Skip to content
Cyber Monday! Today Only All Orders Ship Free With Code MONDAY
Cyber Monday! Today Only All Orders Ship Free With Code MONDAY

All About BBQ Rib Rubs

Three Memphis Style Dry Rubbed Ribs on a plate with a red napkin and lager platter to the right

When it comes to ribs, you’ll hear terms like baby backs, spare ribs, and rib tips. Each one is unique and has a flavor and texture all its own. But don't be intimidated! We'll give you a crash course on some of the most common types and the seasonings to help you make the best ribs when you Grill & BBQ.

Types of BBQ Ribs

Start by identifying what type of rib you’re cooking. Today we are focusing on baby backs and rib tips. Rib tips are a part of the spare ribs, while baby backs are from a different section of the rib cage. Not all ribs are the same and different types of ribs will require different cooking methods and even different spice rub treatments. Here’s the skinny on these succulent morsels.

Photo of ribs before broken down - showing the sternum, flap, and rib cuts

Baby Back Ribs
These ribs are taken from the top of the rib cage between the spine and the spare ribs, below the loin muscle. When compared to spare ribs, baby back ribs are curved, shorter, and sometimes meatier. The inner surface of the ribs is covered with a layer of connective tissue which is usually removed before cooking as it is difficult render it tender in most cooking processes.

Pork Spare Ribs
Generally the most inexpensive cut of pork ribs available, with a great muscle-to-fat ratio, these ribs stay moist throughout the cooking process and maintain a great meaty texture. In parts of the South, they cook spare ribs hot & fast instead of low & slow. We created a Hot & Fast Spare Ribs recipe to replicate what you’ll find in the south. They’re grilled over high heat, so you get a great char flavor and you don’t have to spend all day cooking them.

Rib Tips
These are the short, meaty sections of rib connected to the spare ribs. In contrast to spare and baby back ribs, rib tips contain no actual bones—only meat and cartilage. Rib tips are often cheaper than an order of spare ribs or baby back ribs, as they are smaller. Due to the cartilage, they are often chewier than the other types of ribs.

Beef Ribs

Beef ribs can be subdivided into two categories: spare ribs and short ribs. Spare ribs come from the belly portion of a cow’s rib cage, above the breastbone. Compared to the more well-known pork ribs, beef spare ribs are usually longer, wider, and have more curvature. The upper tips can be cut off to make short ribs. Short ribs can also come from the brisket, plate, and flank sections of a cow. Both spare ribs and short ribs contain connective tissue which, like brisket, requires low and slow cooking to become tender and succulent. 

 

Photo of finished Memphis Style Dry Ribs

The Best BBQ Rub for Ribs

As with anything barbecue, the title of “best” depends on who you ask. Or rather, when it comes to the best BBQ rib rub, the best is whatever is currently on your plate! 

However, there are some conventional styles and ingredients that are more suitable for different cooking styles. These are good ‘jumping off’ points to start exploring BBQ rib rub flavors.

Memphis Style Baby Back Ribs

Memphis-style barbecue is primarily pork based, focusing on ribs and shoulders, but you will also find beef and chicken on many menus. Pork ribs can be ordered basted with sauce (“wet”) or seasoned with rub (“dry”). If you get a chance to visit Memphis, your best bet is a rib platter with half wet and half dry.

Need a recipe? Try our Memphis Style Smoked Baby Back Ribs recipe or our Memphis Style Dry Ribs recipe.

Here are our must-have spices for Baby Back Ribs:

  • Platte River Rib Rub: This rub was created for ribs but is also great to use for a sauce: mix 1 to 2 Tbsp. with 1 cup tomato sauce or ketchup, add molasses for sweetness.
  • Memphis BBQ Rub: This is a classic Memphis rub, emphasizing spiced flavor with a base of brown and white sugars. Memphis has a distinctive style of barbecue rub, although every family’s recipe can vary slightly.
  • CENTRAL BBQ in Memphis, TN (Co-founder and Pitmaster: Craig Blondis)
    Don’t miss: The perfectly ‘cued ribs (dry or wet) and turnip greens hit with a little hot pepper sauce.
  • THE BAR-B-Q SHOP in Memphis, TN (Owners: Vernon Family)
  • Best pick: ‘Glazed dry’ pork Ribs (true greatness!), tangy pulled pork, and homemade slaw
  • MEMPHIS BARBECUE CO. in Horn Lake, MS and Dunwoody, GA (Owner and Pitmaster: Melissa Cookston)
    Stand Outs: Ribs, cake-like cornbread, turnip greens

