Barbecue lovers everywhere know Kansas City as a prime spot for the world’s best barbecue. One of KC’s first-ever pitmasters—Henry Perry—made waves by slow-cooking brisket, ribs, pork, or burnt ends for hours, developing a wonderful flavor and a cherished new technique.

What many people don’t know is that Henry Perry got his “gift for barbecue” at another famous BBQ location—Memphis, Tenessee. There, with no lack of access to pigs, hardwood, and other all-important spices, Perry learned his trade.

Here, we focus on Memphis and one of its greatest offerings: the famous Memphis BBQ rub. Put it on ribs, put it on pulled pork, or put it on tonight’s Memphis dry rub chicken—it’ll translate.

Keep reading to learn what makes this special ingredient so, well, special.

A Delicious History of Memphis BBQ Rub

There’s no denying that Memphis, Tennesee is known for its barbecue. Nary a resident or far-reaching tourist can resist the Southern, savory flavor of slow-cooked meats on a bun.

In Memphis, what truly elevates the dish is the rub—sometimes, even sans sauce.

Where did Memphis’s staple originate?

In 1948, a small restaurant tried to make a name for itself in Memphis. The place was called Rendezvous, and it sold humble offerings, like ham and cheese sandwiches. It fared all right but didn’t flourish—until one day when the owner, John Vergos, sold ribs with a dry rub that sent shockwaves through your tastebuds.

Of course, the original recipe has been tweaked a time or two, developed into what we know and love today. Here’s a general example of what your average Memphis BBQ rub includes.

Magical Ingredients In The Mix

What makes this rub so magical? If you order barbecue in Memphis, a few of the following well blended spices produce that crave-worthy experience:

  • Paprika
  • Garlic powder
  • Mild chili powder
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • 2 T onion powder
  • 1 T brown sugar
  • 1 T dried oregano
  • 1 T dried thyme
  • many more!


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There you have it—a BBQ masters experience and a depth of flavor that is undeniable.

As you can see, the rub’s main base is paprika, offering the seasoning a wonderful savory flavor. Building upon that, you’ll find a wide variety of spices, but they never cross the line into too hot. They remain well-balanced by ingredients like coriander, cumin, and oregano. Don’t forget the brown sugar!

The point of Memphis BBQ rub is to enhance—not take away from—the taste of the meat, whether it’s charcoal-grilled or slow-cooked in the smoker. This rub also pairs well with several types of meat, so don’t hesitate to experiment.

On the Menu? How to Use Dry Rub in Your Cooking

After reading the list above, you’re probably drooling and ready to enjoy some barbecue tonight. We don’t blame you.

How can you use Memphis dry rub in your kitchen? How should you prepare a dish to let the BBQ rub shine through?

We mean it when we say that dry rub knows no bounds. You can easily incorporate it into a wide variety of dishes.

Let’s say you’re having ribs for dinner tonight. Slather the ribs in something the rub can stick to—like mustard or your favorite oil—and pour your rub mixture, smashing it into place on the meat (leaving no spots untouched!).

Cook the ribs as usual. Before serving, add another sprinkle of the seasoning on top to allow it to really pop. Regardless of the type of meat or method of cooking, you can repeat this same sequence.

We really love this chicken recipe, which gets a little extra spice and zest—with a dash or two of cayenne. It includes moist, bone-in chicken and a delicious vinegar-mustard basting sauce recipe. Pair with your favorite Southern sides, such as cornbread, baked beans, or corn-on-the-cob.

Memphis in May: For Serious Folks Only

Where can true barbecue lovers go to geek out with other barbecue lovers?

In Memphis, there’s one BBQ event to end all events—the international Memphis in May festival.

This world championship pits pitmaster against pitmaster (see what we did there?) to see who cooks the best ‘cue. It’s no easy feat to win, either—Memphis in May is a place where a hobby crosses a line, becoming a competitive sport. After all, it is considered the “Most Prestigious Barbecue Contest” in the world.

This four-day festival happens every year in May, and its contestants come from all over the globe. Contestants participate in teams (think: two business partners with a shared BBQ joint) and compete for the renowned title. Categories include:

  • “Anything but pork”
  • Ribs
  • Shoulder
  • Hot wings
  • Sauce
  • Whole hog

Think you got what it takes? Make sure to look into team applications. If you’re more of a spectator, don’t worry—there are tickets for you!

Get Your Hands on Some Rub

If you’re not salivating yet, we haven’t done our job. We love this spice, and we hope you will, too.

Memphis BBQ rub is a prime contender to be a staple ingredient in your home. By now, you know why. With its versatile, bold flavor and bounty of uses, you’ll go through it faster than you can spell B-B-Q.

We may not have locations in Memphis, but we’re in three different places around Missouri—and we know a thing or two about sauces and rubs. Click here to always stay updated on our newest events.