marinades brines rubs

Back To Basics: Brines, Rubs, and Marinades

What’s the difference between brines, rubs, and marinades? All impart flavor to protein but in distinct ways. Here’s a refresher on each method.


Heat causes proteins to denature, resulting in shrinkage and moisture loss. A brine can help mitigate these losses by enhancing juiciness. A salty marinade in which proteins are submerged, brines create more flavorful and juicier meat. This technique is typically used when meat is cooked using dry heat. Lean cuts of pork or poultry get a flavor boost from brining before grilling, roasting, or sautéing; soak the meat in a 3-5% brine solution for a few hours or overnight to increase moisture retention and tenderize the meat. Don’t salt brined meat before cooking. Most brines have about 1 pound of salt per gallon of water and can contain other ingredients such as sugar, nitrates, herbs, and spices.


The marinating process entails submerging meat or poultry in liquid to season and tenderize the protein. It can be a simple blend or a complex recipe. Lean cuts of pork or poultry should be marinated in more flavorful mixtures for longer, while more delicate meats such as veal should be soaked in milder marinades for less time.


Fresh herbs and spices are ground up together and then slathered onto protein. The thicker the coating or longer it’s on the meat, the more pronounced the flavor. It should be covered, refrigerated, and turned while covered in rub. The flavor mixture can be used dried or mixed with oil, lemon juice, or garlic and ginger for a wet rub. Rubs and pastes often result in a crispy crust, but do not tenderize meat. Try spice rubs over marinades to maximize flavor in a shorter period of time.