Category: Tips & Guides

Northern Smoke rub

It’s easy to get “rubbed” the wrong way, but getting “rubbed” the RIGHT way can make ALL the difference when it comes to the outcome of your outdoor grilling, barbecuing and roasting.

Just what is a rub?

Rubs are topical applications of herbs, spices and (sometimes) salt that add flavor and a distinctive “crust” to meat, poultry and fish. The whole idea and “culture” of those who use rubs is to add an additional layer of flavor and or texture that would be absent if a rub were not used.

Do rubs make meat more tender?

Yes and no…mostly no. Most rubs contain only herbs, spices and salts and no chemical “tenderizers” that might break down connective tissues and make the meat more tender. Their use is primarily for taste. The “yes” part is that rubs can help seal in juices, so they can indirectly make meats more tender by preventing them from being too dry.

What is the difference between rubs and marinades?

Simply stated, marinades are the liquid versions of rubs. They generally have an acidic ingredient like lemon juice, vinegar or even soy sauce in the recipe, which can break down fibrous meat tissues over time. Marinades can both flavor and tenderize.

Which is better, and when should I choose one over the other?

Both rubs and marinades can be used in most any application to some degree, yet there are specific outcomes you can expect from each one.


Generally speaking, rubs are preferred for tender meats like steaks and chops and our Nino’s own Northern Smoke BBQ Rub is a great choice for such meats. Pork spareribs/baby back ribs fall somewhere in the middle, and both can be used successfully.

The flavor of the rub generally doesn’t penetrate deeply into the meat tissue; therefore, it doesn’t alter the flavor of the greatest percentage of the meat. What it does is add a wonderful surface flavor and allow the meats to brown and crisp on the outside while sealing in the juices (and flavor) on the inside.


When marinades are chosen for steaks and chops, the length of marinating is brief, and the marinade is often brushed on the product as it is cooking to create additional flavor and color. More typically, marinades are preferred for their tenderizing characteristics with tough meats like flank steak (London broil) or briskets. A very famous recipe called Sauerbraten marinates the Eye of the Round and then creates a delicious sauce from the marinade.

If you’d like more information about rubs and marinades and the steaks and meats you can enjoy them with, check out Nino’s:

Which do you prefer for your grilled steak? Rubs or marinades? 

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