Kitchen Basics: Rubs vs. Marinades

By October 2, 2017Kitchen Basics

Gone are the days when you needed to wait hours or overnight while your chicken or steak marinates in a big bowl of juices in the refrigerator.  The new consensus is that if you want to grill meat and you want to get the most flavor possible you want to use rubs.  Marinades can work in certain instances but the myth that marinades tenderize and penetrate meat deeper has been regularly debunked.  This is particularly true if you are grilling chicken with skin still on (which is a natural barrier to anything liquid). And if you are cooking with skin on, the end goal is probably crispy skin, not soggy, right?

Want to see the science behind this? Head here to check out the results of long marinade experiments.

So let’s quickly run through some of the ways you can make your next grilling adventure successful and as flavorful as possible.

Save time and make a simple rub

One of the major benefits of using dry rubs instead of marinades is that they save time and provide more immediate flavor to meat. They sit on the surface of the meat and since they don’t penetrate deep down can be applied just before cooking. You can always purchase a pre-made mix, or if you have a plentiful spice collection, make your own combinations.  A good rule of thumb is that your rub contains a sugar (to add sweetness and help with browning and crust formation on the surface of your meat), something savory (like garlic), herbs (think oregano, basil, parsley, thyme) and spice (think chili powders).

You can skip the salt, unless you are interested in dry brining. This works particularly well on whole chickens where the skin stays on during cooking.  Salt has the ability to penetrate meat further, and by breaking down proteins actually increase the meat’s moisture by allowing the meat to retain more water during the cooking process.

Don’t forget the vegetables and fruit

Rub mixes can also work great on vegetables. Because rubs only penetrate the surface you can sprinkle a little of the mixture on your veggies and throw them on the grill along with the steak and the flavor will remain fresh and strong. Don’t forget that grilled fruit is also amazingly delicious! The heat of the grill can help caramelize the sugars in fruit and add to its sweetness, you likely won’t need to add anything but the fruit itself. Try this with stone fruit, pinapples, apples, melons, pears and more!

Happy Eating!

Author AHO Kitchen Team

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