Southern Hot & Fast Pork Spare Ribs

This is a backyard grilling method where you cook over direct, high heat. While the backyard enthusiast can’t hit the high temps the barbecue pros use, the high heat grilling principles are the same. You get great char and flavor on the ribs and you don't need to spend all day babysitting them. Serve with your favorite barbecue Sauce.

Need a recipe? Try our Hot & Fast Spare Ribs.

Here are our must-have spices for Hot & Fast Pork Spare Ribs:

  • Georgia Boys All-Purpose BBQ Rub: Using a base of brown and white sugar, this smoky blend creates a great bark on your BBQ. This blend was created with two Georgia natives, Nick and Matt, who own Georgia Boys BBQ in Longmont, Colorado. Give it a try on anything you want to cue, but if you are looking to do it Georgia style you should focus on fruitwood smoked pork – particularly ribs, shoulders, and hams.
  • Pike’s Peak Butcher’s Rub: A “butcher’s rub” is a term that refers to a coarser blend of spices, designed to stand up to the longer cooking process and remain both appealing and flavorful, making it perfect for BBQ! This rub adds great flavor to ribs, but it also works wonders on chicken, turkey, or pork chops.

Rib Tips

Technically, spare ribs and St. Louis cut ribs are the same, but the St. Louis cut is sold with the rib tip (sternum) and flap removed. A recent price comp of the two shows St. Louis cut ribs are priced more than a dollar per pound higher then spare ribs. It takes all of about 2 minutes to remove the tips and flap, so opt for the spare ribs and keep the tips! For a detailed explanation on this easy DIY butchering, read Savory Spice co-founder Mike Johnston’s Rib Tip.

Need a recipe? Try our Memphis Style Smoked Rib Tips recipe.

Here are our must-have spices for Baby Back Ribs:

  • Platte River Rib Rub: This rub might not be as sweet as the Memphis BBQ Rub, but it’s definitely not lacking in flavor! This rub was created for ribs but is great to use for a sauce: mix 1 to 2 Tbsp. with 1 cup tomato sauce or ketchup, add molasses for sweetness.
  • Memphis BBQ Rub: This is a classic Memphis rub, emphasizing spiced flavor with a base of brown and white sugars. The city of Memphis has a distinctive style of barbecue rub, although each family’s recipe can vary.

Texas Style BBQ Beef Ribs

When it comes to the right spices for Texas BBQ, keep it simple. Many joints in Texas will use a simple mixture of black pepper and salt on their brisket or beef ribs. This provides the meat with a wonderful crust while not overpowering the flavor of the meat, letting the smoke bring out the flavor. Read more about Texas BBQ.

Need a recipe? Try our Big Bad Beef Ribs.

Here are our must-have spices for Texas Style BBQ Beef Ribs:

  • Hudson Bay Beef Spice: This versatile seasoning is our version of a classic Montreal beef spice with a twist to make it usable for more than just steak. We retained that classic French Canadian flavor while enhancing it even more.
  • Pike’s Peak Butcher’s Rub: One of our most popular seasonings, Pike’s Peak is our take on a coarse garlic-pepper. We call it a “butcher’s rub” because it’s great for meat and the coarse grind holds up well in high heat or long cooking applications (like smoking!) Pike’s Peak, with chunks of sea salt, bell peppers, and peppercorns makes a beautiful presentation.

BONUS: Here are some of our favorite places to try Texas Beef Ribs if you're looking to try "the real deal!"

