There are two traditional methods of seasoning meat destined for the grill: wet and dry. Choosing one over the other places you on one side of yet another barbecue debate. As with most culinary debates, both sides have some strong arguments as we will see when we compare these two methods of flavoring meat in another BBQ Showdown – dry rub vs. wet rub.
What is the difference between a dry rub and a wet rub?
As you might expect, dry rubs have only dry ingredients. They will typically include powdered spices and sometimes dry herbs along with salt and sugar. The idea is to create a crust for the meat that will flavor it without making it too moist. You should apply the rub liberally to the outside of the meat and massage it in. The longer you let it sit on the surface of the meat, the more flavor it will impart to the meat. Because all of the spices stay on the surface, a dry rub is a great way to add a controlled amount of flavor without overpowering the natural flavor of the meat.
A wet rub may contain many of the same powdered seasonings and dry herbs as a dry rub. The big difference is that they are placed into a liquid medium like oil or vinegar. You want a wet rub to be thin enough to easily coat a piece of meat, but thick enough to stick to it. Like dry rubs, wet rubs should be applied heavily to the surface of the meat.
Is one easier or better to use when grilling?
Dry rubs are easier to apply and generally less messy to work with than wet rubs. In addition, a dry rub will not drip onto your coals and cause flare-ups or lower their temperature.
Wet rubs have advantages in that meat should be more tender and flavorful, especially if you let it sit in the marinade for at least 24 hours.
When should you use dry rubs and when should you use wet rubs?
Dry rubs are also generally recognized as being better for meat or fish that will not spend a long time on the grill and that will be grilled over a high flame. This can include pork chops and chicken breast. This is because the spices get seared into the surface of the meat when it is grilled over a medium-high heat. The result is a flavorful crust that can help to keep the meat from drying out.
While it is best to let your dry rub sit on the surface of the meat for as long as possible, this is not always necessary. If you have a high-quality piece of meat, you can simply apply the rub and place your meat on the grill right away.
Wet rubs are supposed to soak into the meat, giving it a deeper flavor and tenderizing it. This will take time, which is why you should only use wet rubs on meat that you plan to cook slowly at low temperatures. Applying it to meat that you will cook quickly defeats the purpose of using a wet rub and high temperatures might cause charring, especially if the rub contains sugar. In addition, wet rubs should only be used on meat that you plan to marinate for a while. This is even more important if you are using an acid-based marinade. You need to give it time to tenderize the muscle fibers. More time also means that any herbs and spices in the rub are able to release their essential oils and flavor the meat.