Most people that do light cooking or no cooking at all think that any type of liquid that you coat meat with before cooking is a marinade. There are actually two different types of flavor enhancers when we are dealing with liquids.
- A Brine
- A Marinade
A Brine is a salty and sweet liquid that you soak meat in to add flavor to it and to keep it more moist during the cooking process. You usually use a brine for either paltry or pork because both types of meat tend to dry out when cooked for a long period of time. The most universally understood example of this is when a cook will brine a turkey before cooking it for Thanksgiving. A brine can be as simple as water + salt + sugar, or it could be as complex as apple juice + salt + honey + herbs. The main point of a brine is to use osmosis to pull in salt and sugar into meat. Since the liquid outside of the meat has more salt and sugar, osmosis will balance out the environment and pull in salt and sugar into the meat while releasing water from the meat out into the liquid.
A Marinade must include some type of acid, whether it is in the form of lemon juice, vinegar, or even wine. Marinades can range from very liquid based (watery) to even a thick pasty type marinade that looks more like gravy. Marinades typically include some form of liquid, salt, sweetener, and acid. Marinades are usually used on just about any type of meat but usually not on seafood due to their delicate flavor. A marinade can be as simple as soaking meat in BBQ sauce (which contains water + salt + sugar + acid) or it could be as complex as beef broth + reduced red wine + honey + herbs. Marinades are meant to mainly add flavor to the meat, which is why a marinade typically includes more than just salt and sugar.