Dry Rubs vs Marinades

Luke applying olive oil as a binding agent to a wet rub

It seems there is always something to debate among cooks (or chefs, foodies, gourmands…you get the idea), and one seemingly eternal debate when grilling season rolls around is which is better, a dry rub or a marinade. I have my personal favourite but don’t let me sway you! I’ll explain the differences and let you decide for yourself.


What is a Dry Rub?

A dry rub combines spices and herbs that you generously sprinkle on the meat you will cook, giving delicious, sometimes quite complex, deep flavours. A rub works on the meat’s outer layer, often producing a heavenly crust of flavour on the finished product. After applying the dry rub, gently massage the meat (I actually like to gently pat the rub on the meat so the spices don’t mix too much with the moisture from the meat – I find this gives a much better crust). You can do this a few hours before cooking or apply the rub and refrigerate overnight (by doing this you actually brine the meat which gives the meat even more flavour). You have these options because the rub will not penetrate far into the meat itself.

A wet rub is a dry rub with a small amount of liquid such as wine, honey, juice, or beer added that forms a paste (not runny) which you then massage onto the meat. Just as with the dry rub, the wet rub does not deeply permeate the outer layers of the meat. So, you can apply the wet rub hours before grill time or leave it on overnight. I’m definitely a sucker for using a wet rub on chicken (particularly Peri Good Salt mixed with some olive oil) and gently massage the chicken with the wet rub a few hours before cooking.


What is Marinade?

A marinade is a mixture of liquids, spices, herbs and other seasonings combined with oil. A marinade can be used to tenderise the meat and add flavour to it. Protein will absorb more flavour if it’s soaked in the marinade overnight. My personal favourite is lamb marinated with garlic, oregano, lemon juice and olive oil overnight and then grilling over charcoal. Serve with fresh flat bread and your favourite sides/toppings.

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While a dry rub adds flavour and crust to your protein, a marinade adds taste and tenderness to the meat. This happens because of the liquid’s ability to move within the cell walls of the protein and break them down while delivering taste to the meat. Don’t let me bore you with the science, just go and give it a try and let us know what you prefer!

*Please Note*

You mustn’t reserve the marinade for basting the meat as it cooks. The marinade has been holding raw protein for hours, increasing the chance of cross-contamination. If you must baste the meat with the marinade as it cooks, plan and reserve a bit before marinating.

Because marinades are wet, they infuse food with flavor through soaking.


Dry Rub or Marinade? Which is Best?

The dry rub and the marinade are both excellent ways to impart flavour to protein. Deciding which method is best is situational.

For example:

  • If you are going to grill chicken wings, you can use a dry rub to give them a ton of flavour without adding moisture that prevents a nice sear. I love the deep smokey and spicy taste of our Double Chipotle Spice Rub. Additionally, you can also check out our full range of chicken rubs to explore more ways to elevate your cooking.
  • If you have a very lean flank steak to grill, a soak in a marinade will help with tenderness. Here is one of our favourite marinades you can make at home using our spice rub.


Big Dog Marinade

  • 125ml (1/2 cup) Olive oil
  • 30ml White wine vinegar
  • 2 Garlic cloves (minced)
  • 50g Big Dog Spices Big Tex Rub

Whisk all ingredients together and use to marinate meat for 8-12 hours.

As it turns out, there is no wrong answer when choosing between a marinade and a dry rub. Both methods will give your meals a deliciously complex flavour profile. Just be sure to use quality ingredients, like our Big Dog Spices, to bring the taste you are craving.

Spice it Up: Memphis Chicken Wings with Memphis Red Sauce

If you enjoy bold and flavourful chicken wings, our video recipe is perfect for you.

Join us as we guide you through the process of preparing Memphis chicken wings infused with the delicious flavours of Big Dog Spices Memphis Red Spice Rub. Carefully balanced with spices and heat, these wings will surely be embraced by spice and barbecue enthusiasts alike.

Spice up your day and try this recipe out yourself! Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Learn to Cook with Spices

Spice up your cooking game with our free Beginner's Guide to Cooking with Spices