Rubs, marinades and brining are all great ways to enhance the flavor of meat, but they are very different in both the way that people apply them and the type of taste that they will add. Mastering these methods of seasoning will help people get exactly what they want out of their meat.
A rub is basically a combination of salt, sugar and spices though it is possible to make a rub with only salt or sugar depending on the taste that a person would like to get. Most people are familiar with barbecue rubs that are used to make tougher cuts of meat more tender in addition to adding flavor. Rubs often need to sit for a period of time in order to penetrate the meat, but how long will depend on the type of cut that is being seasoned and the seasoning itself. Rubs that rely mostly on sugar and salt will need to sit for longer whereas those that are composed of mostly herbs can be applied right before cooking. In addition, rubs on heartier and larger cuts can require a very long time to get the most out of the flavor, but lighter meats like chicken or fish need much less.
People should keep in mind that the dried spices used in rubs can be very powerful, and it is relatively easy to add so much of one ingredient that it takes over the flavor. It is also very important to never wrap up or seal meat after a rub has been applied. It is best to store rubbed cuts uncovered in the refrigerator. If they must be covered, people should make sure to use a container that is more than twice as large as the meat itself and never seal it completely.
Brines are relatively simple combinations of sugar, water, salt and sometimes vinegar that are dissolved in boiling water. These add a subtle flavor to meat and can go a long way in helping to tenderize tougher cuts. When brining, it is essential to pay attention to the size of the cut as this dictates the amount of time that the meat needs to stay in the brine. Smaller cuts like chicken breasts only need to sit in the brine over night whereas larger pieces should be brined for several days.
The great thing about brines is that the flavor they add is very subtle, and this means people can get away with putting just about anything that they want in them. However, it is always best to never salt meat after it is brined. In addition, white vinegar should never be used when making a brine. However, people can feel free to use apple cider vinegar or any other variety that they choose.
Marinades are used to add bolder tastes to meat, and they can be one of the more difficult seasonings to prepare. This is because they are composed entirely of things that add flavor, and marinades need to be properly balanced to ensure that one ingredient does not overpower the rest. In fact, good marinades have four main features that include balance, sweetness, acid and flavor. Flavor refers to the taste that people want their meat to have. Acid adds flavor and can help to tenderize the meat, and sweetness will give the dish some caramelization in addition to enhancing the flavor. Marinades should never contain too much water or oil as this will make the seasoning thinner and the flavor diluted.