Marinade vs Dry Rub: What’s The Difference?

Thursday, June 20th, 2019
steak with rosemary dry rub

One of the key elements of BBQ is the flavor of the meat. Each of the different regional styles of bbq involves treating the meat to either a marinade or dry rub before cooking. But what exactly is the difference between marinade and dry rub?

There are several answers as to what sets dry rub apart from marinade. And they’re best explained when you look at the two flavorings separately.

Dry Rubs

A dry rub is actually pretty self-explanatory. It’s a blend of various spices and seasonings that can be rubbed onto the raw meat shortly before it’s cooked. Rubs have a singular purpose, and that’s to give the meat flavor. It can actually form a crust on the meat as it is cooking and seal in the juiciness of the meat.

What are the ingredients of a dry rub?

There are varying degrees of complexity when it comes to the ingredients of dry rubs. The simplest dry rub we find ourselves using is made from salt, pepper, and brown sugar, which delivers a solid dose of seasoning, herbs, and sugar to be caramelized. But that’s just the baseline. You can go in just about any direction with a dry rub, as long as you include a good dose of salt and sugar to serve as a foundation.


Marinades are a liquid of spices, herbs, or other flavorings that meat is allowed to soak in before cooking. The meat can be steeped for a short time or overnight. And like a dry rub, marinades are meant to enhance the flavor of the meat and arguably tenderize it as well. 

What are the ingredients of a marinade?

Much like dry rubs, there are thousands of combinations and ingredients that you can be use to make a marinade. But you will find that the typical marinade contains salt, oil, and acidic liquids such as lemon or vinegar.

Can marinade be used to tenderize meat?

Marinades often have acidic properties, which many chefs say will tenderize the meat along with enhancing the flavor. However, there are just as many chefs who say it does not. This makes it a topic of debate for bbq aficionados. In any instance, marinades can be a great way to add a punch of flavor to tougher cuts of meat.

Just be mindful of how long the meat left to be marinated. Because of its acidic nature, it can give already-tender meat a mushy texture if left too long. 

Dry Rub vs Marinade? How To Decide

Now that you know the differences between the two, you might be asking yourself which one is better than the other. The answer isn’t as simple as you think. Different cuts of meat, cooking styles, and personal preference all play a role in deciding whether a rub or marinade would be best.

Use dry rub on these cuts of meat

You’ll want to use dry rub on larger cuts of meat. For example, these cuts of beef make for a perfect canvas:  

  • Steaks
  • Brisket
  • Ribs

Use marinade on these cuts of meat

Thinner cuts of beef are best for marinades. This is because the flavor can infuse thoroughly. Marinade is also best with the tougher cuts of beef where the muscle sees the most strain, like these:

  • Skirt
  • Flank 
  • Neck 

Taste The Difference In Flavor

Now that you know the differences between dry rub and marinade, you’ll know where to start experimenting the next time you decide to fire up the barbecue grill or go out to eat at your favorite BBQ restaurant. There are many flavorful options that you can choose with either a marinade or dry rub and the key lies in experimentation! 

Taste The Texas-Sized Flavor Of Dyer’s BBQ!

Dyer’s Bar-B-Que offers casual family dining along with incredible Catering services in Amarillo and Pampa, Texas. Contact Us if you have questions. Take a look at our Menu options, learn more about our Big Bear Saloon, or see what’s in our Store! Dyer’s BBQ is located at 1619 S. Kentucky E #526 I-40 and Georgia at the Wellington Square Shopping Center in Amarillo.