The Difference Between Dry Rubs vs. Marinades for BBQing

One of the greatest things about BBQ is that there are so many options available to you. You can choose the food, the seasonings, and flavors you want to work with, as well as the method of grilling you want to try. But these choices can sometimes seem overwhelming for someone new to the BBQ world. For example, learning the difference between dry rubs and marinades for BBQing can seem daunting at first, but it’s something you need to learn if you want to get the most out of your meat. We’ll go over the differences here so you can cook a little smarter.

The Purpose of Rubs and Marinades

Dry rubs and marinades essentially have the same purpose when it comes to cooking—they impart flavors deep into the food that you use them on. On the other end of the spectrum are sauces, which go over the top of food after they finish cooking. Rubs and marinades go on the food before you cook them, infusing their flavors into the food and changing the final product.

Dry Rubs

Dry rubs don’t penetrate meat very deeply, but they thoroughly season the protein you use them on while adding texture through the formation of a crust or bark on the outside of the meat. You have the option to let the protein sit in a dry rub for an extended period of time, but you can also apply it just before cooking since the flavor doesn’t need to penetrate very deeply. You can make dry rubs with many different ingredients, including salt, sugar, paprika, cayenne, and so on, but all of the spices and herbs must stay dry, or it won’t be considered a true dry rub.


The difference between dry rubs and marinades for BBQing lies in how they interact with the protein they are on. Whereas a dry rub gets massaged into the outside of the protein, marinades sink deeper into the structure of the meat. The inclusion of an acid is what makes a marinade different than a dry rub. Citrus juice and vinegar are common acids used in marinades. Marinades won’t give you the same depth of flavor or texture on the surface of the meat, but they can penetrate the protein and change its cellular structure.

Which One Should You Choose?

While the choice is ultimately yours, there is one final thing to consider when deciding between a marinade or dry rub. If you’re using high-quality meat and you want to preserve its natural flavor, a marinade can sometimes be too aggressive in changing the underlying flavor. Dry rubs can add another layer of flavor on good meat without changing its structure or inherent taste.

For some of the tastiest BBQ seasonings and rubs you can find anywhere, Williams Food Co. has you covered. Our incredible rubs will make your next BBQ experience one to remember for a long time.

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