Table of Contents
- A Guide to the Best Baby Back Ribs and Spare Ribs
- Pork Ribs
- How to Cook Ribs
- Baby Back Ribs 101
- Spare Ribs 101
- Country-Style Ribs
- Rib Rubs and BBQ Sauce
- 1. Off the Bone, Dallas
- 2. Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que — Llano, Texas
- 3. Bogart’s Smokehouse, St. Louis
- 4. Roper’s Ribs, St. Louis
- 5. Twin Anchors, Chicago
- 6. Bludso’s, Compton, Calif.
- 7. Corky’s, Memphis, Tenn.
- 8. Alamo BBQ, Richmond, Va.
- 9. Franklin Barbecue, Austin, Texas
- 10. Smoke, Dallas
- Tesco slow-cooked New-York-style rib rack
- Aldi Appleby’s smoky BBQ ribs
- Morrisons red-eye barbecue meaty pork ribs
- M&S pork rib rack with an apple BBQ glaze
- Sainsbury’s British BBQ pork ribs with a smoky BBQ glaze
- Asda spicy chipotle pork rack of ribs
- Waitrose red eye pork ribs
- Co-op smoky BBQ pork ribs
- Ocado BBQ pork ribs
- Best Store Bought Rib Rubs (Comparison Chart)
- Top Store Bought Rib Rubs
- Kosmos Q Dirty Bird
- Stubb’s Bar-B-Q Spice Rub
- Bad Byron’s Butt Rub Barbeque Seasoning BBQ Rubs
- Killer Hogs The BBQ Rub
- Plowboys Yardbird Rub
- The Salt Lick Original Dry Seasoning
- Taste Test Alert: We tried 6 store-bought barbecue sauces and have a winner
- Lloyd’s Barbeque Company Babyback Pork Ribs with Original BBQ sauce Reviews
A Guide to the Best Baby Back Ribs and Spare Ribs
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Just in time for summer and the 4th of July, here’s your guide to baby back ribs, spare ribs, and how to cook the best BBQ ribs of any kind.
No matter how smoky, glistening, and fall-off-the-bone tender your ribs are, it’s guaranteed that a herd of pitmasters will shake their heads with disapproval. You’re doing it all wrong, they scowl. These barbecue chefs claim it’s patient attention to the time, heat, and smoke that transforms the meat into something so succulent it could make a vegetarian grab a bone and dig in.
If you think there are a lot of opinions out there about what makes a great brisket, try having a conversation about the best way to make ribs with a group of barbecue nerds. You’ll get an earful about secret rubs and sauces, the best smoking wood to use, the ideal temperature to cook them–even the best type of charcoal.
Whether you’re new to cooking ribs or intimidated by all of the fuss over methods, consider this your starter guide to ribs–an introduction to the most popular cuts (baby back ribs, spare ribs) and the basics you need to know to make backyard barbecue ribs worthy of a gold medal.
Everything you need to know about cooking pork ribs starts with where they are located on the pig. Baby back ribs are cut from the tender center section of the loin (think: pork chop). Spare ribs are cut from the fattier, tougher belly section (think: bacon).
How to Cook Ribs
The truth is, you can cook ribs in a microwave or Crock-Pot if you really want to (there are countless recipes out there for boiling, braising and baking ribs), but to make true old-school barbecue joint ribs, you need the smoke and indirect, low and slow heat of a grill or smoker. The longer, slower cook breaks down the tough connective tissue and fat in pork ribs to make them toothsome or fall-off-the-bone tender, and this process also infuses the meat with rustic smoke flavor. Ribs cooked hot and fast (i.e. “grilled”) will be tough and chewy.
In barbecue, the “low and slow” zone on a cooker is anywhere from 225°F to 275°F. Getting a charcoal cooker to run in this temperature range consistently for three to six hours is tricky. If you own a charcoal cooker and want to learn the process, check out “Low & Slow: Master the Art of Barbecue in 5 Easy Lessons” (Running Press, 2009).
Low & Slow: Master the Art of Barbecue in 5 Easy Lessons, $12.78 on Amazon
More tips and tricks to turn you into a pro.
Some barbecue enthusiasts also endorse the 3-2-1 method for cooking ribs–smoking the ribs for three hours at 225°F, wrapping and cooking them in foil with a little liquid for two hours, and finishing the unwrapped, basted ribs by cooking them at a slightly higher temperature for one hour. This is a good method if you like the fall-off-the-bone style of ribs, although some barbecue pros (including Barbecue Bible guru Steven Raichlen) note this method actually steams the ribs, which lose a bit of their texture and flavor in the process.
