Brining

A Flavor Powerhouse

 

One of the most underutilized cooking, grilling and meat smoking tools is brining. Brining can enhance flavors, add a protective cushion to cooking times and make meat flavorful and juicy even when over cooked!

 

So what is brining anyway?

 

Brining is simply adding a salty liquid to the meat which penetrates the meat. You may use either a plain salt, water and sugar brine or one with added herbs and spices. Salt will actually expand the meats protein molecules allowing it to hold more water, which in turn gives you a juicier end product. Adding herbs and spices to your brine allows the flavors to penetrate the meat while the molecules are still open. Why not pull all your favorite spices in at the same time as the water? Brining also has a side effect of killing off harmful bacteria making it less likely to make you sick or worse kill you.

 

What do I need for a good brine?

 

Description: BrineBucketA container large enough to hold the meat and the water. I use a large empty Utz cheese ball container to brine chickens and small turkeys. It holds up to 12 pounds of chicken parts or up to a 18 pound turkey when split down the back or a 13 pound whole turkey. You may have to jiggle it around to get it in but it doesnít take up a lot of refrigerator space.

 

You can use any non reactive food grade container or even large vacuum sealed bags just make sure the meat is fully submerged! If you have a large empty spare refrigerator a 5 gallon pickle bucket tossed out from your local restaurant will work great for large pieces of meat.

 

A brine consists of three main ingredients. Water, Salt and sugar.

 

 

As with most recipes youíll want the best ingredients available. If you have chlorinated city wateryou may want to boil it first and let it sit over night to get rid of the chlorine taste. This is not really important as the flavor of the chlorine is not as obvious in brines as it is when brewing beer.

 

The second main ingredient is Salt. Sea salt, Kosher salt, pickling salt or flaked salt will work fine for this. I donít use Iodized salts for anything but common table salt but it may also be used here if you choose. Youíll need about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of salt per each gallon of water used. If you like your food salty you may add up to 1 full cup of salt.

 

The final main ingredient is sugar. Why sugar?I have found that salt can be very harsh.The sugar will offset the harness of the salt and add a bit of sweetness to the brine. Sugar also browns up nicely when baked, grilled or smoked! You want to add about an equal amount of sugar as youíve used salt. Sugar comes in many forms. You may use brown sugar, honey molasses, maple syrup, fruit juice sugar in any form.

 

Adding Spices. AsI mentioned earlier this is a good time to add additional spices which will flavor the meat. If you like the flavor of certain spices on your meat, try adding it to the brine water where it will be absorbed into the meat! I love adding things like garlic, basil, Cajun spice, and thyme to my brines. You know what you like throw it in there! Add about a tablespoon of those you really like.

 

How long Should I Brine?

 

Many people say that you canít over brine meat. I disagree.Thatís like saying you canít over salt your food.Through the process of osmosis the salt in the water will eventually equal the salt in the meat, but 1 cup of salt is an awful lot of salt! I donít want my birds that salty do you? Sothat being said - you can over brine. Some of us like salt more than others so you decide what level of saltiness you want in your food. I have done a lot of little experiments in brining and the results are listed below. The maximum recommended times for brining are as follows:

 

 

 

Meat

Time in hours

Chicken Breast Bone in

2-1/2

Chicken Breast Boneless

2

Chicken Whole Small

6 to 12

Chicken Whole Large

12 to 24

Turkey Breast Bone in

12 to 18

Turkey Breast Boneless

6 to 12

Turkey Whole 15 lbs.

24

Turkey Whole over 15 lbs

24 to 36

Pork Loin

12

Pork Shoulder

12 to 36

Pork Butt

12 to 36

Pork Chops

2

 

 

After brining for the allotted time rinse the food thoroughly in plain water to remove any excess salt and let it rest from 2 hours to overnight. Thatíll give the meat time to equalize the flavors and itíll taste even better.If you plan on adding any rubs or spices to the meat before cooking this is a good time to do it. Wrap the meat completely in plastic wrap and refrigerate over night for the best absorption of spices.

 

So what happens if you do over brine?

 

Are you stuck with to much salt? Not necessarily. You can rinse off the food and throw it back into some plain water to try and reduce the salt level. All of the salt canítbe removed but you can remove about half of the salt in the meat by soaking in plain water.

 

So what kind of brines should I Use for what types of meat?

 

As I mentioned previously Ė it can be as simple as water, salt and sugar and your favorite spices but I will list a few good basic ideas to get you started and if you really want to experiment you can download my eBook of brines here:††

DJ's Brining Book

 

 

For now letís start with a basic brine:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is best to take a cup or so of the brine water and boil it then add the other ingredients to the boiling water to dissolve them completely. Before adding it back to the remaining water cool it down to room temperature Ė you donít want to cook the meat!

 

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