice mix into the big bowl, then add the brown sugar after them. 

    You can either use a whisk to mix them or toss them all into an airtight container and start shaking.

    The whisking method takes longer to produce a satisfying result, but the ingredients are mixed perfectly. On the other hand, the zip bag method is much quicker, but you could waste some ingredients.

    Step 3: Serving & Storing

    Each serving of this dry rub recipe will provide you with 27 calories, 6.7 grams of carbohydrates, 0.2 grams of fat, and 1310.6 milligrams of sodium. You can see the full list of nutrients here.

    If you do not eat right now, you can store it in an airtight container. The use time is about one year.

    How To Cook Ribs With Your Dry Rub

    #1. Types Of Pork Ribs

    The first step of any cooking recipe should not start with the prepping step but the buying process. Some people overlook it, but it can make a huge difference in the final product.

    Baby back ribs are curvier
    Baby back ribs are curvier.

    There are actually quite a lot of unique racks of ribs that you can get from the market. Each of them has its own unique set of strengths and weaknesses. 

    To list them all in this section alone is simply undoable, so we will be talking about two of them, the spare ribs and the baby’s back ribs.

    Let’s start with the baby’s back ribs. Despite its name, these ribs are certainly not taken from baby pigs. They are ribs that directly connect to the loin. If you don’t know what loin is, it is the muscle running along the back of the pig, on the sides of its spine. 

    Baby back ribs are usually shorter and curvier than spare ribs. Also, they tend to have a higher concentration of lean meat, both on top and between the bones. For these reasons, you don’t need to spend as much time cooking them.

    As for the spare ribs, these under-the-belly ribs must be the ones that you are the most familiar with. While all the belly meat is separated to make things like bacon or pancetta, the remaining rib is still sufficient.

    Spare ribs are straight with a meatier appearance
    Spare ribs are straight with a meatier appearance.

    These ribs are longer, have more fat, and take quite a while to cook fully. Their main advantage is the affordable price tag.

    #2. Prepare The Ribs

    After getting the right type of pork ribs, you can begin the prepping process. Whenever you look at the back of any rack of ribs, you will always see a thick membrane. This membrane, while fragile-looking, is actually quite thick and impenetrable.

    The easiest way to get rid of it is to ask your local butcher to rip it out, as they tend to have the right tools. Nonetheless, if you happen to forget about it, you can do so yourself by following these steps.

    First of all, place your ribs in a way so that their curved back faces up. Take the sharpest knife you have, slice it under the membrane on one end of the rack. Remember that the sharp knife must also be above the bones.

    Pinch the membrane and pull it with your fingers to lift the membrane up. If you feel that the membrane is too slippery, you can utilize a paper towel to grip it.

    Once you have gotten a good hold, peel the whole membrane off the rib. You can deal with the remaining stubbornness with knives.

    #3. Rub The Ribs

    Before you can sprinkle your rib rub over the ribs, remember to add a base of yellow mustard first. Not many cooks know about this trick, but it is quite crucial.

    You see, the rib rub, if applied directly, will fall off the meat quickly. As a result, the final product’s taste will suffer a heavy loss. To prevent this issue from happening, you need a layer of yellow mustard to act as a special glue.

    Yellow mustard helps the rib rub stick better.
    Yellow mustard helps the rib rub stick better.

    The vinegar component of the dry mustard is also good for the tenderization of the meat. Believe us, you need the meat to be as tender as possible.

    After making sure that both sides of the rib are covered in yellow dry mustard, sprinkle the rib rub over it. You should be absolutely generous in this process. Remember, these ribs are thick pieces of meat.

    There is only the risk of them not getting enough seasoning, not them getting too much seasoning. Utilize your fingers and give the whole rib a good massage.

    The more committed you are massaging these ribs, the tender they will be after you grill them. Do both sides equally.

    #4. Oven Bake The Ribs

    After the massage, wrap all the ribs in a layer of foil. Be as gentle as you can with the foil. You do not want any tear in this wrap, as the liquid will leak out, leaving you only dried-out ribs. If you want to be extra careful, you can do another layer right in the middle to seal things off completely.