Baby Back Ribs 101
AKA: Loin ribs, back ribs
Think of a baby back rib as a pork chop with most of the loin meat removed. A typical rack of a baby back ribs has twelve to thirteen ribs and feeds two to four people. When you’re buying baby backs, the ideal rack is meaty with lots of streaky patches of white fat and no “shiners.” (Shiners are barbecue slang for the bones you see through the meat when the ribs have been cut too close to the bone.) Avoid ribs that have been pre-marinated or “enhanced” with salt water/brine or other additives. Although the price fluctuates and varies by region, back ribs are more expensive than spare ribs–anywhere from $3 to $7 per pound, or more for high-end varieties (think: Niman Ranch).
Should you remove the membrane?
Baby back ribs have a thin, slick membrane covering the bone–you can remove this membrane or leave it intact. The membrane will often have a nice, papery crackle when the ribs are grilled, smoked, or baked, but some people think the membrane inhibits the rub from sinking into the meat. If you braise or steam the ribs (i.e. wrap them in foil or cook in a moist slow cooker), this membrane can turn tough. To remove the membrane, slip a non-serrated butter knife between the thicker outer membrane and the thin membrane that holds the meat together. Once you’ve separated enough of the membrane, grab the loosened section with a paper towel (this keeps the membrane from slipping) and gently but firmly peel it off.
Cook time: Up to 3 hours at low and slow temperature.
Smoked Barbecue Baby Back Ribs
To smoke these baby back ribs, you’ll set up a kettle-style grill for indirect heat cooking, which means the burning charcoal is banked to one side of the bottom grate and the ribs are positioned on the other side of the top grate. If you want to fit more ribs on the grate, you can use a roasting rack turned upside down as a rib rack. Get our Smoked Barbecue Baby Back Ribs recipe.
Spare Ribs 101
Untrimmed spare ribs cut from the belly (with the tips and sternum intact) are bigger, meatier and tougher than baby backs and require a bit more cooking time to tenderize the meat. Like baby backs, the ideal rack of untrimmed spare ribs is meaty with plenty of streaky white fat and no shiners. The racks weigh around six pounds and can feed 4 to 6 people. (A heavier rack may indicate an older animal and tougher meat.) Pricing varies, but racks of untrimmed spare ribs can cost as little as $1.50 per pound; the average price is closer to $3.50 per pound.
Pork Spare Ribs, $18 at Porter Road
A little meatier (and pricier) than most, these come from free-range pigs at Rittenberry Farms in Kentucky.
St. Louis-style ribs are trimmed spare ribs–the long strip of “rib tips” are removed to produce a more uniform rack, which cooks more evenly and makes for a more picturesque presentation (the ribs look like longer, meatier baby backs). You might also run across Kansas City-style ribs, which have had the tips and skirt of flap meat removed. Pitmasters and competition barbecue folks often refer to the best trimmed spare ribs as “3 1/2 down”—meaning they weigh 3 1/2 pounds or less.
Rib tips are cut from the short, meaty section on spare ribs between the lower end of the ribs and sternum. If you trim your own rack of spare ribs, cook the tips alongside the ribs. They’ll cook in half the time and you can serve them as an amuse bouche (or keep them to yourself for a chef’s snack). Barbecue joints chop the smoked, chewy tips into bite-size pieces and toss them with sauce.
Cook time: Up to 6 hours at low and slow temperature.
Backyard Championship Ribs
If you’re new to cooking with charcoal and attempting this rib recipe, opt for a rub that does not contain sugar, such as Gary Wiviott’s Barbecue rub (below). Learning to control the airflow and temperature in your cooker takes time and practice, and if the temperature spikes, the sugar may burn. Get our Backyard Championship Ribs recipe.
Country-style ribs are not ribs in the classic sense. They are meaty slabs cut from the blade end of the loin and shoulder section. These “ribs” are often boneless, although some slabs may contain slices of shoulder blade or rib bone. You can cook country-style ribs low and slow, but they are best when grilled over high heat. Get our Grilled Country-Style Ribs recipe.
Rib Rubs and BBQ Sauce
Add extra flavor to your ribs, whatever style they are.
Gary Wiviott’s Barbecue Rub
If you like a little spice in your barbecue, this rub brings a bright, fruity heat to ribs and pork shoulder and complements the smokiness. It might seem like a lot of chile, but remember that the flavor of any spice mellows after a long low and slow cook. For the best results, slather your rack of ribs with a few tablespoons of cheap yellow mustard to help the rub stick. Get Gary Wiviott’s Barbecue Rub recipe.
Basic Barbecue Sauce
If you’ve been buying bottled barbecue sauce, earn your sauce training wheels with this straightforward recipe. This sweet sauce goes with any smoked meat (particularly ribs), but use it sparingly. If you spent hours on those ribs, you don’t want to cover up the meaty, smoky flavor with too much sweet, sticky sauce. Get our Basic Barbecue Sauce recipe.
