When smoking meat to delicious perfection, most professionals apply either a dry rub, a sauce or both. But dry rubs and sauces perform differently and achieve results distinct from each other. So, what's the difference between the two?
Consisting of dried spices, sugars and salts, dry rubs flavor the meat itself. As the spices soak in over the course of the slow cooking procedure, the flavors become an integral feature of the meat or fish. It also transforms from a coating of loose grains into a crusty layer called a "bark." This bark acts as a seal to keep the juices from flowing out, leaving a shriveled, dry product behind.
Depending on the ingredients of the dry rub, one of two processes brings about the bark.
In one situation, the salt in the rub draws moisture and meat protein to the surface. Then, the proteins bind together to create a uniform crust full of flavor. With sugar-based rubs, the sugar crystals will melt together to form the sealing bark.
Some barbecue dishes take well to sauces, and, sometimes, both a dry rub with a side of sauce will please your palate the best.
Because sauces bring their own liquid to the cooking process, they tend to caramelize quickly. Thus, the application should wait until just the right moment to avoid disaster.
The spices in sauces are meant to add complementary flavor to an already cooked, or nearly completed, meat. Because sauces remain on top of the meat and aren't taken in and incorporated, they act as a condiment more than a meat ingredient. Therefore, whether you smoke, roast or barbecue the meat with a dry rub, the sauce should carry a different flavor profile to enhance the taste of the dry rub without matching or menacing it.
When a higher heat, shorter cook time is called for, it's tempting to add the barbecue sauce too soon. But for best results, you should wait until about five minutes before the meat is finished, then brush on the sauce. Applied to soon, and the sauce may burn and blacken in the heat. Once that happens, it tends to flake off, rendering the entire operation something of a waste.
Although good sauces can turn unseasoned slow-cooked or barbecued meat into award-winning dishes, dry rubs become one with the meat. Ordinary beef, pork, chicken, and fish take on distinction from the inside with a dry rub so that sauces may seem superfluous to the existing flavor.
While both dry rubs and sauces create unique flavors, it's really the smoker that can make or break your recipes. You can experiment with your rub and sauce recipes until you hit the jackpot, but only when you use the right equipment will your creations come out consistently delicious every day. Cookshack has perfected the art of smoking over the past 50 years and confidently offers the best smokers and other restaurant cooking equipment. See what our customers have to say, then pick out the best smoker for your operation today!