Demystifying Rubs and Sauces {Recipe: Lemon Pepper Grilling Rub}

Written by Kristen of Dine and Dish.

Warm weather is finally here, which means it is time to get up close and personal with your grill. When it comes to grilling do you like plain chicken, fish and beef, or do you prefer to get a little spicy with your meat? If plain is your norm, allow me to introduce you to the difference a dry rub, wet rub or sauce can bring to your grilled food.

Dry rubs, wet rubs and sauces are similar in nature but have three distinctive purposes. You may be wondering what the difference is between the three and how they are best used when grilling.

Dry Rubs

Dry rubs are exactly what the name suggests – a rub made with completely dry spices and seasonings. Dry rubs don’t add moisture to the meat, but instead will create a nice, crusty layer on the outside which locks the juices inside.

Dry rubs can be made ahead of time in bulk and if stored in an air-tight container, can be used whenever the mood strikes. Dry rubs are tasty on meats and are also great when sprinkled on vegetables prior to grilling.

Wet Rubs

Wet rubs are a blend of spices and seasonings with the addition of a liquid. Typically, the blend of seasonings and the liquid makes a paste, which is rubbed on the meat, which both adds moisture and seals in flavor at the same time.

The liquid in a wet rub is often oil, honey, liquor, citrus juice, mustard or sauce. Combined with spices and seasonings, a wet rub is perfect for meats that are cooked on a lower heat for a longer period of time.

TIP: Beware that oil and sugar-based wet rubs have a tendency to catch on fire if the heat is too high. Be sure to watch your meat carefully and turn the meat over at regular intervals to avoid charring.


Unlike dry and wet rubs, sauces have a primarily liquid base, with seasonings and spices blended in. Sauces can be used as a pre-grilling marinade or can be brushed on the meat as it is cooking. Sauces are especially good on cuts of meat that tend to get dry during the grilling process. Once a sauce or marinade has come in contact with the meat, it cannot be re-used because of contaminants.

Photo by Kristen Doyle

Dry rubs, wet rubs and sauces can add a completely different dimension to the meat you are grilling. If you are looking for a way to add some variety to your menu, rubs and sauces are a versatile solution you’ll be happy to discover.

Recipe: Zippy Lemon Pepper Rub

  • 2 Tablespoons lemon pepper seasoning
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon basil
  • 1 Tablespoon Kosher salt
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh black pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely minced

In a medium bowl, combine lemon pepper seasoning, lemon juice, lemon zest, basil, Kosher salt, fresh black pepper and garlic cloves.

Your rub is now ready to use!  I recommend gently rubbing the seasoning blend onto chicken that has been patted dry. Allow to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes prior to grilling.

What do you prefer to use when grilling… dry rubs, wet rubs or sauces?

About Kristen

Kristen Doyle is a mom of 4 young children and the face behind the food blog, Dine & Dish. Sharing recipes that are quick and simple to get on the table, Kristen’s goal is to provide a resource for others looking to simplify their lives in order to reconnect with their family, one meal at a time.

Subscribe For Free!

Like reading this post?
Get more delivered to your email inbox.


  1. Stacy Myers says

    We like dry rubs best. I like that I can make them ahead of time and keep them to use when the mood strikes. Good explanation!

  2. Thanks for the informative post, I’ll pass it along on Twitter 🙂

  3. We use all of the above at my house. Not necessarily at the same time, but I guarantee if there is a brisket involved there will be a dry rub massaged into the meat, then wet rubbed and resting tightly in cellophane in the frig. and drenched in sauce right off of the heat. Hey, its Texas!

    I love to give an assortment of homemade dry rubs for gifts. Hey…Father’s Day is coming! Gift idea!!

  4. There’s one dry rub that I really like (cumin, chili, thyme, cinnamon, black pepper, paprika, brown sugar) and I find that’s what I go back to again and again. I try new ones, but this is still our tried and true favorite. Maybe I’ll give yours a try, though. It does look really fresh…

  5. The lemon pepper rub sounds really good! I just got some Himalayan pink salt and a Himalayan salt slab from Sustainable Sourcing and I’ll have the use the salt in this rub and grill on the slab this weekend. Thanks for the tips!

  6. I have to admit. I like to use the dry rub mix and add oil, vinegar (sometimes), and water to make it like a marinade and then freeze it all in a ziplock bag with the meat. Then when I am ready to grill or use that meal I just have to thaw and use.

  7. I use all three kinds, but lately seem to be leaning more towards wet rubs. I’m anxious to give your recipe a try. I’m always looking for a new twist on chicken, and I love all things lemon.

Speak Your Mind