Bourbon-Bacon Barbecue Sauce
This is the sauce that threatens to upstage your barbecue if you’re not careful. The combination of smoky bacon and sweet, boozy bourbon are a perfect fit for low-and-slow cooked ribs, but think of the sauce as an accessory, not a side dish. A little goes a lot way. Get our Bourbon-Bacon Barbecue Sauce recipe.
— Original article published in 2015; updated by Amy Sowder and Jen Wheeler.
There are few things in life more delicious and satisfying than a plate of barbecue. And more often than not, the centerpiece of that plate is a rack of ribs. A glistening, smoky, slow-cooked rib, whether pork or beef, has the potential to be one of the most groan-inducingly good foods in existence, especially when enjoyed with a cold, easy-drinking beer. But who makes the best ribs in America? And what exactly makes a perfect rib?
We reached out to some of the country’s most renowned food writers and critics, and assembled a list not only of their favorites, but of ribs that are renowned far and wide for their smoky perfection. The only criterion that we provided these panelists was that their picks needed to be bone-in ribs best eaten with your hands and a pile of napkins.
So while we’re certainly fans of Italian-style braised short ribs (famed critic Gael Greene told us that her favorite ribs are the ones at New York City’s Il Buco Alimentari), those didn’t meet our criteria for this list. Renowned food writer and director of the Southern Foodways Alliance John T. Edge, The Washington Post’s Tim Carman, GQ’s Alan Richman, the Los Angeles Times’ Jonathan Gold, and Esquire’s John Mariani all submitted some of their favorites. A couple of panelists also gave us their answer to the question, “What makes the perfect rib?”
So what does make for a perfect rib, according to some of the country’s leading experts? Tenderness, sauce-to-meat ratio, smokiness, and good charring.
Tim Carman told us, “For me, barbecue spareribs should not fall off the bone like those ubiquitous braised short ribs you find on every chef-driven menu. Your teeth should be engaged in the eating process with spareribs, forced to lock onto the smoky flesh and gently pull it from the bone. The spareribs should also not arrive at your table smothered in tangy/sweet/spicy sauce. I want to taste the meat and smoke and whatever layer of seasonings the pitmaster has applied to the ribs. Sauces can hide defects in seasoning and smoking.”
And John Mariani said, “For me a great rib is never oversmoked, pink under the skin, with good charring on the outside. The sauce is down my list of virtues, preferring a dry rub to do most of the work. The meat may come off the bone easily but not ‘fall off,’ and there should be some definite chewiness to the meat.”
We wholeheartedly agree, so with those parameters in mind, we set off to find the country’s 20 best ribs, building on 2011’s list and ranking them according to local renown, critical appraisal, and adherence to the criteria set forth by our panel of experts. A word of warning before reading on: You’ll be hungry by the time you make your way to number one. And if your favorite place isn’t on the list, we also agree with what Alan Richman told us: “In fact, they’re all great.”
1. Off the Bone, Dallas
(Off the Bone)
An unassuming spot located on an unassuming street just outside of Dallas, Off the Bone was named the best barbecue in the city by D Magazine in 2010. The pecan-smoked ribs served out of this converted gas station might be considered gourmet by most standards, but that doesn’t mean they’re not down-home and delicious, especially when you catch a glimpse of them being mopped with sauce by the pitmaster in the back.
2. Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que — Llano, Texas
This supremely peppery pork rib breaks a trademark rule of barbecue — it’s finished over direct heat — but it’s just about impossible not to fall in love with Cooper’s ribs. That finishing touch gives it a great char, and you’re also allowed to choose your own rack, right off the grill. The folks at Details Magazine also agree that this is one of the country’s finest.
3. Bogart’s Smokehouse, St. Louis
A relative newcomer, Bogart’s is helmed by the former pitmaster from a St. Louis institution, Pappy’s. The sides here are spectacular, but make sure not to fill up on them because their ribs are the main event. They’re sticky and caramelized due to a special treatment that they get after being removed from the grill: they’re hit with a blowtorch, a genius move if we ever saw one.
4. Roper’s Ribs, St. Louis
Family-owned since 1976, Roper’s St. Louis and baby back ribs are meaty, smoky, and coated in a hearty sweet and spicy sauce that doesn’t overpower the meat. It’s a tiny, smoky place, so be prepared to take your order to go; you’ll be amply rewarded with ribs that are also considered to be among America’s best, and Travel + Leisure agrees.
5. Twin Anchors, Chicago
Once a favorite hangout of Frank Sinatra, this Chicago institution opened in 1932 in Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood as a Prohibition-era tavern. The ribs are slow-cooked for five hours, finished on the grill, and served to tender perfection. If you find yourself there on a weekend with a wait more than an hour, though, make sure to heed the establishment’s golden rule: No dancing.
