One of the most popular and affordable smoked meats of all time, pork butt or shoulder only needs one thing to make it perfect: a good pulled pork rub. While you can buy a pre-mixed rub, finding the perfect store-bought rub can be a challenge. However, making your own will give you perfection in a jar, fast and easy!
🍽️ Why This Works
⭐Fully Customizable. We have tweaked this rub until we think it is incredible. But, if you have a specific spice you don’t like or one you want more, it’s easy to make adjustments. This way you get to enjoy the perfect pulled pork sandwiches!
⭐Economical. Use spices you already have on hand and guarantee their freshness. This is far cheaper per ounce than buying a pre-mixed rub in a tiny jar.
⭐Fast and Easy. Throw all of these ingredients in a bowl, whisk it up quickly, and store it in a jar. Or just put it in a jar with a lid and hand it to a teenage boy to shake. Once you start experimenting with mixing your dry rubs and seasoning mixes, it gets a little addicting to play with all those flavors.
🛒Seasoning Salt – This is a blend of table salt, herbs, and spices you can buy at your local grocery store. Any brand will work.
🛒Ground Mustard – Adds tang and a bit of heat.
🛒Chili Powder – Many people do not realize that this is a spice blend, including the powder of dried chilis and other spices, such as cumin, garlic, paprika, and oregano.
🛒Onion Powder – Made of dried onions that have been ground into a powder. If you don’t have this, you can make it by pulsing dried minced onions in your food processor.
🛒Garlic Powder – Similar in consistency to onion powder, this is made of dried garlic. You can substitute dried minced garlic or granulated garlic instead.
🛒Cumin – Use ground cumin and not cumin seeds.
🛒Black Pepper – I like to use coarse ground black pepper or freshly cracked black pepper.
🛒Oregano – Oregano leaves work perfectly. If you only have ground oregano, it is more concentrated, and you should back off on the amount.
🛒Paprika – You can get the regular kind, hot paprika, or smoked paprika.
🛒Brown Sugar – I like to use dark brown sugar for the extra molasses flavor, but light brown sugar will work just as well.
⏲️ Equipment and Tools
✔️Mixing Bowl. Our recipe makes a good amount of rub, about a pint, and you want to be able to mix it thoroughly without spillage. So, a medium to large mixing bowl is a good idea.
✔️Measuring Cups and Spoons. A good flavored dry rub will always have specific ingredient ratios. Don’t eyeball it!
✔️Fork or Whisk. Something you can use to break up any clumps in the herbs or spices and mix everything up thoroughly.
✔️Jar with a Lid. A simple mason jar with a lid is perfect for storing this pulled pork rub. You can also get a shaker bottle or use an old spice jar. Just make sure to add a new label.
🔸Step 1: Mix all ingredients in a large bowl or jar.
🔸Step 2: Store in a sealed, air-tight container or jar. Use a funnel to add the rub to the storage jar. It will make it so much easier.
🧂Applying The Rub To Pork
It’s interesting how something so simple as the way you season a chunk of meat can have such an impact on how it turns out after cooking.
Seasoning a pork butt is not rocket science and once you learn these tricks, you’ll realize they apply to all meat!
🍖 Techniques For Rubbing Meat
When applying your rub to pork, there are two main techniques: rubbing and sprinkling. Each method has its own merits and can affect the flavor and texture of the meat.
👉Rubbing. I’ll start with my favorite seasoning method. You simply need to massage the meat using your spice mix really well. Make sure it gets everywhere!
It’s extra work but you will help the flavors better penetrate the meat. The even layer of rub will allow the smoke to stick to the surface of your pork shoulder or butt. This creates a better ‘bark’ or crust on the pork, especially if you’re smoking or grilling it.
Food-safe gloves are my best friend when I’m doing this and I recommend them to everyone. It makes the job less messy!
👉Sprinkling. Let gravity do the work and “see what sticks”. Use this method if you prefer your pulled pork seasoned on the lighter side. It will let the natural taste of pork shine through.
Rubbing is what makes the seasoning stick best, which is not the case for sprinkling. You might get some uneven areas and the flavor will be lighter.
On the other hand, it’s faster and a lot cleaner.
👉Dredging. This method requires spreading the rub evenly on a sheet pan or a large plate. Then, roll the pork in the seasoning until all sides are evenly covered with the rub.
Dredging is still less messy than rubbing and will allow you to cover the meat more uniformly compared to sprinkling.
Flavor-wise, it sits somewhere in between rubbing and sprinkling as there will be more dry rub on the meat but it won’t infuse it as much as when you’re using your hands to work it in.
I try to avoid this method despite the fact it would be more practical when I need to season two or more pork butts. It always requires adding extra dry rub in the sheet pan which cannot be reused.
The rub that comes into contact with raw meat is contaminated with bacteria and should be discarded.
⏱ How Long Should Dry Rub Sit On Pork?
