Written for Spice Station Silver Lake by, Amanda Csolak
When it comes to grilling meat, there are two traditional ways to season the meat you’ve chosen for your grill this weekend. Quite simply, one is known as a wet rub, while the other is a dry rub. In this mouthwatering article, we’ll discuss everything you need or want to know about seasoning grilling meat with these two very different methods. From BBQ to ribs and even chicken wings, both seasoning methods have distinguishable characteristics that create delicious meats.
Wet Rub Vs. Dry Rub – What’s the Difference?
The difference between these two is not hard to figure out based on their very simple names.
A dry rub uses only dry ingredients like powdered spices, and sometimes dry herbs such as rosemary and oregano are incorporated into some dry rub recipes. On the other hand, a wet rub can contain many of the same dry seasonings as a dry rub. What sets a wet rub apart from a dry rub is its key wet ingredients, such as oil or vinegar.
When it comes to picking sides, most people have a favorite and never waiver, while others can appreciate both sides of the grill. As someone who spends a lot of time cooking, grilling, and trying foods, I can say I enjoy both types, as both bring a mouthful of flavor to your plate.
So let’s take a moment to talk about the unique qualities that make each method of seasoning meat destined for the grill great. Both methods of seasoning meat bring their own unique and delicious flavors to the plate. But what makes each one stand out?
Wet Rub Ingredients
Popular ingredients in many wet rub recipes include beer, olive oil, vinegar, brown sugar, and black pepper. But, let’s clear up one thing right now, wet rubs are not the same as a liquid marinade. A great wet rub should have a paste-like consistency which allows it to stick to the ribs or other meat you have on your grill this summer.
When using a wet rub, it’s best to apply generously and cook it slow. As any grill master will tell you, cooking your meat slowly is the best way to get your meat as flavorful as possible. Using a wet rub for grilling allows the meat to absorb moisture from the rub’s wet ingredients while simultaneously charring the outside, which brings a unique mix of textures to your palette.
Dry Rub Ingredients
Some commonly used ingredients include garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, brown sugar, and even cayenne pepper if you like it spicy. Paprika is a popular base for many dry rub recipes. Typically a dry rub contains equal amounts of at least six and as many as ten different spices and herbs. Using a dry rub creates a savory, crispy crust and enhances the flavor of the meat without adding additional moisture. It’s great for grilling ribs or other meat you have to cook quickly or on meats that don’t easily tenderize. It’s also a good way to maintain the natural flavor of the meat with just a little something extra.
How To Use Wet Rubs and Dry Rubs
When choosing which type of rub to use to season your meat, there are several things you must consider. For instance, if you’re in a hurry to serve some grilled meat, it’s best to choose the dry rub, but if you have time for a wet rub and are looking for juicy fall-off-the-bone kind of meat, then you’ll want to pick a wet rub.
Using Wet Rubs
When prepping ribs or other grilling meat with a wet rub, you want to smother the meat thoroughly. If there’s time, you can wrap it in plastic or use a plastic container and allow it to rest in the fridge for an hour before taking it to the grill. Once it’s on the grill, keep the grill cover closed and the grill vent mostly closed. This keeps the moisture around the meat during the grilling process. Generously apply more of the wet rub when it’s time to flip over the meat. Smoking or slow-cooking meat will allow the wet rub to create a firm, dark outer layer on the meat’s surface while aromas, moisture, and flavors are absorbed into the meat. If your wet rub contains a high amount of sugar from ingredients like honey, beer, molasses, or brown sugar, then be sure to keep the grill’s temperature lower so it won’t burn. You want a low, slow heat that will help caramelize the sugars and brown the meat.
Using Dry Rubs
To apply a dry rub, you’ll want to use your hands to massage the rub into the meat, don’t worry; you can use plastic gloves if you want. Keep in mind the more time you allow the dry rub to sit on the meat, the more the flavors from your chosen spices will have to seep in. If you want your meat to come out with a savory, crispy crust, then make sure your grill is really hot. If using a charcoal grill, you can move the grate closer to the burning coals. Charcoal made from hardwood creates a more intense heat, but you can also use wood chips sprinkled over coals is a good way to increase the temperature. Utilizing a hot cooking surface will sear the dry rub into the meat quickly. Doing this will cause the rub to darken quickly and may burn it slightly. To stop the rub from burning completely, move the meat to a lower temperature to complete the grilling once the outside looks thoroughly seared.