6. Bludso’s, Compton, Calif.
A favorite of the LA Times’ Jonathan Gold, this Compton, Calif., restaurant specializes in Texas-style ribs from a recipe handed down by owner Kevin Bludso’s great-great-grandfather. The recipes are a well-guarded secret, but the end result is world-class: smoky, sweet, and requiring a little tug to get at. The smoky smell will lure you in from blocks away.
7. Corky’s, Memphis, Tenn.
In a city known for its barbecue, Corky’s has found its way to the top of the heap thanks to its ribs. Its website describes the lengthy process that its ribs go through to reach the eater: “Born of a unique combination of place, history, and just plain knowing what great ribs and barbecue are supposed to taste like, Corky’s unrivaled ribs and authentic, hand-pulled barbecue are meaty, succulent, and falling-off-the-bone-tender. Corky’s barbecue is made with old-fashioned Southern tradition — slow-cooked in pits with hickory chips and charcoal, hand-pulled to select only the best, and basted in our special blend of Corky’s sauces.” If that doesn’t make you hungry, we don’t know what will.
8. Alamo BBQ, Richmond, Va.
Another suggestion from Carman, Alamo specializes in Texas-style barbecue, as the name implies. Its brisket is the stuff of legend, but the ribs are also world-class. They’re smoky, mopped with a stellar but not overpowering barbecue sauce, and are so good that you might just end up ordering a second rack.
9. Franklin Barbecue, Austin, Texas
Aaron Franklin must be some kind of sorcerer. What started as a trailer in 2009 quickly became one of the most revered spots in all of ‘cuedom, and loyalists and pilgrims all line up outside the newish building’s front door for hours on end, every day. No visit is complete without sampling some of the impossibly tender ribs, which are peppery and with a well-caramelized bark. You have your choice of slathering on three sauces (espresso-based, vinegar-based, or a sweeter variety), but as is usually the case with barbecue this good, none is necessary.
10. Smoke, Dallas
“I dote on the beef ribs at Smoke,” Edge told us. “These show great smoke penetration, and the meat has a kind of roundness, a beefiness that recalls the best dry-aged steakhouse stuff.” The rest of the country tends to agree. Chef Tim Byres opened this restaurant inside the city’s Belmont Hotel in 2009, and while it’s not a barbecue joint, per se, even though there are several smoked meats on the menu, his fine-dining approach to the cuisine elevates it above the pack. The giant “big rib” is slow-smoked over oak and hickory until it develops a beautiful crust and is tender but not falling apart. It’s served with a chimichurri sauce that provides an extra kick, but it’s wholly unnecessary.
See many more ribs at The Daily Meal
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Britain has always enjoyed a barbecue, but the glowing embers of this love affair have recently been rekindled by the rise of “dude food”. That is, our new Man v Food fondness for burgers, dogs and huge, US-style hunks of grilled meats. According to analysts Kantar Worldpanel, there were 115.3m British BBQs last year, up more than 8%, with burgers overtaking sausages as our favourite barbecue food.
In this smoky world, pork ribs are a strange proposition. Instead of grilling, they are – in a typical US cook-out – prepared slow ’n’ low in BBQ pits warmed by an indirect heat source. This explains why, while several supermarkets advise that their own-brand versions (normally pre-cooked for reheating) spend a brief spell on a BBQ to pick up some charcoal flavour, they are generally designed to be oven-cooked. In a country with such unreliable summers, this could be seen as a plus.
With a curt nod to authenticity, most supermarket ribs – larger spare ribs or racks of smaller loin/baby-back ribs – now come in a dry rub with a packet of glazing sauce to add later. If you are prepared to make your own marinades, however, Packington’s raw, belly-cut ranch ribs (8/10, 400g, £5.19; Ocado) were, while not an own brand, the best ribs tested here. Thick with fat, which rendered away beautifully, they delivered an impressively tender and moist, porky mouthful. Did any of the pre-prepared own brands get close to that standard?
