Q: What’s the difference between a barbecue sauce and a rub? Which one do I want?
A: These special touches have been the deciding factor in many a grill-off. The juicier barbecue sauce is often tomato- or ketchup-based and can include a whole range of other ingredients (brown sugar, bourbon, coffee and cola have all been cited as secret ingredients in certain circles). A “finishing sauce” is a concoction that is slathered on in the last 10 to 20 minutes—and it’s often more sugary. Please note, a sugary sauce should never be put on before then because it will burn.
A rub, on the other hand, is a dry blend of herbs and spices. (If you add a little oil or, say, orange juice, you’ve got yourself a “wet rub.”) These wonderful, easy-to-throw together seasonings sit on the surface of the food, forming a delightful crust. Paprika, garlic, coriander and cumin make an excellent rub. Or you could go further East with garlic, lemongrass, basil, cilantro and cayenne.
The best part of grilling is that there are no rules, so just choose the option that goes best with your cuisine and tastes.