Choosing a Favorite Between Wet and Dry Rubs
Admittedly, I have more years of experience in a kitchen than I do behind a grill, but in the few years I have been grilling, I’ve learned a lot. When I commit to learning a new cooking method, I go above and beyond. I do tons of research, watch cooking videos, and read blogs, just like you’re doing right now.
As a foodie in the true sense of the word, I love all food. I like to try everything at least once. Which means choosing a favorite wasn’t easy. Both types of rubs for grilling have unique qualities. Wet rubs smother meat with flavor and create tender, juicy meat, while dry rubs create a savory crisp like no other. When picking my favorite, I considered all the tasty facts, the pros and cons, and ultimately I chose the dry rub.
Why did I pick the dry rub over the wet rub style? Well, it comes down to two main factors that had nothing to do with flavor at all. You see, wet rubs are fantastic. I truly love a good sweet wet rub, like this one below featuring beer and brown sugar. But at the end of the day, when I’m hungry. I don’t have hours to sit and wait for my meat to finish cooking, and since meats seasoned with dry rubs can be cooked quicker than those seasoned with wet rubs. Well, it’s easy to see why I typically opt for a dry rub. Additionally, I’m not a messy eater, and wet rubs can be very messy. I don’t enjoy getting my fingers sticky with sauce while I try to eat my food.
You have all the information you need to bring amazing grilled meat to the table. I’ve included my favorite examples of wet and dry rub here below, but I won’t tell you which one to choose; that is up to you and your taste buds.
My Favorite Spicy Dry Rub For Grilling
This dry rub boasts bold spices and a tangy kick of Peruvian spices. Great on chicken, this spicy dry rub is a crowd favorite.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Yields: ½ cup
Equipment You’ll Need: mortar & pestle or electric coffee grinder, cookie sheet, parchment paper.
- 2 tsp. Peruvian Spice Blend
- 2 tsp. Cumin seeds, ground
- 2 tsp. Annatto seeds, ground
- 2 tsp. ground Oregano
- 2 tsp. Garlic Granules
- 1 tsp. Smoked Paprika
- 1 tsp. Smoked Black Peppercorns, ground
- 1 tsp. Lemon Peel Granules
- 1 tsp. Pacific Blue Flake Kosher Salt
- Preheat grill one side of the grill to high heat and the opposite side to medium heat.
- Using a mortar and pestle or an electric coffee grinder, one at a time, grind the cumin seeds, the annatto seeds, and the smoked black peppercorns into a fine powder. Once all dry ingredients are in powder form, combine all in a mixing bowl and toss thoroughly.
- Using gloved hands, sprinkle your blend of spices onto the meat. This particular recipe is perfect for chicken. Be sure to massage the rub into the meat until it’s well-coated.
- Place chicken inside a plastic bag or container and allow it to rest for at least 30 minutes. This will give the seasoning time to be absorbed by the meat before cooking.
- Place seasoned chicken onto the grill, allowing it to sear. Do not take your eyes off it, as the rub may smolder. As it turns dark and the meat is thoroughly seared, turn the temperature down to medium heat to finish cooking.
- Once the meat reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees, remove from heat, serve immediately, and enjoy.
The Ultimate Smoky Wet Rub For Grilling
Dark beer and smoked paprika help make this wet rub something you’ll want to write home about. Use to season ribs, brisket, or pork loin to add a bit of Memphis flavor to your menu.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 10 hours
Yields: 2/3 cup
Equipment You’ll Need: A mixing bowl, a plastic bag, or a container with a leak-proof sealed lid.
- 2 tbsps. Dark Brown Sugar
- 4 tsp. Sweet Smoked Paprika
- 1 tsp. Garlic Granules
- 1 tsp. Onion Granules
- 1 tsp. Pacific Blue Kosher Flake Sea Salt
- 1 tbsps. Dried Thyme Leaves
- 3 tbsps. Dark Beer
- Mix the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl until well combined. Stir in the beer until the wet rub becomes a smooth paste. Rub into meat; the meat best for this recipe is pork ribs.
- Wrap seasoned meat in plastic or place in a sealed container and refrigerate at least 30 minutes. The longer you let the rub sit, the better. These wet rubs can rest for up to eight hours or overnight in the refrigerator.
- When you are ready to start grilling the next day, preheat the grill to a low to medium heat, depending on how long you plan to cook the meat.
Chef’s Note: Remember, a slower cook equals juicier and more flavorful meat. So take your time and serve while hot with a side of napkins because it will be messy but oh so good!