Tesco slow-cooked New-York-style rib rack
Suspicious that the glazes would be the weakest element in this test, I tasted (where possible) the rubbed meat and glazed ribs separately. Sauce-free, these moist baby-back ribs offered reasonable flavour. Someone has been busy with the garlic, ginger and hot paprika. The tomato-dominated sauce is too sweet, but it has a persuasive peppery edge. If “New York” means creating ribs reminiscent of a plate of Italian meatballs, Tesco fulfils its remit. 6/10
Aldi Appleby’s smoky BBQ ribs
Oddly described as having been “marinated in a BBQ flavour glaze” (the ingredients are clearly those of a rub), but packaged with an additional sauce. Luckily, the end flavours are less confusing. Pre-sauce, the ribs give up the kind of cayenne, paprika and “smoke flavouring” taste you expect in an upmarket bag of crisps. While no classic, the sauce – its burnt-sugar sweetness offset by a palpable smokiness and peppery, clove-tinged heat – is mellow and reasonably balanced. 5.5/10
Morrisons red-eye barbecue meaty pork ribs
Can you taste that distinctive smoky, coffee note in the honey sauce? That’s the “red eye” bit. Although, inauthentically, no caffeine is used (instead, that flavour appears to be created with malted barley and “smoke flavouring”). Before adding that sauce, a clanging, infantilising layer of sweetness, these chunky ribs were promising. The rub is fruity and punchy, the pork falls off the bone. Collectively, it is a winning combination of savoury flavours. That sauce, though? No. 6/10
M&S pork rib rack with an apple BBQ glaze
First cooked sous-vide for several hours (the vac-packed, water-bath technique popularised by Heston Blumenthal), the fat-laced meat on this glossy, lubricious rack is notably moist and tender. This is decent pork (with no added water, unlike Asda’s and Aldi’s versions), whose applewood smoking and simple sugar, spice and smoked garlic rub has imparted good flavours. The sauce lends the pork a pleasant caramelised apple edge, but, gradually, the cayenne rather muffles all other flavours. 7.5/10
Sainsbury’s British BBQ pork ribs with a smoky BBQ glaze
Sainsbury’s makes a big play about how this rib rack is slow-cooked for more than two hours. But far from “simply falling off the bones”, the dull, tasteless meat (the rub imparts mere hints of tomato and garlic) requires vigorous gnawing. Despite its gloopy, unappetising texture, the glazing sauce – sweet, tarry, smoky, with a precise heat redolent of not just chilli, but also ground black pepper – saves these mundane ribs. 5/10
Asda spicy chipotle pork rack of ribs
Again the dense, not particularly fatty meat on this “slow-cooked” loin rack needs to be actively tugged off. Melting it ain’t. The chipotle rub is unexciting, dominated as it is not by chipotle but the muffled scent of apparently dusty, tired paprika. Smoked paprika and tomato puree are, likewise, the big flavours in the sweet sauce, which, although chipotle chilli extract gives it a throat-tickling kick, lacks the depth and complexity you might reasonably expect. 5/10
Waitrose red eye pork ribs
Was something lost in translation mid-Atlantic? Like the Morrison’s ribs, Waitrose’s “red eye” version omits coffee but includes vodka and tomato paste, which is closer in spirit to the “red eye” drink popularised in Tom Cruise’s Cocktail. Either way, these are so-so ribs. Beyond a cracked black and cayenne pepper buzz, the rub (“hickory smoked”) has left little impression on the pleasantly gelatinous meat. The tomato, honey and molasses sauce is so sweet you cannot but worry about early-onset diabetes. 5/10
Co-op smoky BBQ pork ribs
What would a US pitmaster make of these (frozen, microwaveable) ribs? There is hardly any meat above and below the skinny rack’s bones and barely a centimetre of (broadly flavourless) pork between the ribs. Moreover, the ribs come pre-glazed in a sticky sauce that, while you can taste molasses and onion and, belatedly, some chilli, cayenne, tomato and smoke, is more of a low-level hum than a bold explosion of flavour. A meek mouthful. 3/10
Ocado BBQ pork ribs
Four huge Flintstone-style spare ribs … but size isn’t everything. You have to tear the surprisingly tough meat off the bone and, despite it containing great, flabby bits of fat, there is little piggy flavour to this (added water) pork. The ribs sit in their juices as they cook, creating an unappealing wet edge on each, and the rub (erroneously described as a “glaze”) is clunky: sweet and tomato-y, heavy on the smoked paprika with a pointed heat. 4/10
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Grilling on the BBQ is not just another way to prepare food, it is an art. What is better than enjoying a barbeque or some smoked meats in the warm summer evenings?
Some people are obsessed with grilling, and this has led to a huge amount of products on the market to enhance your grilling and smoking.
Some of us like to come up with our own BBQ products including herbs and spices which can be added to meats before cooking.
Making your own rubs can be great fun, but it is time consuming and in some cases it can go very wrong.
If you’ve invited guests round and your homemade rub is way too spicy or just totally flavorless then it can ruin your food. Plus, the best store bought rubs are absolutely delicious.
Best Store Bought Rib Rubs (Comparison Chart)
|Kosmos Q Dirty Bird||Check Price|
|Stubb’s Bar-B-Q Spice Rub||Check Price|
|Bad Byron’s Butt Rub||Check Price|
|Killer Hogs The BBQ Rub||Check Price|
|Plowboys Yardbird Rub||Check Price|
|The Salt Lick Original Dry Seasoning||Check Price|
Even if you decide to modify them and add more to them, they are a wonderful and safe starting point for your meal.