  • BLACK’S BARBECUE in Lockhart, TX (Manager: Chad Nevill)
    Don’t Miss: Beef Rib (ginormous!) and Black’s BBQ Sauce
  • MICKLETHWAIT CRAFT MEATS in Austin, TX (Owner & Pitmaster: Thomas Micklethwait)
    Don’t Miss: Beef ribs, sausage, and the savory kolaches
  • LOUIE MUELLER BBQ in Taylor, TX (Owner: Wayne Muller - Louie’s grandson)
    Come for the history and hospitality, stay for the beef ribs and beans
  • POST OAK BARBECUE in Denver, CO (Owner: Nick Prince)
    Don't Miss: The Beef Ribs - only available while supplies last on Saturdays, brisket, mac & cheese
Photo of Big Bad Beef Ribs

Dry Rub for BBQ Ribs

Now that we’ve covered the basics, here are some of our off-the-beaten-path BBQ ribs dry rub. But remember, these are just some starting suggestions…feel free to go hog wild!

American Inspired

  • Carolina High Country BBQ Rub: North Carolina has a prominent place in American barbeque history; many historians credit the state as the possible birthplace of barbeque. This seasoning has great barbeque flavor with just a little cayenne-kick. Our version of this Carolina classic is great on pork...don't forget the sauce!
  • Georgia Boys All-Purpose BBQ Rub: Using a base of brown and white sugar, this smoky blend creates a great bark on your BBQ. This blend was created with two Georgia natives, Nick and Matt, who own Georgia Boys BBQ in Longmont, Colorado. Give it a try on anything you want to cue, but if you are looking to do it Georgia style you should focus on fruitwood smoked pork – particularly ribs, shoulders, and hams.
  • TSM Kansas City BBQ Rub: This rub is a classic barbecue seasoning, created with pork in mind. Using this sweet and smoky rub, Team Sweet Mama won the pork category at the Frisco, Colorado BBQ competition. Try it at your next barbeque on pork, ribs, or brisket and we’re sure you’ll be a winner too.
  • Platte River Rib RubNamed in honor of our first store on Platte Street in Denver, CO, this rib rub is a classic. Because it has a brown sugar base, it caramelizes perfectly, creating a beautiful crust. When using as a rub, 1-2 tsp. per pound of meat should be thoroughly rubbed in; reapplication can be done toward the end of grilling.

Asian Inspired

  • Asian Delight BBQ Rub: This customer created rub was designed for the grill. The aromatic spices found in Chinese Five Spice are balanced by salt, sugar, and other ingredients for a versatile rub. This sweet and salty rub is garlicky, sweet-spiced, and licoricey with peppery notes and a medium-low heat. Try it as a rub or in Asian Peanut Butter BBQ Sauce.
  • Chinese Five Spice: Chinese Five Spice unites the five flavors: sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and savory. Chinese Five Spice is so versatile it can be used in meat marinades or as a barbecue rub. The rich flavor well with fatty cuts of meat like duck and pork. Try Ribs with Peanut Butter BBQ Sauce.
  • Korean BBQ Pork: Ok, we know these don’t qualify as ribs but thin slices of hearty pork tenderloin come together with a sticky glaze flavored with smoky sweetness and gentle heat from sun-dried gochugaru chile flakes, roasted garlic, onion, tomato, and nutty sesame seeds.

Caribbean Inspired

  • Bajan Seasoning: This traditional Caribbean blend from the island of Barbados is an all-purpose seasoning and also as a base flavor before adding another seasoning like curry powder or lemon pepper. Our Bajan has a savory herb flavor with hints of lime and touch of heat that stands up perfectly well on its own or with other spices. Try in in Bajan Marinade.
  • La Plata Peak Adobo Spice: This spicier, smokier version of classic Caribbean style adobo is golden. The heat level is a 4 on a scale of 1-10. Apply as a dry rub or make a simple Caribbean-inspired marinade. For Latin adobo marinade, combine 1 T with 1/2 cup orange juice, 1/4 cup lime juice, and 1/4 cup olive oil.
  • Jamaican Jerk Seasoning: Most people think of chicken when they hear Jamaican Jerk, but this blend is also good on ribs. Our version has a kick but to make an even hotter version, add 1/4 to1/2 tsp. Ground Habanero Chiles to 1/2 cup seasoning. Again, this can be used as a seasoning or as a marinade.

 For more ideas, check out our BBQ & Grilling spices, seasonings, and BBQ Sauces.

Previous article 10 Salt-Free Seasonings for Flavor-Filled Meals
Next article The "Magic" of Allspice

Leave a comment

Comments must be approved before appearing

* Required fields