BBQ Rubs vs BBQ Sauces: Which to Use

By MariJo Kolze

Spices and Sauces

Every BBQ lover knows that spices and sauces enhance the flavor of their meats. Despite this, few people know the difference between the types of rubs and BBQ sauces and when they should use each. The choice to use a spice or sauce depends entirely on the cook, but there are a few tips that can help make your decision easier. While these methods may be used differently, they both add a nice flavorful taste to your meat!

Types of Rubs 

Rubs are one of the most common ways to season meat while grilling. A rub in general, is a mixture of spices and seasonings that are applied to the outside of meat before it is cooked. Depending on the cut or marbling of the meat, some meats don't need much seasoning. However, some meats may require additional seasoning, such as rubs, to enhance their taste. 

Dry Rubs

In dry rubs, various spices, sugars and herbs are combined. A dry rub typically contains ingredients like paprika, pepper, and sugar. Ultimately, it's a seasoning made from several dry ingredients. Dry rubs not only add a nice crust and bark to your meat, but it also intensifies its flavor. A popular dry rub that is great on every protein, including shrimp is The Gospel’s All-Purpose Southwestern rub. The ingredients in this rub include paprika, sugar, garlic, and other spices to give off an incredible BBQ flavor. 

Wet Rubs

A wet rub contains many of the same ingredients as a dry rub. The only difference between the two is that a wet rub contains a liquid ingredient. If your meat is somewhat dry from the start, using a wet rub is a great option. When forming a wet rub, it is important to have enough liquid ingredients to make the paste thick and strong enough to apply to meat. Oil, vinegar, mustard, and even alcohol are some of the wet ingredients used in different types of rubs. Liquid ingredients like these allow dry and wet ingredients to adhere to the meat and create a powerful flavor. For your next meal, try Kinder's original wet rub sample! 

When to Apply a Rub

The process of using both a wet and dry rub is very simple. Before you apply your rubs, you want to make sure you pat down your meat with a paper towel in order to get rid of as much moisture as possible. Then you can apply your rubs to your meat by using your hands to make sure the spices and herbs are absorbed into the meat. You'll get a nice and crispy texture when your spices soak into the meat. If you want the best flavor, add the dry rub to the steak at least an hour before grilling. However, you can add the dry rub as little as right before you throw it on the grill. For wet rubs, apply the rub about an hour before grilling, or up to several hours before if you have time. The results of a wet rub will be similar to those of a dry rub, but the meat will contain more moisture.

For cooking with rubs, it is important to know what kind of temperature and meats work best with each rub. Dry rubs can be applied to almost anything, which makes them very versatile. As they can be used under a grill or in the oven, they are an excellent choice for high heat temperatures. Dry rubs go well with protein options such as beef, pork, and chicken. When choosing a dry rub for your meat, look for ingredients such as brown sugar, paprika, pepper, and garlic powder. Utilize Killer Hogs The BBQ Rub for a smoky, sweet flavor with a kick. For a stronger blend of flavor, try Traeger's Beef Rub, which goes well with ribs, ribeyes, and other beef cuts. 

In terms of cooking with a wet rub, you should ensure that it remains as a paste on your meat, rather than turning into a liquid marinade. For this reason, you should prepare your meat at low temperatures so that it does not burn. If you cook your meat at a low temperature, your meat's crust will absorb the sugars rather than burning them. Slow-cooked pork or beef roast are some great options that pair well with wet rubs. The slow cooking allows the wet rub to create a beautiful bark on the outside while keeping the moisture inside. For the next time you cook pork, try this recipe!

What is BBQ Sauce?

BBQ sauce was created in the 17th century as a way to enhance grilling. Back then, BBQ sauce consisted only of salt, vinegar, and pepper. BBQ sauces were so popular for BBQ as they serve as a form of marinade where they enhance the flavor of the meat and tenderize it. BBQ sauces today are normally made with some kind of enzyme, like a fruit, and an acidic ingredient, like vinegar that helps break down the meat's proteins. It will also include ingredients such as ketchup, chili peppers, mustard, etc. The ingredients in the sauces are essential as they help bring flavor to the meat throughout the cooking process, as well as after. 

BBQ sauces have a reasonable amount of sugar, therefore adding the sauce towards the end of the cooking process will keep it from overcooking and burning your meat. Sugar in BBQ sauces is crucial to developing the flavor of your meat, but can burn at high temperatures. For this, you should apply your BBQ sauce of choice around the last 10 minutes of cooking so that you capture the ideal taste without overdoing it. Remember this tip next time you light up the grill, because many people forget and end up burning their perfect meal by putting on the sauce too soon. 

The choice is yours whether or not to use BBQ sauce as a marinade or dipping sauce. We recommend you try our famous Waterloo BBQ Sauce as the dipping sauce of your choice. If you want to use BBQ sauce as a marinade, we recommend you choose meats that need to be cooked for longer periods like ribs. However, if you wanted to use it as a dipping sauce, some fan favorite meals are pulled pork sandwiches or any pulled meats. Either way you choose to use your BBQ sauce as a condiment on your meal, or even as a marinade, you can’t go wrong!

Can you use both for BBQ?

To get the best of both worlds, you can definitely use both a rub and a BBQ sauce when preparing your meat. In fact, most BBQ lovers use both while cooking. When using both, apply the dry rub to the meat first before grilling it, so it will absorb as much flavor as possible. As you are about to remove the meat from the grill, then apply your BBQ sauce. In case you cannot decide between a dry or wet seasoning, your BBQ sauce can be served on the side. You can’t go wrong with either method of seasoning as they both enhance and elevate the flavor of meat!