My wife and I are planning to have friends over for a barbecue. I plan on barbecuing some steaks, chicken pieces and shrimp. I'd like to know more about dry rubs for barbecue. How do you use them correctly, and are they better than using a marinade? Also, should I use different dry rubs for each item?
It is our opinion that it is better to use a dry rub instead of a marinade for grilled food. Let's break down the real purpose of each. A marinade basically has two functions. One is to tenderize a tough piece of meat.
We're guessing that you are planning to serve halfway decent cuts of meat for your party, so there is no need for tenderizing your food.
Another function of a marinade is to change the basic strong flavor of certain foods like game or oily fish - these weren't on your menu.
Rubs are crucial for preparing slow, true barbecue, but they also can give your steaks, chicken and shrimp a perfect, caramelized, slightly sweet and spicy, beautifully colored crust. At the same time, a rub is going to produce a great, rich flavor contrast to the interior of your meats that will explode in your guests' mouths. Need we say more?
And, yes, you should use different rubs for different items. Each rub can be tailored to complement the food you are cooking.