Dry Rubs: Sprinkle or Rub Smoked Meat?

Dry Rubs: Sprinkle or Rub Smoked Meat?

Posted on: January 17, 2023

One of the most amazing things about smoked meat is its many different preparation methods. Over the years, people have come out with their own ways of marinating, glazing, and smoking meat.

One of the most amazing things about smoked meat is its many different preparation methods. Over the years, people have come out with their own ways of marinating, glazing, and smoking meat. There’s certainly a way and a flavor for everyone to love, whether you’re into sweet, tangy, spicy, or salty smoked meat. These conveniences and the wide array of flavors become especially useful when you have a personal smoker right at home.

With that said, one of the common questions that pop up from time to time is whether you should sprinkle or rub your smoked meat? Over the years, people around the world have been smoking meat, and when it comes to applying a dry rub, there seems to be a division of opinions.

Some stand by the fact that the rub should be rubbed into the meat, whereas others believe that it should be sprinkled on top of it. Let’s get into some of the details and end this debate once and for all.

What Is Dry Rub?

To understand its application better, we should first understand what a dry rub is, and then we can start to better understand how to apply it. In its essence, a dry rub is a simple mixture of a few seasonings such as salt, spices, herbs, and sugar. These ingredients are mixed together to form a dry rub.

The dry rub is then applied to the surface of the meat before you start cooking or smoking it. The main purpose of a dry rub is to add flavor. Along with that, a dry rub also helps create texture on the outer surface of the meat, usually like a crust.

To Sprinkle or Rub Smoked Meat?

Now that you’ve understood the basic meaning and purpose of a dry rub, it will be easier to speak about its application. Over the years, 2 main kinds of opinions have formed regarding the application of a dry rub: rubbing it on the surface of the meat or sprinkling it with your hand. Obviously, both approaches use different applications – one is deeply pressing and rubbing the dry rub into the meat while the other is lighting sprinkling it over the meat.

The first option is rubbing the dry rub. Many people argue that generously rubbing the dry rub will help pack more flavor and texture into the meat before it’s placed in the smoker. However, this theory does not seem to work, hence rubbing is not the ideal way of applying dry rub on your meat before smoking it.

Indeed, the ideal and better way of applying dry rub on meat is by sprinkling it. While this may come as a shock to many people, there are legitimate reasons backing this method of applying the rub. Along with being recommended by professionals, sprinkling the rub creates a uniform layer on the meat, which isn’t too much or too little. This is even more apparent if you’re sprinkling the dry rub from a certain height.

Furthermore, there are juices inside the meat that will run out. This is because rubbing the dry rub will cut the surface of the meat, forcing out those juices. Releasing the uncooked juices will not only result in the meat losing its juiciness but also contaminate the area around it because the meat is uncooked.

The problems and disadvantages with rubbing meat don’t just end there. Rubbing the meat will also block out its pores. This is especially important for smoking the meat because, with the pores blocked out, it becomes impossible for the smoke to penetrate the meat. It also blocks the flavor from getting in. So, you’re essentially wasting the dry rub because it won’t get into the meat.

Check out our entire catalog of articles on brining and curing your meat here:
What’s the Difference Between Pickling, Brining, Marinating, and Curing?
Curing and Smoking Meats for Home Food Preservation
Directions On Brining And Curing Your Meat For Food Smoking

Dry Rub Tips

Now that we’ve finally put this debate to rest and concluded that sparking the dry rub is indeed the way to go, we’ve also prepared some quick and helpful pointers for you:

  1. Use the 50/50 method. This means that half of your seasoning should be salt, while the other half should be seasoning. Salt is a flavor enhancer, and it pushes out more flavor, so keeping a 50/50 ratio helps you incorporate other seasonings without losing the tinge of saltiness.
  2. Apply your rub the night before. Applying it the night before will help the seasonings work their way into the meat properly.
  3. Don’t wrap the meat. This tip is especially for those using meat with skin. Not wrapping the meat helps moisture escape, giving it a crispy texture when the meat comes out of the smoker. You can simply apply the dry rub the night before and leave the meat uncovered in the fridge.

Hopefully, this article has put an end to the debate about how to apply dry rub to your meat while also giving some quick and useful pointers. Now, you’re all set to fire up the smoker and prepare that delicious meat.

Interested in checking out more information about meat rubs? Look no further than our articles on:
3 Homemade Rubs to take Your Smoked Chicken to the Next Level
Famous Rub Types Paired with Delicious Recipes
What is a Rub, Why and How to Do It?

For more great ideas on how to get the most out of your Bradley Smoker, check out the awesome articles on our Bradley Smoker Food Smoking Blog for more tips & tricks.