Differences with Marinade, Brine, Spice Rub & Sauce

When it comes to cooking, you may be wondering about different ways to flavor your food. Are there specific ways to use a bottle of sauce versus a bottle of marinade? Is there a better way to use a specific ingredient to contribute to a better flavor profile? Here is a general overview of the differences and the recommended way to add them in your foods.

Marinades include an acid such as vinegar, wine or lemon juice, which helps tenderize meats.  Brown sugar, honey, or a sweetener is also added to create a caramelized coating during cooking. Marinades mainly affect the surface of the food and are used to soften textures. Since marinades don’t penetrate far into a cut of meat, they are best used for pork chops or steaks. Marinating must be done in a refrigerator. Marinate it for a minimum of 30 minutes or overnight if possible.

Brines are salty liquid solutions used for lean meats to hold in moisture and retain water. Lean meats have a lower fat content, so brines help them stay tender and juicy when cooking. This is a popular method to prepare turkey, poultry, and other meats that tend to dry out easily during the cooking process. Herbs, spices, and sugar are also added to the brines. When soaking the meat, make sure to use a container large enough to completely submerge the meat without having it float. Before cooking, rinse the meat to remove excess salt and discard the brine.

Spice Rubs are seasoning mixtures that help add spiced or smoked flavors. They typically contain a blend of herbs and spices. This is useful for larger cuts because not only does rub flavor the surface but also penetrates into the meat leading to more tenderness and rich flavors. Similar to a marinade, rub on raw meat and allow it to sit in the fridge until preparation time.

Sauce helps enhance flavor in dishes after cooking. It is often served as a side to meat, dessert, or other foods. A steak sandwich will be served with Au Jus and mashed potatoes with gravy. Some other examples of sauces served with foods are tomato sauce, hot sauce, hollandaise, or sour cream.