Last Updated on: 14th May 2023, 11:07 am
Rubs are applied to meat while smoking to improve the flavor of meat.
These help us achieve a good crispy bark along with enhancing the flavor of meat.
But there are many misconceptions when it comes to applying rub on meat .
One of these misconceptions is when to apply rubs when smoking.
Smoking is a sensitive process, and a simple flaw can lead to bad flavor.
In this article we are going to explain to you all the ins and outs of applying rub on meat.
There is no black and white answer to the question of what is the right time to apply rub on your meat .
Different pitmasters have different opinions on this , but in our opinion , rubbing time for meat when smoking can range from 10 minutes to 6 hours.
Being a passionate pitmaster, I often find myself in such situations.
I personally prefer to rub meat for 10 minutes to 2 hours when using a dry rub and 2 to 6 hours when using a wet rub.
You should preferably take into account the meat texture before deciding on rub time.
Rub time for meat is a personal choice.
There is no hard and fast rule for this .
You should try different ranges and select the one that you like.
But it’s better to start by applying for less time and then increase the time if you want to.
Some people even prefer to rub meat the night before smoking to allow the meat to properly absorb the flavor.
But in our opinion, rubbing meat overnight is not necessary because usually the rubs sink into the pores of meat when the meat is heated.
Factors affecting rub time
Rub time is a really controversial topic in the smoking space, and many pitmasters have different opinions on this.
There are various factors that affect the rub time of meat while smoking.
These factors usually include meat texture and rub type.
If you are going to smoke a stiff meat like brisket, then you may need to apply the rub for more time because it will take more time for the rub to properly sink into the meat.
Rub time for such meat can range from 3 hours to overnight.
Similarly, if you are applying rub on lean and soft meat like chicken, then it’s better to apply rub for a shorter duration because applying rub for too long can affect the appearance of meat.
Some people even prefer applying rub just before placing it into the smoker.
But it’s better to give it some time so that the rub can sink in and stick properly to the meat surface.
The rub time for lean meat like chicken can range from 10 minutes to 6 hours .
It will give the rub enough time to sink in without affecting the appearance of the meat.
When deciding the rub time , you should consider taking into account the rub type that you are planning to use.
There are two main types of rubs used in smoking : dry rub and wet rub.
Both of these require different amounts of time to sink in properly.
When to apply dry rub
As is obvious by the name, dry rub is dry and is rubbed onto the meat to get a better flavor and produce a good bark on the meat.
The most common rub time for a dry rub can range from 10 minutes to 2 hours.
Some pitmasters prefer to apply dry rub for a longer time to give it proper time to sink in.
But in our opinion, giving more time is not needed because the dry rub sinks into the meat when the meat is heated and the pores of the meat open.
After opening the pores of the meat , the rub sinks in and sticks to the surface of the meat .
Giving more time while applying dry rub can make the meat reddish.
The appearance of the smoked meat is as important as the flavor.
You can apply a dry rub on lean and soft meat just before placing it into the smoker.
To make sure that the rub properly seeps in ,it’s best to give at least 10 minutes before placing it into the smoker.
However, applying dry rub on the hard meat is tricky.
Hard meat is thick and dry rub can stay on the superficial surface, due to which the deeper meat can become tasteless.
So it is better to give it a bit longer time to let the rub stick to the meat properly and seep in as deeply as possible.
An effective trick for applying dry rub on hard meat is to massage it roughly while applying rub.
You should consider turning your hand into a fist and hitting the meat with your knuckles.
It will allow the rub to seep into the meat.
But if you are smoking lean meat, then you should avoid hitting it with your knuckles because it can demage the texture of the meat.
If you are having a problem sticking the rub onto the surface of the meat, then you should consider applying olive oil to the meat before applying the rub.
When to apply a wet rub
The second type of rub that is used most commonly when smoking hard meat is wet rub.
As is obvious by the name, it is in liquid form and the meat is submerged into it to allow the rub to seep into the meat properly.
It is also used to increase the flavor of meat .
It doesn’t have much effect on the texture of bark, but it is usually used to increase the tenderness of meat.
So it requires more time to sink into the meat and increase its moisture.
A wet rub is usually used on the hard meat because hard meat can dry out when smoked for a long time.
The sweet spot for wet rub time can range from 2 hours to 8 hours because it takes more time for the wet rub to seep in and stick to the meat.
Can you leave a rub on too long?
There is no black and white answer to this question because many people have different opinions over time.
So a long time for you may be a normal rub time for someone who wants to get more flavor from the rub than meat.
- Generally, you should rub the rub on your meat for 10 minutes to 6 hours.
But it’s a personal choice to apply for an even longer time.
- It depends on whether you want to enjoy meat flavor or if you are using meat as a vehicle to enjoy rub flavor.
- It’s often known that applying the rub for more time results in more flavor . But it can affect the appearance of the meat if left for too long.
- You should consider taking appearance into account because no one wants to taste a delicious chunk of meat that looks messy.
- Furthermore, applying the rub for more time can result in the conversion of the rub to a paste like structure.
The rub absorbs the internal moisture of meat , which means meat can dry out during the smoking process.
- Sometimes you should consider that less is more.
Because if you rub lean and soft meat for a long time, you may end up with reddish meat along with more flavor of rub than meat. In either case, you can’t go wrong with it.
If you are still interested in applying rub for a longer time, then you should consider the following points.