Choosing The Best Rib Rub
If you’ve ever watched any of the BBQ and grilling TV shows out there you’ll know how much of a big deal it is!
Not only do people like to spice up their meats, people have secret rubs, scientific techniques and intricate methods to ensure the best possible taste.
Grilling also boasts a huge amount of different styles and ingredients, usually stemming from different origins.
From the spicy flavors of Mexican BBQs to the smoky Texan flavors, each state (and country) offers something a little different.
Many of these regional grilling styles have been translated into rib rubs which can be enjoyed simply by purchasing and applying before your next BBQ.
While it is hard to specify one “best” rib rub, there certainly are some wonderful options which we’ve tested and reviewed in this article.
Feeling The Heat
Heat is a consideration when it comes to BBQ flavorings. Some flavorings have a lovely sweet taste perfect for every palate, but some are more suited to those who enjoy a bit of spice.
Smoking and grilling usually has the sweet taste to counteract spices, but different rubs still offer differing levels of chili and other hot spices so you can ensure you’re getting a rib rub that won’t blow you away with its spice if this isn’t your preference.
Dry Rubs vs Wet Rubs
These are two terms you’re likely to hear a lot when you start experimenting with grilling. They’re more or less self-explanatory.
A dry rub uses only dry ingredients (herbs and spices) whereas a wet rub will incorporate something along the lines of vinegar, olive oil or even apple juice, or a combination of these ingredients.
If you are purchasing a rub as opposed to making one yourself, dry rubs will usually be the best option as they are far more economical and easy for manufacturers to create and ship. Any rub with a wet base will be used up far more quickly.
The choice of turning a dry rub into a wet rub is yours, as adding further wet ingredients is incredibly easy.
How to Use Rubs on Ribs
Ribs can be wonderful or they can be woeful. It depends on how they are prepared. Ribs need to be tender and flavorsome, and this all comes from the method of cooking.
Putting a tiny bit of rib rub on and slapping it on the grill for the minimum time is not the way to do it! This will mean bland and chewy ribs.
Taking your time is one of the keys to smoking and grilling. Using rib rubs is no different. If you have the time, it is normally strongly recommended that you use a rub the day before you cook them, this will ensure that the ribs have time to take full advantage of the flavors and rest in the herbs and spices overnight.
If you don’t have the time to do this, apply the rib rub as soon as you can on the day of cooking.
As well as applying in advance of cooking, adding a further coat of rub around 20-30 minutes before cooking is recommended, ensuring a thorough coating and fresh flavor.
Rib rubs should not be used sparingly. Meat can be stubborn and hard to get flavor into effectively.
If you choose to tenderize your meat or even if you prick some holes through it with a knife or sharp kitchen instrument, you can ensure that the flavor seeps through to the center.
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Top Store Bought Rib Rubs
We’ve reviewed and listed many of the top rib rubs which can be purchased either from grocery stores or online.
These incorporate multiple different grilling styles and flavors so there’s every chance you may wish to experiment with a few of the rubs to work out which you enjoy most.
Kosmos Q Dirty Bird
We couldn’t go through the list without a great offering for those addicted to heat. The Kosmos Q Dirty Bird rub is another very versatile BBQ product, and is great not only for ribs but for chicken, steak and even burgers and sausages.
The Kosmos Q range of rib rubs has a lot of different options, just like many of the manufacturers on this list.
They have tested their products at BBQ competitions across America to ensure they can compete with the best, and rest assured that the Dirty Bird is a wonderful alternative to a homemade rib rub.
This is spicy, but not just hot for the sake of it. If you can’t handle overly spicy curries or other hot meals, it doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t enjoy the dirty bird.
It serves to provide a kick to your meat without leaving you gasping for water. It has all the hallmarks of classic BBQ flavors as the heat and smoke is contrasted with a beautiful sweetness.
Stubb’s Bar-B-Q Spice Rub
Stubb is famous for his BBQ joint in Austin, Texas, with the slogan ‘it all starts with a good rub’. The BBQ spice rub is a blessing from the brand, and has five star reviews almost exclusively.
The flavor profile is built around paprike as well as high quality sea salt and black pepper.
Sounds simple, but the amazing blend has created one of the most impressive rubs out there, not just for ribs but for chicken and other beef and pork joints.
If we were to pick out one single ‘best’ rib rub, Stubb’s would really take some beating. The flavors aren’t overly complex, but they give a perfect recreation of the unique Texas style.
You can feel like you’re eating at Stubb’s BBQ joint from the comfort of your own backyard.
Bad Byron’s Butt Rub Barbeque Seasoning BBQ Rubs
This is arguably the most common BBQ rub available on the market, and is definitely one of the best sellers.
