Spice 101

Barbecue Rubs or Marinades? It’s a No Brainer

by Louise Kemp on Aug 07, 2023

Meat grilling on a barbecue
So you are all ready for your summer barbeque, friends invited, back garden looking great (where the hell did that weed pop up from?!) and going through your herbs and spices wondering ‘does it even matter if I marinade or rub my steaks?’. Well, I’m here to tell you Yes! It absolutely matters. Not that either is inherently “wrong” but when it comes to grilling, rubs will win out over marinades (and finishing sauces) every time.


Okay look, I don’t want you all leaving here thinking that marinades aren’t any good. They are! I just wouldn’t recommend them when grilling.
Marinating your meats is like giving them a bath, a really yummy but acidic bath. The core ingredient in marinades is normally vinegar, citrus juice, wine, or Worcester sauce. Without dragging you back into science class, the acid in these ingredients helps break down the protein and tenderise the meat. It also moves through the cell structure in the meat to infuse it with the marinade flavour. Which to be honest is pretty cool.

Dry Rubs

These ones work a bit differently (I mean obviously, one is wet while the other is dry). Typically made up as a combination of brown sugar and a variety of spices applied just before you start to grill, a dry rub creates a delicious coating over your meat. If using sugar, it will caramelise and create a truly scrumptious crust or bark that is both visually enticing and delicious, offering an easy way to elevate your grilling. Obviously, this means that the flavour doesn’t infuse with your meat but by keeping them separate, you get a complex flavour profile that changes with every chew.


Okay so why Dry?

Well for a few reasons:
  1. The Timing
    Most marinades need to soak the meats for a while for it to take effect. At a minimum, it is 30 minutes and in most cases it’s a minimum of a couple of hours. Some recipes will ask you to marinate overnight! That’s a lot of wait time. Plus, if you marinate your meat for too long, the acid will do too good of a job and make the meat mushy instead of tender. Dry rubs on the other hand, can be applied anytime before grilling. Even just before you transfer it to the barbecue!

  2. The Sear
    So when you place your meat onto the grill, any moisture on the outside of the meat needs to evaporate first before any kind of sear can develop. So it makes zero sense to douse the meat for hours before even putting it on the grill. It will take forever and the sear can come out incredibly uneven.

  3. The Crust
    I mean this is pretty personal, so I’ll understand if its not for you, but the crust of a steak or a drumstick is often just as, if not better than the meat itself. When you get the perfect crust on your meat, the experience is truly exceptional. And marinades just don’t give you that option.

  4. The Flavour Freedom
    Granted, you can adapt your marinade recipe to your tastes, but you just have so much freedom with spice rubs. It's so easy to add more or less spices or to switch up the ingredients entirely. More than once, I’ve found amazing flavour combos by just using whatever spices I had to hand.


If you wanna make your own dry rubs but have always relied on a recipe or simply don’t know how to start, I’d recommend starting off with a 1:1 ratio. For every one part of sugar, mix a combo of salt and your favourite spices using your FinaMill. Most people start off with the ‘spicy’ spices like cayenne (MAX Pod) or mustard seeds (PROPlus Pod) but you can really experiment with a range of flavours to find your perfect fit. Try some cumin (PROPlus Pod), dried garlic (MAX Pod), dried herbs like coriander (MAX Pod) or even some sumac. If you are feeling really crazy, try adding some cinnamon, coffee (MAX Pod) or dried ginger (MAXPod)! Delicious! The possibilities really are endless, and it’s so much fun finding flavour combinations that on paper shouldn’t work but oh my god they DO!