- First, you should consider using a rub with a low salt content because if the salt content is higher, it can result in absorbing the moisture of the meat due to which meat can dry out during the smoking process.
- Secondly, you should only apply rub for a longer time if you are smoking hard and thick meat.
Because lean meat doesn’t require much time and applying rub for more time on the thick meat often results in enhancing the flavor of the meat.
Personally, we would recommend always being careful about rub time because it can enhance or destroy the flavor of meat.
You should consider applying the rub at the appropriate time to get the best flavor possible.
When determining the rub time for a meat, consider both the rub type and the meat texture, as mentioned above.
You can leave the rub on your meat for too long if you are facing bad weather conditions.
Frequently asked questions
although we have discussed most of the things , there are still some misconceptions that might confuse you when applying rub, so let’s discuss them really quick.
Can you leave wet rub on meat overnight?
There is no black and white answer to this question because many pitmasters have different opinions over how long to leave the rub on the meat.
But concisely, there are no bad effects of leaving rub on meat overnight.
Rub time on meat is a personal choice.
You should consider testing different rub times and choosing the one that suits you .
Leaving the rub overnight can surely result in more flavor of the rub and less flavor of the meat.
Personally, I don’t prefer to leave the rub overnight because it doesn’t have much effect on the flavor of the meat.
The rub actually seeps in when the meat is heated and the juices of the meat are released.
You can leave overnight if you are not able to smoke right away.
Do you put rub on both sides of the ribs?
The simple and straightforward answer to this question will always be yes, because everyone wants to have the same flavor in every bit of meat.
Even if you mistakenly leave a piece of meat without rub , it may feel tasteless when it goes into your mouth.
But you should not restrict yourself to two sides of meat because some chunks of thick meat like brisket can have more than two sides .
So you will have to apply the rub all around to smoke meat with the same flavor in every bit.
Lean meat doesn’t involve much complexity because it has less surface area and you can easily rub it to get a better flavor.
The real problem is faced when rubbing hard meat because it can have multiple sides and the rub may not seep in.
The best method to apply rub on thick meat is by massaging it with your knuckles .
It will allow the rub to seep into the deeper portion of the meat and provide consistent flavor throughout the chunk.
You should make sure to not leave any side dry and without rubbing.
Can you leave a dry rub on meat overnight?
Usually, wet rub is left overnight because it requires more time to seep into the meat.
A wet rub is applied to increase the tenderness and moisture of the meat .
you also need to keep in mind the clumping of rub . you read our guide on How do I keep my rub from clumping? for more information.
So if you give it more time to rub ,then it will result in more moisture in the meat and the meat will not dry out during smoking.
Can you leave the rub on meat overnight?
When using dry rub, there are no benefits to leaving it overnight because dry rub is applied to get good bark and it usually stays on the surface of the meat.
Applying dry rub for more time can make the appearance more reddish.
if you are going to smoke the meat overnight , then it is compulsory to avoid applying the rub overnight too, because it will affect the color and quality of meat due to prolonged process.
How long before smoking should I put the rub on?
Now that we have discussed most of the miscommunication related to rub time, you may be thinking how long before I put rub on the brisket and other meats.
Rub time can range from 10 minutes to 2 hours for lean meat and 2 hours to overnight for hard meat.
Hard meats require more time because the primary function of the wet rub applied on them is to increase the moisture content of the meat and avoid it drying out during smoking.
So it requires more time to seep in and perform its function properly.
For soft meat , the rub time is lower because the dry rub is applied on soft meat to get a good bark on the meat.
So we don’t need to wait for it to sink in , rather it stays on the surface of the meat and sinks in when it is exposed to heat.
when to put rub on turkey before smoking
There is no simple answer to the question of when is the best time to rub your turkey.
Different pitmasters have different opinions on this , but in our opinion , rubbing time for turkey when smoking can range from 10 minutes to 6 hours.
Being a passionate pitmaster, I often find myself in such situations.
I personally prefer to rub turkey for 10 minutes to 2 hours when using a dry rub and 2 to 6 hours when using a wet rub.
You should preferably take into account the turkey texture before deciding on rub time.
for a detailed guide, consider checking our detailed article on when to put rub on turkey before smoking.
Should you use olive oil before a dry rub?
Another misconception related to applying rub on meat is whether you should apply olive oil onto the meat before the dry rub or not.
The short answer to this question will always be yes, because it helps stick the rub to the meat surface.
Applying olive oil to the meat before dry rub is a personal choice .
Some people prefer using mustard in place of olive oil.
You can use any of the above materials because the main purpose of them is just to help rub the surface of meat.
In our personal opinion, olive oil is better than mustard because it is easy to apply and, in addition to helping rub to stick to the meat surface, it also helps to increase the moisture content of the meat and prevent the meat from drying out.
The right way to apply olive oil to the meat is just to apply it in an excess amount on the surface of the meat and massage it properly.
After that, you can just move on to applying your dry rub and smoking the meat as planned.
When to rub meat before smoking, there is no right or wrong time.
You can apply the rub for around 10 minutes to 6 hours or even longer if you want to.
You should preferably test different rub times yourself and decide what suits you.
You should keep in mind that overnight rubbing will not increase the flavor of meat .
In our experience the taste of meat rubbed overnight and the one rubbed for couple of hours is just the same.
But rubbing overnight doesn’t damage the flavor either.
It’s your personal decision to select which one to go with.
if you are interested in learning more then make sure to check our article on When to put rub on chicken before smoking.