    Marinate the ribs for at least 2 hours, but the longer you wait, the better the flavor will be. Then, put them into your oven at 275F for exactly 2 and a half hours.

    This step ensures that the juice will all be locked tightly in, tenderizing your ribs. Also, the rub has more time to seep in the meat with its flavor.

    Once the required time has passed, pull the ribs out and check their internal temperature with a thermometer. If the displayed number is anywhere between 190 and 200F, your ribs are perfectly done.

    #5. Finish Off With The Grill

    While the oven can tenderize the meat like no other, it cannot give your ribs that delicious char. That is why you always need to finish things off with your trusty grill.

    Brush your choice of BBQ sauce onto the oven-baked ribs and put it above a medium-heated grill. For those who don’t know, medium-heated means that your grill should be around 350F.

    The maximum allowed time for this charring process is 10 minutes, any longer, and the ribs will burn. 

    You need to be careful while grilling, though, as the ribs are very tender after their trip to the oven. To prevent them from splitting on the grill, use 2 tong sets on both sides of the ribs.

    Common Mistakes While Making Ribs

    No Membrane Removal

    As we have mentioned above, the membrane will prevent your rub from completely penetrating the ribs. While looking exactly like the fatty connective tissues, the way they break down is not at all the same.

    Even the most thorough of grills cannot make this layer any less chewy and tough. As such, having it on your ribs will only serve to reduce your dish’s appeal.

    Too Little Sauce

    There is a misconception that once you add in the rib rub, there is no need for sauce. We are here to tell you that this notion is completely and utterly wrong. 

    As we have mentioned above, ribs are among the thickest cuts of meat. That is why a combination of sauce and rib rub is perfectly doable for them. 

    Also, rib rubs are not that picky when it comes to sauces, so you can choose just about any sauce you like. All you need is to keep a balance between smokiness and flavor. 

    Of course, you must also remember when to add the sauce in. If you make the mistake of adding them in too early, the sauce’s sugars will scorch under the grill’s high heat. While they are burning, the ribs are still cooking, so the end result does not have a good taste. 

    We suggest waiting until there are only 10 minutes left to add the sauce in. 

    No Pre-Cooking

    Some people firmly believe that we should grill ribs under high heat from the beginning to the end. That is a wrong conception, as doing so is not the best way to tenderize your meat.

    We believe that the surefire method to render the ribs completely juicy and tender is by pre-cooking them, preferably in the oven. The gentle and even heat of the oven will do wonders for the tenderization process.

    If you still want to stick to the grill all the way, keep in mind that there is a lot more nuance to rib grilling than things like hot dogs or burgers. It is better to start with indirect heat and keep doing so for most of the grilling time.

    Only in the last few minutes can you transfer your ribs to the direct and high heat area.

    Not Checking The Ribs For Doneness

    This is one of the most common mistakes that BBQ newbies tend to make. They look at a beautifully charred rib rack and believe immediately that it is now ready for consummation. However, if you don’t know what to look for, you will pull the ribs off the fire too soon.

    The easiest to spot sign of your ribs being done is when the meat starts to recede, exposing 1/2 inch of the bone’s thinner end.


    After reading through our guide on how to make a dry rub for ribs, we hope that you can now make your own dry rub recipe. At the end of the day, the dry rub for ribs recipe is the key secret to a good BBQ rib dish, but it is not the be-all and end-all.

    That is why we have also prepared a recipe for fall-off-the-bone tender ribs, as well as some mistakes that you should not make. 

    Get ready to keep your hand busy for a BBQ dinner next time! And don’t forget to visit our new posts for more special recipes on your cooking journey.

    Roger Lee
    Roger Lee

    Thanks for visiting my website. My name is Roger Lee, and I am a 30-year-old man with a hybrid blood of Chinese and Russian. I decided to set up this site to share with everyone my love and passion for open-air cuisine. It all started when my parents opened a restaurant and I had the chance of getting exposed to the art of outdoor cooking.
    This website aims at sharing about my hobby, recipes, and tips for cooking to everyone. Try them out and tell me about your experience.