What is the difference between spices & rubs?
If you love meat then you’ll know that as much as the quality of the meat is crucial, so is the seasoning that you choose to use.

Nowadays you’ll find a variety of salts, seasonings and rubs on the shelf as foodies, shoppers and producers realise that seasoning and marinade are key ingredients.

No doubt there were consumers out there who have wondered, what is the difference between a spice and a spice rub and are there any compelling reasons to choose one over the other? 

The one difference is that you’ll find that the spice rubs are usually inspired by flavours from countries with unique culinary profiles, ie, spicy, salty or scented.

For example, Robertson Spices recently launched a range of artisanal spice rubs, each one accented with a unique ingredient.

In this new range, there are rubs with flavour profiles from Morocco, Brazil, Asia, South Africa, Mexico and America, and ingredients such as Juniper Berries, Smoked Paprika, and Chipotle Flakes are key to the flavour.

The Robertson’s Brazillian rub.

So what is the difference between a spice and a rub?

Rubs are typically made with salt, sugar and paprika being the foundation of the blend, and then just about any variety of spices and herbs can be added depending on flavour preferences. It also generally contains larger sized dried herbs and vegetable particles and is easily identifiable and perceived more natural when compared to some seasoning blends.

When it comes to getting the best out of your meat then you should definitely choose a rub. They are good for slow-roasting when long cooking times tend to kill the flavour of finely ground spices. They add complex flavour when rubbed into protein and rested overnight before cooking.

If there’s one man who knows what to do with a premium cut of meat then it’s Stephen Mandes who heads up the kitchen at the Westin in Cape Town’s flagship restaurant - ON19. Mandes is also best known to foodies as the 2014 winner of the Ultimate Braai Master reality cooking show.

Stephan Mandes is a fundi when it comes to spice rubs.

“I use rubs if I want to get some extra flavour into a nice thick cut of meat. There is nothing wrong with salt and pepper but if you want some added spice or a specific flavour you’d want a dry or a wet rub. It is something cool to use.”

He believes that there is little difference between a spice and a rub because the one is an element in the other.

“In my mind spices are an element of a rub. In a sense, they are the same thing, but a rub is a few spices put together.”

No matter what you do when you’re seasoning your meat, the one key ingredient is to spend some time to think about every element and the flavour combination. The ideal would be, start off using the store bought spice rubs until you’ve settled on what flavours you love and then you can innovate and create your own spice rub.