Seasoning your meat for the grill is one of the essential steps in order to get an enjoyable final product. This step can be difficult for those who are new to the grilling arts. Brining and marinating are two terms that get used a lot on cooking shows and in barbecue forums. It is important that you know the difference between these two seasoning methods and understand the benefits and drawbacks of each. Let’s break it all down in another BBQ Showdown.
In what ways do brines differ from marinades?
The typical brine is a solution of salt and water. You place your meat in this solution so that it can absorb the water and be juicy when cooked. Even though the function of a brine is primarily to keep your meat from drying out, it can also have flavor components added to it. Along with salt, sugar may be added along with spices
A marinade is mainly about flavoring meat, not so much about keeping it moist. This means that its function is similar to that of a dry rub. Rubs consist entirely of dry ingredients, but a marinade is a liquid or a combination of liquid ingredients with dry ingredients. Think of it as a sauce for uncooked meat. Barbecue sauce can be used as both a marinade and as a sauce for the meat when cooked.
Another function of a marinade is to make meat more tender. The acids in a marinade can help to break down muscle fibers thus improving the texture.
Along with the above benefits, it is thought that marinades may be able to reduce the carcinogens in meat. In one study, chicken marinated in a solution containing vinegar was tested and the carcinogenic compounds were found to be greatly reduced.
What is the origin of brines and marinades?
Brines have their origin in the ancient practice of salting meat to preserve it without refrigeration. Meat was often soaked in a concentrated solution of salt to prevent bacterial growth and postpone spoilage. Marinades have a similar history in that they began as a method for preserving food. In Western Europe, marination began as a way to preserve meat using vinegar. The use of vinegar for preserving and flavoring meat made its way to Latin America in the 1500s. At around the same time, soy sauce was being used in parts of Asia for the same purpose.
Is one better for grilling or barbecue?
Both brining and marination are great for grilled meat. When used correctly, they can provide moisture and flavor; however, one method does happen to be more versatile than the other. A brine consists mostly of water so there is not much in it that might scorch or burn.
Marinades consisting of higher concentrations of sugar, soy sauce, or dried spices can scorch when placed over a high flame for an extended period. Marinated meats are therefore a little easier to cook slowly and at a low temperature than quickly and with high heat.
When should you use brines and when should you use marinades?
Because the main reason to brine meat is to add moisture to it, brining is best for meat that is more likely to dry out on the grill. Use it for poultry, especially chicken or turkey breast.
Marination is more about tenderness and flavor than about moisture, which means that it is best when used on tougher pieces of meat like flank steak.