Using a wet pork marinade is always an option, but simply leaving the dry rub to sit on the meat is another marinating method.
Whether you season and cook your pork shoulder or butt right away, or allow it to sit for a while and absorb the flavors comes down to your preferred taste and texture.
🔥Immediate cooking | Brining, marinating, and other techniques for tenderizing and flavoring meat sound great, except when you haven’t planned anything and your time is limited.
There’s nothing wrong with a smoked pork butt that was cooked right after applying the dry rub. The most important thing for getting the perfect juicy pulled pork is to smoke it low and slow at 250-275°F and cook the meat to an internal temperature of 200-205°F (refer to our pulled pork temperature chart for more details). You’ll get the tender, pull-apart meat, we all want!
👨🏻🍳Marinating | If you let the rub sit on the pork for a while, it will give a more intense flavor to the meat. The salt in the rub can also help tenderize the meat over time.
Of course, marinating requires planning, but if you love your spices, it’s worth it! I recommend you let the rub sit on the meat for at least 1 hour and up to 12 hours if you have the time.
Don’t be afraid to experiment here: you’ll never find out if you like your pulled pork better with or without marinating unless you try both.
❗❗Recipe Tips and Tricks
🌿Use fresh spices if you can. If your spices are already a year old, when you mix the pulled pork rub and keep it for an additional year, there’s a high chance it will spoil. Jarred spices should only be kept for up to a year in total.
If you know you will make 16 pounds of pulled pork over the next few months, this is a great way to use up spices you know need to be replaced. When you’re trying to figure out how much pulled pork per person you’ll need, you’ll have to make sure you have enough dry rub as well.
♨️Toast spices like cumin, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, and fennel seeds in a dry pan for a few minutes before grinding. This brief exposure to heat will release some of their natural oils and intensify their flavor.
🍖Do you cook pork butt or pork shoulder often for pulled pork? It might be worth scaling up this recipe. For a larger batch of the rub, blend the ingredients with a food processor.
For large quantities, it’s the easiest way to make sure the spice mix is consistent.
Keep this pulled pork rub in a sealed, airtight container for up to 1 year. A Mason jar with a lid works well.
✔️Avoid light exposure | Keep the jar in a dry, cool location. Don’t store your spices or dry mixes in the cabinet above your stovetop, where moisture and heat can ruin them.
You can also put your spice rub in a sealed plastic bag if you prefer.
✔️Vacuum-sealed containers | These will help your spice blends last longer by reducing air exposure.
✔️Labeling | Always label your homemade condiments with the date and contents. It’s the easiest way to keep track of what you have and use before it goes bad.
✔️Cool area | There’s no need to refrigerate but your dry rub will keep best in a place with a consistent, cool temperature. A pantry or the back of a cupboard are good places to stash your rub blends.
✔️Freeze for longer-term storage | Storing the rub in the freezer will make it last more than a year. Use a heavy-duty freezer bag or an airtight container to minimize contact with moisture and oxygen. Thaw on the counter before using.
🌶️ Additions and Substitutions
I always recommend trying a recipe the way it is written the first time. However, a dry rub can always be adjusted to your liking. Feel free to increase the garlic, salt, pepper, or any other seasoning you particularly enjoy and back off on any seasoning you do not enjoy.
👍Sweeteners | This is a dry rub, so liquid sweeteners are not recommended but you still have plenty of substitutes for brown sugar you can try. When nothing else is on hand, the plain white sugar is a substitute most of us have on hand.
For interesting flavor variations, you can try other sugar varieties such as maple, date, and coconut sugar, or even less common sweeteners such as honey powder, agave powder, and dry molasses.
If you’re on a diet and you’re trying to reduce your sugar intake, consider low-calorie or zero-calorie sweeteners like stevia, erythritol, xylitol, and monk fruit sweetener.
👍Add heat | Bump up the heat with cayenne pepper, chipotle, red chili flakes, ancho chili powder, or the dried chile powder of your choice. Chile powder (spelled with an e) is pure dried, ground chilis.
Using finely ground pepper instead of coarse will also increase the heat of your pulled pork recipe. Doesn’t have to be black either. Red pepper, green pepper, and white pepper are some common varieties, each with a unique aroma.
Another way to get a more pungent flavor is to swap out the ground mustard for mustard seeds.
👍Try smoked paprika | Use smoked paprika instead of the regular kind if you’re not smoking your pork shoulder or butt. It will add some of that smoky flavor to your oven-roasted or slow-cooker pulled pork.
👍Cumin alternatives | Not a fan of cumin? I love its earthy profile but you can tone it down by replacing cumin with other spices such as ground coriander, or fennel seeds.
👍Herb replacements | You can replace oregano with other herbs that pair with pork like rosemary or thyme.
👍Salt types | I think we can all agree salt, is the one ingredient you can’t skip for a dry rub. However, there are lots of types you can try, such as Himalayan salt, herb salt, celery salt, and smoked salt.
