How to Use BBQ Rubs
A dry rub is exactly what it sounds like: seasoning that’s rubbed across and into the surface of meat. There are two ways to use dry rubs — one way is to use a sticking agent or binder, and the other way is to apply the rub directly to the meat.
Using a sticking agent or binder is better for cooking for longer periods of time because doing so creates a moisture barrier. When your meat is on the pit, moisture will delay the formation of a bark and allow more smoke to be absorbed by the meat. But before you begin flavoring your food, make sure to pat it dry with a paper towel. This will make it easier for the binder and rub to stick. Once you’ve removed as much moisture as possible, cover your food with the sticking agent of your choice, like egg, olive oil, or mustard, to help the rub bind to the meat. Mustard is great for your classic BBQ foods like ribs or pork butts, but olive oil is better for achieving a crispy exterior, so it’s perfect for chicken or turkey.
Applying rubs directly to foods without a binder works best with cooking for shorter periods of time, and the only thing you have to do here is pat your food dry and press the spices into your meat.
For cleanliness and efficiency, use one hand to apply the seasoning and the other to thoroughly rub it into the meat — this is called the “wet hand/dry hand” method. It’s also a good idea to grab whatever seasoning you need before you begin applying the rub so you can avoid cross-contamination. You may need to use your knuckles to grind your rub into thicker cuts of meat. If you’re dealing with chicken skin, you’ll need to reach under the skin with a gloved hand to apply rub to the meat as well.