Brining…The Dos and the Don’ts

Here’s the down low on brining, minus my nervous Facebook live performance HA HA!

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Why brine?

The short of it is, that brining lean cuts of meat and poultry adds flavor and keeps the meat tender and juicy. It makes a notable difference in the end result of your food. It’s those little extra steps that deliver a big bang for your efforts in both your kitchen and on your table.

Brining allows additional moisture to make its way into the muscle tissues of the meat by a process of diffusion and osmosis. The muscle tissue swells and hold more water and any aromatics, herbs or seasonings that are added will fuse themselves deep into the meat. I’m not going to get all “sciency” about this, but if you would like to know more, there is a wealth of information available on the internet <smile>.

The common ration for brine is 4 Tbsps of Kosher salt to 4 cups of water. If you are using table salt or a finer grained salt, add less as this effects the volume of salt. Due to the coarseness of Kosher salt there is actually less salt in 4 tablespoons as in a finer grained salt (ie; table salt).

Dry Brine is quicker and easier and simply means to dry rub your chosen meat with a mix of salt, aromatics and in some cases sugar. It works great is you are pressed for time and don’t want to go to the trouble of making a wet brine. It’s perfect for smoking meats in a smoker and works well to prep duck legs for duck confit.

Wet Brine insures evenly juicy and moist meat but is more time consuming. It also allows the flavors of any spices, herbs or aromatics to steep into your brining solution which equals MORE flavor! And who doesn’t want that?

The Dos
Do insure your brine has completely cooled (fridge cold) before adding your meat.
Do use a non reactive container to brine in, glass or stainless steel.
Do completely cover your desired meat completely in brine.
Do place in the refrigerator immediately for the entire brining process.
Do completely rinse the brine off and pat dry before cooking.

The Don’ts
Don’t place use room temperature or lukewarm brine! * This is the danger zone for bacterial growth!
Don’t reuse your brine…for anything! Throw it out once you’re finished with it!

A few more words, brining can take as little as 30 minutes for something like shrimp. Smaller cuts or pieces of poultry do not require as much brining time as something like a turkey. On the conservative side, my thoughts are that 2-4 hours is sufficient for something like chicken thighs, whereas a whole chicken can go 12 hours and a turkey up to two days. My recommendation would be to start on the lower end of bringing time, see how you like it and go from there. There is no coming back from over brining!

Adding sugar to brine brings in a nice touch for poultry and pork, the ratio for sugar is 1/8 of a cup per liter of water. If you plan on cooking at a high heat note that the higher the sugar content the quicker it will burn. You can reduce accordingly or omit entirely.

Here are a few favorites I like to add to my brine, it’s really a matter of figuring our what flavors you like and go from there. You can be creative and enjoy the process! You can also add vinegar to your brine.
Bay leaf, peppercorns, fresh thyme, parsley, lemon, orange, juniper berries, garlic, onions, celery, etc.

Have you done much brining outside of maybe a Turkey? I’d love to hear about it and what you like to flavor your brine with.

Here’s a link to that dammed Facebook live video where I talk all about it – please disregard the over use of “umm” and “so” – All that’s left to do is laugh…

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