The Five Best Rubs And Injection Recipes For Grilling

Marinades can be great for adding that extra flavor, but often don’t penetrate below the surface of the meat. A rub or injection is another great way of taking your grilled or smoked meats to the next level.

Thinking About Pre Made Rubs?

We totally understand that you're probably used to buying your rubs and seasoning at the store. Maybe you never considering making your own? 

BBQ rubs

This is an easy and tasty choice, but why not try making your own!

Here at Fire Food Chef we want to encourage you to explore new flavors and ideas on the grill. 

Check out some of these recipes below and you will be amazed at how easy it is to make your own rubs and injectable flavoring into your food!

The Case for Rubs

BBQ Rub

When you attend a BBQ competition, quite often the secret of those winning meats lies in the rub. There will be stall upon stall of people selling what they claim to be the best ever rub, already mixed in large, one-gallon jars. Some of them can be extremely good.

A rub is the term we use to describe any spice mixture that we rub into the meat before it hits the grill or the smoker. They can either be dry rub or sometimes a wet paste-like mixture, which enhances the flavor of the meats.

The flavor combinations you can achieve with a rub are unlimited. You can mix almost anything together to create different colors, aromas or flavors.

To Buy, or Not Buy? Why You Should Try Making Your Own Rubs

Some people just want a good rub which they can buy ready-made and start grilling sooner. They will often be sold as all-purpose rubs, but you will also find some specific to pork, beef, lamb or chicken, as well as specialty rubs.

Although you can buy many fine rubs online, if you have the time and resources it’s just as easy to make your own. When you make your own rubs at home, you know exactly what has gone into it and no unnecessary fillers have been added to bulk it up.

Salt can be the big problem with many commercially available rubs. It’s both cheap and also heavy, ideal for adding to the net weight of a product. A good quality rub will go light on the salt and sugars, with just enough to enhance the flavors of the other included ingredients.

Which Ingredients Are Common to Most Rubs?

Generally, there are six ingredients that you will find in almost every rub or recipe you come across. These include salt, sugar, pepper, paprika, onion powder and granulated or powdered garlic.

Bear in mind that while sugar may add sweetness to a rub, it will also burn at temperatures over 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Meat which is cooked over longer periods of time may turn bitter from the taste of burnt sugar. Although, quicker grilled meats will benefit from the caramelization.

Other ingredients added for flavor may include cumin for that earthiness, or chili powder for that heat. I prefer to use a smoked chili powder, like chipotle, for that extra smokiness,with a hint of cayenne for the deep red color.

Using a Rub

Putting BBQ Rub On Meat

Experiment with the flavors and consider what type of meat you are grilling. Sweeter rubs may work better on poultry and white meats, like pork. More pepper-spiced rubs will tend to enhance the flavor of beef better.

By the way, if you're looking for some grilling tips that you can really use, check out our BBQ 101 Guide!

Some people just let the natural moisture of the meat keep the rub in place. Others will recommend using some form of “glue,” like a brushing of yellow mustard or a glug of olive oil.

Why Inject Your Meat?

Meat Injecting

Injections can be a more controversial subject among grill enthusiasts. Some people will argue injections are not necessary and marinades can do just the same job.

However, marinades rarely penetrate below the surface of the meat and just result in a flavored coating to your grilled meats.

The idea of a good injection is to enhance the natural flavors of the meat while also preventing it from drying out. An injection will help carry all that deep flavor into the whole joint of meat.

What Are the Ingredients in the Best Injections?

Injections are best made at home, using fresh liquid ingredients—like juices or broths—with spices to add flavor. Just like with rubs, making it yourself, you know exactly what is going in to it.

Many store-bought injections will use vinegar, lemon juice or other meat tenderizers, which—if left too long—will turn your meats into mush.

A few of the more common ingredients include broth for an extra meaty flavor, brine for a little saltiness and good old beer. Worcestershire sauce is a versatile ingredient which can add meatiness to any injection.

Added flavor enhancers can also include pepper, garlic powder, sugars and phosphates. Always follow the recommended amounts of phosphates per kilo on the packaging—too much phosphate can be bad for your health.

Try to ensure all dry ingredients are fully dissolved or strained before placing the mixture in your injector.

Injecting Your Meat

No rude jokes, please! The first thing you are going to need is quality injector with a sharp point and holes along the side of the needle. When the liquid is dispensed, the side holes will ensure a more even coverage, with the needle just allowing the liquid deeper into the meat.

Try to invest in a stainless steel injector which won’t absorb the smells like a plastic bodied syringe might. You should aim for a minimum capacity of 2 ounces, and will also need a deep container for filling the injector without damaging the needle.

Normally, injecting a few hours before cooking will be sufficient to impart the flavor and moisture to the meat. Be careful not to inject overnight if the liquid includes pineapple juice with bromelain, which is a meat tenderiser.

The Five Best Recipes

The Northern Hoggz All-Purpose BBQ Rub

All-Purpose Dry Rub

This recipe makes about 3 cups.