This is an incredibly versatile BBQ flavor, and even though it is branded as ‘butt rub’ this can be used on virtually any cut of meat to improve the flavor.
The main ingredients of the rub include paprika and chipotle for a beautiful smokiness, onion and garlic for a well rounded flavor, and salt and pepper.
Some rubs don’t include salt and pepper as it is expected that they are applied separately, and some users have over-salted their meat by overlooking this, which can lead to a ruined or at least unbalanced flavor palate.
The texan flavors of this rub shine through, and it really can be used with pretty much anything on the BBQ, with customers tipping this not just for ribs but for chicken, vegetables and even seafood.
A rack of pork ribs will be the perfect accompaniment for your Bad Byron’s, but it can fill your whole grill with flavor.
This rub contains no MSG, as we’ve come to expect from the top rib rubs. It also has no sugar, whereas most of these types of rubs utilize the sweetness of sugar to compliment heat.
Because of being sugar free, it is great for a healthier option that still packs a lot of flavor.
Killer Hogs The BBQ Rub
Some rubs are very simple in terms of ingredients, and they’re often proud of it. However, if you’re looking for something a little more complex, Killer Hogs’ BBQ Rub could be exactly what you’re after.
This is a rub which has been refined and perfected across BBQ and smoking tournaments across America, and you can take advantage of these years of honing to ensure your home grilling is as good as can be.
The brand have focused on creating the perfect ‘bark’ with their rub. The bark is the area around the meat which contains the flavoring, resembling tree bark of course, from where it gets the name.
The bark is sort of like the ‘crust’ of the meat, and it is the main area a rib rub can influence.
In this case, ingredients you’d expect such as salt, sugar, pepper and paprika are mixed with some more experimental flavor kicks such as orange peel and even mustard flour.
What all of this adds up to is a well rounded flavor, great for ribs as well as chicken, beef and pork. The rub is described as ‘competition grade’, and it is one of the most highly regarded rubs out there.
For a small investment in this magic rub, you can quickly be BBQing like a true pitmaster, and enjoying the tasty rewards, too!
Plowboys Yardbird Rub
Plowboys Yardbird rub markets itself as being ‘created for chicken, but made for pork’. The truth is it does a great job on both, as well as on other BBQ meat chops depending on your preference.
This rub is famous for its recommendation by Tuffy Stone, a very famous TV chef and competitor on the American BBQ circuit.
To come with the endorsement of one of the most successful BBQ personalities of all time, the Yardbird rub must have something about it.
The flavor profile is beautifully balanced between sweet and salty, but be warned, this is another rub where the salt can become overpowering if you leave it too long or if you have added salt separately.
The beautiful sweetness of this rub really stands out, and the anti-caking ingredients included make sure there is an even spread on your food with no annoying clumps.
All around, Plowboys Yardbird is another of the most versatile and well-rounded BBQ rubs, perfect for ribs but just as effective coating your chicken wings or even your vegetables.
The Salt Lick Original Dry Seasoning
This is a wonderful starting point. If you’re not an experience griller and don’t have your own style or an idea of what flavors work for you yet, this can be a good way to start experimenting and add some all-round richness to your grilling.
This has been regularly used on steak and pork cuts. Because of its use with beef, it strongly utilizes the flavors of pepper and has a little extra spiciness. If you like your food with a kick then the salt lick could be your perfect BBQ companion.
The ingredients are totally natural, consisting of cayenne, salt, garlic and other herbs and spices to give a rounded and versatile flavor with a bit of heat to it.
There are so many rib rubs on the market, and all offer something a little different. You’ll need to work out what it is you are looking for.
In general, classic BBQ flavors such as hickory, chipotle and chili, as well as styles like Texas and Memphis will be relatively safe bets, but you can experiment with the norm too.
Flavors as diverse and exciting as Mexican, Asian and even Coffee rubs (yes, really) can be added if you’re a fan of experimentation.
Choosing one ‘best’ rub is virtually impossible, but all of those we’ve listed above offer exceptional reviews and some beautiful, kicking flavors for your next grill session.
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Taste Test Alert: We tried 6 store-bought barbecue sauces and have a winner
Barbecue sauce is one of the greatest condiments ever created. It’s versatile, customizable and readily available at any grocery store near you making it convenient. But with the myriad of brands promising that pitmaster approved flavor, it can feel impossible to pick just the right pre-bottled sauce.
Of course, it’s totally possible to whip up your own classic barbecue sauce at home, but if you’re feeling a little less ambitious (like me), there are perfectly suitable pre-made versions that taste exactly you carefully measured ingredients in your own kitchen.
