If you want to add flavor to your smoked chicken, consider using a rub. A rub is a combination of seasonings that you rub into your meat before smoking or grilling. If you are smoking a whole chicken, the best thing to do is to spatchcock the bird first and rub salt into it. Leave it in the fridge for a while to allow the salt to get absorbed. The amount of salt you put on will be regulated by the amount of salt in the ingredients. You don’t want to overdo the sodium. Then put the rub all over the bird and leave to rest again in the fridge.

There are two types of rub, dry and wet and we’ll take a quick look at them before giving you some of our favorite recipes. Although you may think that the ingredients will make too much mixture, many of the rubs can be stored away for future use, saving on time and energy.

Dry Rubs

A dry rub is a mixture of herbs and seasonings without any moisture added. They create a tasty crust on your meat and are particularly good for adding flavor to chicken breasts.

You can choose any number of herbs and spices, including sage, thyme, cayenne pepper, black pepper, salt, onion powder, chili powder, dry mustard, and paprika. Most dry rubs call for a mixture of 6 – 10 herbs and spices, excluding paprika because it is often the base of a dry rub. It adds a smokey flavor to your chicken and helps to crisp up your chicken.

To use a dry rub, you have to mix the ingredients well by hand and then massage into the meat. It’s a good idea to store the chicken in the fridge after rubbing in the mixture as this will help to infuse the flavors. 

If you make too much of a rub, you can keep the rest in a sealed jar. Most will last for 6 months – a year.

Wet Rub

A wet rub isn’t a marinade. It is a dry rub with some moisture added. It is more of a paste rather than a liquid. It works well on bone-in chicken which is being smoked long and slow as it can flavor the chicken all the way through.

You can supply the moisture in various forms or a combination of them. Choices include melted butter, tomato juice, Dijon mustard, honey, bourbon, wine, beer, soy sauce, vegetable oil, and cider vinegar. 

Slather the wet rub on your chicken, wrap it in plastic wrap, and put in your fridge for at least an hour. More time is better for a deeper flavor. 

Smoking with a wet rub allows a firm dark outer layer to form on your chicken, while the moisture and flavor are soaked up by the inside of the meat. 

It is important to keep your temperature extremely low if you are using a sugar content, like honey, in your rub because it can burn. If your temperature is around 250Fthe rub will caramelize and the meat will be browned, not burned.

Recipes for Dry Rubs

  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon oregano

This recipe gives a touch of sweetness to your chicken and a beautifully caramelized outside. Just mix together all the ingredients and apply to the chicken. If your chicken has skin, lift the skin up and put some of the rub underneath it. If you don’t like a particular flavor you can leave it out or if you’re particularly keen on a herb or spice, add a little more. If you’re worried about the amount of salt in this recipe, take some out, but you need a little as it helps the chicken to retain moisture, making it extra juicy.

  • 1 tablespoon dried crushed rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons dried crushed sage
  • 1 tablespoon dried crushed parsley
  • 1 tablespoon dried crushed basil
  • 1 tablespoon dried crushed oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried crushed thyme
  • 1 tablespoon dried crushed bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar

If you want to add a little heat to this herby rub, put in a tablespoon of crushed hot red pepper.

To make this rub, put all the ingredients into a blender and pulse until it becomes a powder. Sprinkle the chicken with a little salt, about ½ teaspoon for each pound of meat should be right. Then put the herb powder onto the chicken. It’s best left in the fridge for 1 – 3 hours to allow the flavors to infuse.

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup Kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • ½ tablespoon cumin
  • 2 tablespoons black pepper
  • ½ tablespoon onion powder
  • ½ tablespoon garlic
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Any rub which contains sugar is perfect for the low heat of a smoker. This rub is a delicious mixture of sweet, savory, and spicy. All you have to do to make this rub is mix the ingredients together and rub on the chicken. The sugar will give the meat a lovely crispy and caramelized skin. 

  • 1 ¼ cups brown sugar
  • 1 – 3 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 ½ tablespoons Kosher salt
  • 2 ½ tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder

You can choose how much ground pepper to put in depending on your taste. It is quite a spicy dip as it contains both chili powder and smoked paprika. To make this rub mix with a wire whisk or put in a food processor.

  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder

This recipe is versatile as it can be the base for different tastes. It already has a hint of spice, but if you want it spicier, add a tablespoon of either crushed red pepper flakes or ground chipotle pepper. If you are a garlic lover, double the amount of garlic used. Perhaps you want a Mexican rub? If so, add 1 tablespoon of chili powder, 1 teaspoon ground coriander, and 1 teaspoon of ground cumin.

Recipes for Wet Rubs 

  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon lemon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon thyme
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • ¼ cup dark beer
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon
  • 1 tablespoon honey

In a bowl mix together all the dry ingredients and then stir in the liquid. If it’s too thick, add more beer. You will get a slightly spicy rub, with a hint of alcohol. The sugar will caramelize the skin of your chicken, making it crisp and delicious.

  • 12 cloves of peeled garlic
  • 1 ½ tablespoons Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

If you like garlic, this rub is for you. First, you have to crush the garlic and salt using a pestle and mortar. Add the peppercorns and oregano and continue pounding until the mixture resembles a paste. Then stir in the white wine vinegar and olive oil. This wet rub will last for about 6 days if kept in the fridge.

  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle powder
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons coconut sugar
  • ¼ cup avocado oil or olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

If you like a smokey and spicy flavor with a hint of sweetness, you will enjoy this rub. To make it, stir all the ingredients until they form a paste. It may take a minute or two to thicken. Slather the rub into the chicken and put it in the fridge for 30 minutes – 8 hours.

  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder 
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Mix the ingredients in a microwavable bowl and microwave on high for 20 seconds. Slather the chicken with the rub and leave in the fridge for 4 – 8 hours. This rub is a great replacement for barbecue sauce.

  • 1 tablespoon dried crushed rosemary
  • 1 ½ teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning (a mix of 18 spices)
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 ½ teaspoons celery salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Mix the dry ingredients and then stir in the olive oil. This rub has a bit of a kick to it with the mixture of spices and ginger.

Final Thoughts

We hope that you have enjoyed reading this article and have been inspired to try out one or two of the smoked chicken rubs we have told you about. They are versatile enough for you to add extra flavors or omit some.