Dry rubs and wet marinades have always been popular and I often get asked what I prefer – do I make a rub or make a paste – does it really matter?!…the ultimate question…to rub or not to rub?
Many cuisines across the world have adopted the technique of infusing flavour into their foods. Soaking your chosen meat in liquid, usually containing some sort of acid, tenderises the meat by breaking down tough tissue, making the end result melt in the mouth. Some meats need longer than others as the fibres are stronger, such as game, beef, pork and lamb. Most recipes that use a wet marinade usually call for at least 24 hours marinating, but any time you can give it is better than none at all. It’s important to know where the cut of meat comes from in the animal to understand where the toughest tissue will be. If it’s a hard working muscle you know that a longer soak will benefit the meat, as will slow cooking. Some of the best tenderisers are raw papaya, wine, citrus juice and yogurt. Adding just a small amount goes a long way, and you will notice the difference in every bite.
So what’s the benefit in a dry rub? They don’t tenderise the meat but instead allow flavour to penetrate deeper into the meat. Using dry heat during cooking is the favoured method of extracting these wonderful flavours. A good dry rub uses salt for flavour and sugar to help caramelise, and the rest is made up of herbs and spices. Every country in the world, and region for that matter, has their own unique blends so hunt around and see what you can find. They can liven up even the most boring mid week meal.
Whatever you prefer, rubs or marinades, make sure you rummage through that spice pantry, raid that ‘extras’ drawer in the fridge and get blending. In a time when we are all being austere and watching how we shop, rubs and marinades can create inexpensive flavour packed meals. You can have Tandoori Chicken one night and Sticky Chilli Chicken another. Mid week meals will never be the same again!