We used seasoning salt which is a mix of table salt, herbs, spices, and other flavorings. If you’re using table salt instead, you might want to add a bit more of the other herbs and spices to compensate for the loss of flavor.
It took me a few tries to get this pulled pork barbecue rub perfectly balanced so the natural flavor of the meat also comes through.
You can use it for grilling or smoking any kind of pork cut and even for other cooking methods like roasting, air frying, and slow cooking.
⭐Pork butt or shoulder | This pulled pork rub is perfect on a grilled pork shoulder or smoked pork butt with beautiful results. Serve your delicious smoked pulled pork with smoked potato salad, Guinness brisket baked beans, smoked mac and cheese, whiskey BBQ sauce, a bright, fresh coleslaw, or one of the many other pulled pork sides.
⭐Other large roasts | Smoked pork loin and this bacon-wrapped smoked tenderloin only need about 2 hours in the smoker and the results are delicious! The pulled pork dry rub will work wonderfully on these cuts too.
You can also use the rub to replace the simple salt and pepper seasoning I used for this smoked pork roast. For special occasions and holidays, this smoked pork crown roast will give you the most festive-looking BBQ meat.
⭐Ribs | By now, you have probably realized this rub recipe won’t fail you whatever pork cut you choose. Ribs are a no-brainer!
⭐Steaks & skewers | Sprinkle some of this dry rub on smoked Tomahawk pork chops and they will taste just as good as they look.
This works for other pork steaks and kabobs like this grilled pork belly yakitori.
🥣 More Dry Rub Recipes
As convenient as premade rubs are, the homemade kind is so easy to make, and you have absolute control over the ingredients.
Pork meat pairs well with a large variety of spices, so you have a lot of room for creativity.
⚡My all-purpose dry rub for grilling is excellent as is, but it also makes a great starting point for a new rub recipe. This one can be used on any meat: pork, beef, chicken, turkey….your choice!
⚡Ribs are another legendary BBQ meat and this dry rub for ribs will complement their natural taste.
⚡Feeling adventurous? Try this homemade Java rub on your pork shoulder or Boston butt. The mild coffee flavor blends with the smoky taste for a unique, layered taste profile!
❓ Recipe FAQ
Use about 2 tablespoons per pound to coat the meat. This pulled pork rub recipe makes 1 pint, which is equal to 32 Tablespoons, and will cover 16 pounds of pork shoulder or pork butt.
Yes. The meat can end up too salty, and if tenderizing agents are present in the rub, it can also give it a mushy texture. Depending on the spices you use, the rub flavor can become overpowering.
Thin cuts such as pork chops do best with a short marinating time of 30 minutes to 2 hours. Pork ribs benefit from a longer marinating time of 2-12 hours, while pork loin and pork tenderloin which are leaner cuts should be marinated for 1-4 hours.
Larger cuts like pork shoulder and pork butt will tolerate a longer marinating time, because of their size and fat content. You can leave the rub on for up to 24 hours, depending on the flavor intensity you’re aiming for.
During long cooking processes like smoking and slow roasting, various liquids are used to keep the pork moist. You can mop or spritz your pork shoulder using apple juice or apple cider, broth or stock, beer, sodas like Cola and Dr. Pepper, wine, or water among others. Another convenient option is to place a pan filled with water in your smoker.
For oven-cooking, you can braise the pork in the liquid of your choice and add herbs and spices for flavor.
Tried this recipe? Please leave a star ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating in the recipe card below and/or a review in the comments section further down the page. You can also stay in touch with me through social media by following me on Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook!
Pulled Pork Rub
- ¾ cup dark brown sugar
- 2 tbsp chili powder
- 2 tbsp paprika
- 2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp ground mustard
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 2 tsp coarse ground pepper
- 2 tsp seasoning salt
- 2 tsp Kosher salt
- Combine all the ingredients into a bowl and stir.
- Store in a sealed container for up to a year. Use a funnel to add the rub to the storage jar.
Jason’s been firing up the grill for over 30 years after graduating from the US Coast Guard Academy. His love of finely-grilled steak and chicken led him to buy his first Weber grill to put on his apartment patio in 1992. Each military move led to a new grill (a mixture of gas and charcoal) until he fell in love with the Big Green Egg in 2008. Since then, he has added another 4 grills to the collection. Yes, he has a problem. Jason loves smoking in the ceramic BGE with exotic woods including olive wood from Egypt and hard to find varieties such as sassafras and orange wood. Jason takes the term “foodie” to a whole new level, jumping at the chance to take food tours and cooking classes during foreign travels. These have provided inspiration to incorporate new ideas into recipes when he gets back home. He has been featured in Fox News, Parade, Yahoo News, Kansas City Living and more. After retiring from the military and moving to southwest Florida, he has focused grilling and smoking locally sourced meats and fish (read: he likes to catch his own fish!)