Do You Need A Binder For Dry Rub? [Options To Consider]

You may have seen other people smoking ribs or the like and noticed that they were lathering their meat with mustard or some other sauce before smoking it. This is known as binding. And they will do this before or after applying a dry rub to their meat. So now you’re wondering whether a binder is needed for the dry rub?

A binder is to aid against the patchy bark that can occur, and although many people utilize a binder for their dry rub, it is not essential. However, it does help to create a uniform layer of spices and crunchiness to the meat. This step can be left out, but it is simple.

do you need a binder for dry rub

So we have established that you do not need a binder; however, some benefits can come from using one, and you should be aware of the available options. Therefore, we recommend that you give the remainder of this article a read to ascertain what would be the best option for you. 

Do You Need To Apply A Binder To Your Dry Rub?

A rubbing binder, which is sometimes referred to as a slather, is typically a thin layer of sauce or paste that one applies to the surface of their meat to aid the seasoning rub stick to the meat during the smoking process. 

Two common binders include mustard and oil of some variety; however, there are various other things one can use as a binder.

The straight answer to the root question is that you do not need to apply a binder to your dry rub, but it has its benefits, and there must be a reason why so many people opt for a binder instead of not using one.

Do You Need A Binder For Brisket?

Once again, we see an example where the majority (but not by a considerable margin) use a binder on their brisket or other meat; however, there is sufficient moisture within itself to mean that a binder is not warranted. 

This means that the rub should stick fine without one, but we will give you some suggestions on what to use if you choose to go with a binder.

Do You Need A Binder For A Pork Butt?

What you will find with a pork putt is that even fewer people opt to use a binder, which again is owed to many people realizing that the meat contains sufficient moisture. 

The moisture allows the rub to stick without adding a layer to aid in helping to seal your seasoning to the meat.

What To Use As Rubbing Binders

If you feel you could benefit from using a binder, you are in luck, as there is a vast array of things that you can use as a binder for your dry rub. 

The great thing about them is that nine out of ten times, the binder will not affect the flavoring of the meat, nor will it overpower the rub. 

Below is a list of things you can use to aid in the binding process.

  • Syrup
  • Mustard
  • Hot Sauce
  • Olive Oil
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Mayonnaise
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Honey
  • Water
  • Worcestershire Sauce 

Below we break down some of the binders people choose to use and offer some tips on using them. 

Worcestershire Sauce

You will typically find people using Worcestershire sauce on beef cuts such as rib roasts, beef ribs, chuck roasts, etc. However, it is not that commonly used for pork ribs. The reason is that the sauce supposedly enhances the beef flavor and is an ideal binder for these types of meat cuts.

What is great about this sauce, like mustard, the vinegar and water elements in the sauce ultimately get burned away and what you are left with are hints of spiciness from the chili and pepper extracts. 

There is also an added bit of molasses to the mix; however, many people say its hint is so small that it is hardly noticeable.


If you cook at home, you undoubtedly have oil readily available in your house, which can be used as a binder for your dry rub. However, you must just bear in mind what type of oil you have as some people prefer to cook with expensive olive oil and may not wish to use it to lather their meat for smoking, in which case you may want to go with other options.

Apple Cider

This binder is suitable for all meats; however, you will find that more people tend to use it for pork cuts. This is particularly prominent when people perform a Texas crutch as the pork and apple cider vinegar complement each other well. 

Another reason to consider this option is that it can be used during the cooking or smoking process to spritz onto the meat to prevent it from drying out.

Why Is Mustard The Most Common Binder Used?

There is no doubt that mustard is the standard go-to, but with anything, there are conflicting thoughts on the topic. The main one here is whether the mustard is a vital part of ensuring the rub sticks to the meat or if it is just an unnecessary addition.

One of the main reasons, besides being cheaper than some other rubs, and is also something that most people tend to keep in their homes, is that it is one of the best “glues” in aiding the dry rub to adhere to the cut of meat. 

It is also one of those rubs that do not affect the taste of the meat. Plus, it doesn’t interfere with the ingredient of the rub, leaving you with the flavor you are aiming for.

This happens because after the liquid ingredients of the mustard evaporate from the meat, and you are left with the likes of salt, paprika, turmeric, and mustard powder, which are components of most rubs, to begin with. 

However, on the other hand, if you are hoping for the mustard to add flavor, you are out of luck as it will not be effective enough to leave a taste.

Does The Binder Alter The Taste Of The Meat?

Many people are wary of using a binder as they believe that it may drastically alter the taste of their meat or perhaps even overpower the rub that they so diligently prepared. 

The truth is that most binders will either complement the existing rub or have no effect on the overall taste, mainly since the liquid components evaporate during the cooking or smoking process. 

How Does One Apply A Binder To Their Meat?

You can apply your rub liberally, then use your hands or a basting brush to apply the binder or vice versa. When you apply your preferred binder to your meat, remember that more is less in this situation and a thin layer is all that is required. 

The binder is just there to aid the rub stick to the meat and is not intended to alter the flavor of the meat.

What If You Choose Not To Use A Binder?

A dry rub is dehydrated spices, and although many people choose not to use any rub at all, we would recommend using, at the very least, some water to aid the rub to be re-hydrated to stick better to the meat. If you apply your rub without a binder, you should let it sit for at least an hour or two so that the meat can soak up the seasoning, and not everyone has the time for this.

Final Word

Usually, like most people choose to go with, the best option is mustard in terms of a binder for your dry rub. However, there is no harm in trying out different options and seeing which works best for you. 

Have fun with your binders, or if you wish to use no rub, consider preparing the meat in advance, so apply the rub, let the meat stand, and soak it up for an hour or two before smoking it.

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