Since the beginning of time, people have been brining their meats, fish and poultry as a means of food preservation during time where modern efficiency had not yet been invented. In addition to preservation, the objective in brining is to ultimately add flavor, maximize tenderness, and reduce cooking time. There has been a lot of mixed reviews on whether brining is in fact necessary when cooking certain meats. The answer in short is, no it’s not required to make a delicious meal by any means. However, it does improve greatly on the quality of the meal, we we’re willing to bet you’ll notice the difference.
The chemistry behind brining is actually pretty simple. Meat already contains salt water. By immersing meats into a liquid with a higher concentration of salt, the brine is absorbed into the meat. This in turn causes the meat to hold more liquid when it’s cooking, causing it to become moist and much more juicy. The meat will also soak up any flavors that are added to the brine, which is another reason people tend to favor this method above basting or seasoning.
The process of brining is actually fairly simple. Combine one cup of table salt (no iodine or other additives) and one gallon of water. Bear in mind that this may need to be adjusted depending on the size and weight of your meat. Another common misconception is that brining requires a lot of preservation time and although you have the ability to store your food for a longer period of time, it’s absolutely not necessary to “over brine”. The standard time for single brine is 24 hours, with an increase of 6-12 hours for larger birds or meat.
Although the basis of any brine is a simple saline solution, adding flavors to your liquid can really help infuse the meat and contribute to the overall flavor of the dish and is highly recommended for an extra kick in your recipe. Try these ideas if your new to brining and don’t be afraid to get innovative with mixing and matching different herbs and spices.
Brining Dont’s- With any cooking method, there are common mistakes to avoid in order ensuring that your meet comes out in the best quality possible. For poultry, avoid stuffing your bird after it’s been brined as the juices concentrate in the cavity and will over season the stuffing. Instead, bake it along side and serve it up as a tasty side dish. When making gravy, avoid adding extra salt, as it will overpower the saltiness of brined meat making it inedible. Instead use a few teaspoons of pan drippings to enhance your gravy’s flavor. Finally, due to the high salt content of the brine solution, it’s helpful to add 1-2 teaspoons of sugar to your mixture, as the sodium content will still remain very high.
This Thanksgiving, why not try a brine? Experiment with different flavors and come up with a few of your favorites. We guarantee you’ll never season the same way again!
Simple and Easy Brining Recipes
4 teaspoons kosher salt
1-teaspoon black pepper
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons kosher salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 carrot, peeled, diced
1 large onion, peeled, diced
1/4 cup diced celery
2 large sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
Garlic and Herb Dry Brine
(No brining necessary but with the same effect,
Rub all over meat, cover and chill for 6 hours)
10 sprigs thyme
6 sprigs sage
4 sprigs rosemary
4 large cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons celery seeds
½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
½ cup kosher salt
2 tablespoons sugar
Citrus Thyme Brine
½ medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed
1 bay leaf
½ cup kosher salt
¼ cup (packed) light brown sugar
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 orange, halved
1 lemon, halved
4 sprigs thyme