The only downside here is that, with what seems like countless options lining the shelves at the grocery store, which brand of bottled barbecue sauce is actually the best? Luckily I’ve spent a fair amount of time diligently testing six different major brands and after tasting sauces all afternoon, I’ve found a winner. Each sauce was poured on top of chicken thigh that were seasoned with salt and pepper and then roasted on a baking sheet in the oven at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes. The results varied, but one sauce came out on top.
Sixth Place: Publix Original BBQ Sauce
When I first poured Publix’s Original Barbecue Sauce over the chicken thighs, I couldn’t help but notice how watery the consistency was. I had very low expectations here but after some time in the oven, I loved how the Publix sauce caramelized on the chicken. The result was a beautiful glaze. Unfortunately that’s where the sauced peaked. The flavor itself was decent but reminded me of the barbecue packets you’d get at a fast-food restaurant. Not offensive, but not exactly the best sauce around. Additionally the flavor of the barbecue didn’t penetrate into the chicken resulting in a lot of seasoning on the skin and bland meat.
Fifth Place: Heinz Classic Original Barbecue Sauce
Heinz Classic Original Barbecue Sauce certainly delivers on its “sweet and thick” promise. A nice thick paste coated the chicken and I was really excited to try a bite of this sauce. Sadly, it was overly sweet—almost artificially so—and tasted nothing like the molasses the ingredients list boast. If you’re looking for a sauce that can hold it’s own on the grill, this is a pass.
Fourth Place: Sweet Baby Ray’s Barbecue Sauce
The ranking here shocked me. This is the sauce my family uses to make my favorite baked beans, ribs and steaks. I truly believed that Sweet Baby Ray’s Barbecue Sauce would be the clear winner but it wasn’t. Don’t get me wrong, Sweet Baby Ray’s sauce is delicious. The sauce hugged the meat like a thick jam in the best possible way. The smokey flavors are balanced with a nice brown sugar-y note that makes for one decent ‘cue sauce, but there are other brands that just do it better.
Third Place: KC Masterpiece Original Barbecue Sauce
KC Masterpiece’s barbecue sauce is just plain delicious. The sauce is nice and thick, the flavor is sweet, slightly tangy and smokey. For the price ($1.69/bottle) is a hard sell to beat. KC claims to “kettle cook” their sauce and I’m inclined to believe them. This stuff tastes like someone who knows what they’re doing made it at home. The one downside it’s a little sweeter than I would like but if that isn’t a problem for you, definitely pick up a bottle the next time you’re in need of a sauce.
Runner Up: Kraft Original Barbecue Sauce and Dip
Holy smokes, literally. Kraft’s Original Barbecue Sauce and Dip blew almost every other brand out of the water. This sauce has a powerfully smokey flavor that can more than hold its own on the flames of a hot grill or in the oven. The sauce coated the chicken thighs beautifully and the flavor penetrated into the actual meat. It was the sauce I had a hard time stopping myself from eating. It’s a surprisingly (to me at least) solid choice.
Winner: Stubb’s Original
I was nervous when I poured Stubb’s Original Legendary Bar-B-Q Sauce over the meat. It has an almost roasted orange appearance that I’d never seen in a barbecue sauce and I took that as a sign that I was in for trouble, and I was, in the best possible way. This is the first sauce I taste tested and honestly nothing compared. A quick look at the ingredients and you’ll see tomato paste, cane sugar, paprika, distilled vinegar, onion powder and various other spices that help to flavor one solid barbecue sauce. The tomato paste shines through here but is perfectly balanced with the sharp notes of vinegar and the sweet softness of both brown and cane sugars. Instead of a smokey flavor, which most of the other sauces had, Stubb’s barbecue sauce has a nice roasted element to it making it stand above the crowd. If you’re looking for a bottled sauce that taste homemade, look no further.
Lloyd’s Barbeque Company Babyback Pork Ribs with Original BBQ sauce
As much as I love to cook, sometimes I just want a hassle-free dinner. When I saw these fully cooked ribs in the meat department, I had to try them. Lloyd’s makes several types of ribs but I purchased the **Lloyd’s Babyback Pork Ribs with Original BBQ Sauce. **You can bake or microwave them and I chose to bake them. I wasn’t expecting too much since they are fully cooked ribs, but I was pleasantly surprised. The ribs are very meaty and tender. The BBQ sauce is perfect – sweet, smoky and has the perfect amount of seasonings. The 2 lb 5 ounce package comes with 16 babyback ribs. Instructions: line a baking sheet with foil and place ribs on baking sheet. Wrap ribs tightly with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Lloyd’s also makes the following types of ribs: – Babyback Pork Ribs w/Honey Hickory Sauce – Pork Spareribs with Original Sauce – Center Cut Beef Ribs **The Scoop!** For an easy to prepare dinner, these ribs are perfect. They do take a while to cook but they are effortless to make. I would buy them again.
Camp Lejeune, NC