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BBQ Rubs vs. Marinades vs. Sauces: What Are They and How to Use Them

Everyone knows that BBQ rubs, sauces and marinades are all vital to cooking tender and flavorful meat. Yet what are the differences between the three, and when is the best time to use each one?

BBQ Rubs

A rub generally refers to a dry spice that is “rubbed” onto the meat before it is cooked. The dry rub seasons the meat while creating a crust that seals all the juices inside. This results in a crispy outside and tender, juicy inside.

Rubs are typically made with salt, sugar and paprika as the foundation of the blend, and then just about any variety of spices and herbs can be added to it depending on flavor preferences. At Fahrenheit 250 BBQ, we dry rub all our meats before smoking them for 16 hours with a simple rub made of salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder and onion powder.

Rubs are best used when cooking with dry heat as any type of liquid will cause the rub to become sticky. The best way to use a rub is to apply the rub to the surface of the meat before searing on a hot grill or throwing the meat into a smoker.

BBQ Marinades

Similar to a rub, marinades are used to tenderize and flavor the meat before the cooking process. The biggest difference between a rub and a marinade is that the marinade combines dry spices with liquids. The meat must sit in this mixture for up to several hours to allow the flavor to soak in. Marinades work well with meat that dries out easily, such as chicken or pork.

Most marinades combine acids, spices and juices. The enzymes in the juices and the acids help the meat to break down. The spices add flavor. Combine a mixture of acid, oil and juice with spices to create a marinade that will make your meat tender and flavorful.

Marinating meats is typically best when you have a short amount of cooking time and want to infuse flavors into your meats. Since we slow-smoke our meats for over 12 hours at Fahrenheit 250 BBQ, we don’t marinate our meats because that would overpower the rich smoky flavor that makes barbecue so good.

BBQ Sauces

BBQ sauces add flavor and texture to meat during and after the cooking process. BBQ sauces can be used as a marinade or as a dipping sauce for the meat during the meal.

We believe that good, smoked meat can stand on its own, so we serve our meats unsauced and let you flavor them to taste from our selection of four sauces: Signature BBQ Sauce, Spicy BBQ Sauce, Kentucky Mustard and Carolina Vinegar.

Be the Pitmaster at Home

Want to see how it all comes together for yourself? Try one of our Fahrenheit 250 Rib Kits, which lets you make your own St. Louis-style ribs at home. Each kits includes a rack of ribs (about 3 lbs), one pint of sauce of your choice, one tin of Fahrenheit 250 BBQ Rub and cooking instructions.


From the Restaurant to Private Events & Catering we serve our BBQ throughout Northern California.