To be able to come up with tender and juicy barbecued meat, experts usually use a certain technique or strategy. Fortunately, you don‘t really need to be an expert to come up with a delectable grilled dish. Rather, you just need the right grill or smoker set-up, the right cut of meat, as well as the perfect rub to go with it.

Some of the basic barbecue techniques are direct or indirect grilling wherein the meat is cooked directly over a fire or on an area close to a fire. However, some say that a perfectly barbequed meat is one that has a smoky flavor and for this, you have the option of using a pellet smoker, an electric smoker, or even a charcoal smoker. There are several online channels that can give you good tips in terms of how to use the right smokers to achieve perfectly smoked dishes. But apart from the overall barbecue set-up, it pays to know some of the best herbs and spices to rub your meat with.

Salt and Pepper

First and foremost, season your meat with salt and pepper, which will help bring out the full flavor of the meat itself. An insufficient amount of salt can make your meat bland while too much of it will render your dish too salty. It is best if you add some salt throughout the cooking process to bring out the flavor of the meat because adding salt when the meat is almost cooked will result in an overly salty taste. Keep in mind that in any rub or sauce blend, you need to put in a little salt for taste.

Pepper is best used in conjunction with salt if these are the only spices you have in your pantry. Pepper can add heat and a little bit of depth to any dish, including your barbecue. Pepper can be finely ground, but you would rather go for whole peppercorns which can be crushed. The latter will provide a thick and crispy coating base to your meat. Salt and pepper is best combined with any citrus juice to give your barbecue that tangy taste.

Dried Herbs

  • Rosemary and thyme
  • Sage
  • Parsley
  • Cilantro
  • Basil
  • Oregano

Some of the most common dried herbs that are best used in rubs and sauces for barbecue are rosemary and thyme, as well as sage, parsley, cilantro, basil and oregano. While you can definitely get them in their fresh form, the dried variety of these herbs are those that work best for barbecue rubs. Dried herbs don’t spoil too easily compared to fresh herbs, but keep in mind to use dried herbs sparingly as their flavor is already more concentrated compared to the fresh alternatives. Adding a touch of dried herbs to an off the shelf barbecue sauce instantly makes a difference.


  • Mustard
  • Coriander
  • Celery
  • Cumin

Ground mustard, coriander, and celery seeds are loaded with flavor that you can infuse into your barbecue. Grilling is one of the ways that you can truly release the flavor or these seeds so it is best to use them as a rub for your meat. You can either apply them on the meat in ground form, or rub them whole and let the heat of the grill open them up and unleash their flavor. With the strong taste of these seeds, it is best to use one type of seed at a time for the base of your barbecue rub or sauce. Ground cumin is also one of the best spices that can go into your barbecue rub or sauce because it has a rich and earthy flavor that enhances the flavor of your meat. It has a unique, but rich taste that is best when blended with lemon and lime.

Powdered Spices

  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Chili
  • Paprika

Onion, garlic, and chili powder are some of the best spices that you can use for your barbecue rub. Garlic and onion provide a certain zest to any blend of sauce you decide to use on your red meat or poultry, and even to grilled seafood and vegetables. Chili powder and flakes also work well to add some heat to your barbecue. However, there are different types of chili powder and flakes with varying heat levels depending on the type of chili used, such as chipotle or cayenne. Paprika is another powdered spice that has different varieties. It can be sweet, spicy, or smoky and each can go well with your rubs or sauces, depending on what you intend to achieve. Nevertheless, your dish will surely shine with the smooth texture and rich color added by paprika.

Uncommon Grill Spices

Turmeric is not one of the spices that are commonly used for grilled dishes, but it is worth a try. The rich and light flavor of turmeric can add a certain flavor to your dish without necessarily overpowering the food. Turmeric can also add a great pop of color to your barbecue.

Cinnamon is another spice that is uncommon when it comes to barbecue rubs and sauces, but all the same, it is worth giving it a try. It has a woody and earthy taste that makes your grilled meat taste a little bit sweeter. A small dose of cinnamon to your barbecue rub can definitely go a long way.

Some of the best herbs and spices that you can use for barbecue rubs and sauces include the most common dry herbs such as rosemary and thyme, as well as sage, parsley, cilantro, basil and oregano. You can also explore the flavors of different seeds such as ground mustard, coriander, and celery or powdered seasonings such as garlic, onion, and chili. Paprika, turmeric and cumin will also give your barbecue a distinct flavor, but at the very least, use some salt and pepper. Be bold in experimenting with the flavors and soon you will be able to come up with a unique rub or sauce that will set your barbecue apart from all others.

Image by Engin Akyurt —