Marinade or Rub? What’s the Difference?


Marinades and RubsEver gone to a grill and wondered about the differences between “marinades” and “rubs”? While both types of meat preparation are definitely delicious, not everyone understands the differences between them. In order to make the best possible ordering decisions, let’s take a quick look at the difference between these two types of meat preparation.


Marinades are an extremely popular way to prepare meats for the grill. A marinade is always a liquid, and usually consists of herbs, spices, and at least one acid. In general, a marinade has two purposes. The first is to infuse the meat with delicious flavor. The combination of ingredients within a marinade can vary widely in order to produce the desired flavor of the meat. The meat is generally placed within the marinade while it is still raw and left to soak up its flavors from anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours.

The second purpose of marinade is to tenderize the meat. This is why the acid (whether it’s a vinegar, a citrus, or alcohol) is one of the most important parts of a marinade. The acid in the marinade interacts with the connective tissues in the meat. This interaction causes the tissues to break down, tenderizing the meat.

With marinade, extremely tough cuts of meat can be marinated for hours in order to create a tender, juicy cut of meat. However, it is possible to over marinate a cut of meat (especially cuts that are already on the tender side, such as chicken or fish) so it’s important to keep an eye on the clock.


Unlike a marinade, rubs only have one purpose: to give flavor to the meat. A rub is a mixture of spices, herbs, and seasonings. In general, rubs are dry and are mixed with a liquid ingredient (such as oil) in order to stick to the meat. Rubs are placed on the meat when it’s still raw, and can be either put on directly before cooking or, like a marinade, be left on for a period of time to intensify the flavor. Because rubs do not have an acid in them, they don’t break down the meat like a marinade.

Both rubs and marinades are delicious additions to any meat. But they make a big difference in the level of tenderness and flavor you’re looking for. Now the next time you go out with your friends to the grill, you’ll be more prepared.

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