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup ground chipotle chili powder
  • ¼ cup Turbinado or raw sugar
  • ¼ cup ground ancho chili powder
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    ¼ cup smoked paprika
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    ¼ cup kosher salt
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    1 tablespoon ground cumin
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    1 tablespoon onion powder or flakes
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    1 tablespoon dried thyme
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    1 teaspoon dried marjoram
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    1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
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    2 tablespoons green peppercorns
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    1 tablespoon ground white pepper
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    1 teaspoon celery seed
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    ½ teaspoon ground allspice
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    ½ teaspoon cinnamon
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    ½ teaspoon ginger

Method

  • Crush the green peppercorns with celery seed in a pestle and mortar
  • Throw into a large mixing bowl with all the other ingredients. If you like less heat, omit the ancho chili powder and cayenne pepper. The chipotle adds to the smoky taste of the rub
  • Store in an airtight container for up to three months

When I was out cooking at BBQ competitions, this was our pit crew’s go-to rub for almost anything. It works particularly well on chicken, pork and seafood with a well-rounded flavor, that will bring a pop to anything you cook.

This rub is excellent when cooking a beer-can chicken on the smoker. Once you have thoroughly cleaned the chicken, both inside and outside, pat dry with some kitchen towels.

Generously apply the rub to the cavity of the chicken and the outer skin before placing a half full beer can in the butt of the chicken.

As the chicken roasts with a crispy flavorsome skin on the outside, the inner chicken is being steamed with the vapor of the beer. The result should be a fall-off-the-bone meat, with a deep flavor that runs through the entire chicken.

Mexican Rub

Mexican Spicy Rub

This recipe makes about 1 cup.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
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    2 tablespoons chipotle chili powder
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    2 teaspoons onion powder or granules
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    2 teaspoons garlic powder
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    2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
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    2 teaspoons hot smoked paprika

Method

  • Put all the ingredients into a large bowl and mix thoroughly
  • Break up any lumps of sugar with the back of the spoon while mixing
  • Use straight away or store in an airtight container for a few months. I often double up the ingredients to always have a jar of this rub handy

An earthy flavor with a hint of tang and plenty of heat, this rub’s origins lie firmly in Mexico. If you want to tone it down a little, just reduce the chili powder to one tablespoon—don’t leave it out completely, it’s a key part of the flavor.

The Mexican flavors would work well on pork carnitas, fish tacos or chicken fajitas. When used on beef ribs, you may want to reduce that sweetness, simply replace the sugar with a tablespoon of fresh ground black pepper.

The Pitmasters Dry Rub

Pitmasters Dry Rub

This recipe makes about 2 cups.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup white sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup ancho chili powder
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    ¼ cup kosher salt
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    2 tablespoons chipotle powder
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    2 tablespoons paprika
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    1 tablespoon black pepper
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    2 teaspoons garlic powder
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    2 teaspoons onion powder
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    1 teaspoon white pepper
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    ½ teaspoon allspice

Method

  • Combine all the ingredients together and mix well. I like to get a large empty coffee jar and shake it like a mad maracas player
  • Store in an airtight container in a dark, dry place for up to three months

Every pit master worth his salt should have a good, all-purpose dry rub in his arsenal of secret weapons. The best dry rubs should have a good balance of sweetness with heat and a touch of savory.

This rub will add flavor to any meat and is perfect as a rub for brisket. when combined with the injection we list below. Soon you’ll be making brisket like a pro. to rival any of those Texan cowboys.

The Best Texan Brisket Injection

Texan Brisket Injection

This recipe makes 2½ cups (enough for one large brisket).

Ingredients

  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1 cup water, some people like to substitute one cup of dark beer
  • 1 tablespoon beef broth concentrate
  • Utensils
    2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
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    ¼ cup phosphates, pink curing salt or Morton’s Tender Quick are ideal
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    2 cloves garlic finely minced
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    1 onion chopped

Method

  • The day before you intend to use, combine all the ingredients in a saucepan
  • Over a medium heat bring to a simmer until the phosphates have dissolved
  • Cool and store in the refrigerator
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    When ready to inject, strain out the garlic and onion before loading into your meat injector

This injection will add a ton of flavor to that already flavorsome cut of brisket and help keep it moist during the long cook. The addition of beef broth and Worcestershire sauce will further enhance that beefy flavor of the brisket.

On the day of your smoke, remove the brisket from the refrigerator and, using a quality meat injector, add the injection to the brisket.

Start at the end farthest from the point and perpendicular to the grain of the meat, inject every two inches in a checkerboard pattern. Repeat for the point of the meat. Apply a rub after the injection, making sure you apply as much as the meat can take.

Wrap in cling film and store in the refrigerator until about an hour before you intend to place the brisket in your smoker. Apply some more rub and let the brisket sit at room temperature until you are ready to cook it.

The Ultimate Pork Injection

Ultimate Pork Injection

This recipe makes about 3 cups (enough for two Boston Butts of pork shoulder).

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsweetened apple juice
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup brown sugar
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    1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
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    2 tablespoons soy sauce
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    ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
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    ¼ cup phosphates, like Morton’s Tender Quick

Method

  • Combine all the ingredients in a non-metallic bowl and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved
  • Store in the refrigerator until ready to use

Apple always goes well with pork, it’s a classic flavor combination. This injection will keep that pulled pork super moist during the long 16-hour smoke. You could even use it to add flavor to pork chops, just omit the phosphates if quick grilling any meats.

The day before you intend to smoke your pork, inject the injection under the skin of the shoulder, until the meat balloons out. Apply the rub the next day with a thin coating of yellow mustard helping the rub to stick to the meat.

Any left over injection can be placed in a spray bottle to mist the meat at intervals while cooking.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, this has inspired you to try experimenting with your own homemade rubs and injections rather than relying on commercial versions.

Try sharing your blends with some colleagues and maybe swap your different mixes. Who knows, at that next BBQ competition, it might be you selling your own rubs or injections to other enthusiasts.

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