It’s all about the moisture. Adding more, losing less, and ultimately ending up with a piece of juicy, succulent meat that will melt in your mouth rather than stick to the roof of it.
During cooking meat loses about 30% of its weight. The beauty of soaking your meat in a brine solution made up of salt, sugar and water is that you can reduce that loss of moisture by almost half.
When you brine, meat absorbs the salty liquid into its muscle fibers. The salt causes the breakdown of some of the proteins in the cells. At this point the cells will draw in and hold more water than they would have normally. Inevitably, when you cook the meat, the proteins will tighten up and squeeze some of the juices out. However, the overall result will be less moisture loss which equates to more juicy goodness at the table.
Here are some basic keys to brining. Remember that everything is adjustable because no cut of meat is the same, and the final flavor will need to suit your individual taste. Your possibilities are endless.
Some liquid options can be water, stock, apple cider, beer or any combination there of.
You can add any number of herbs and extras depending on the flavor you are going for…oregano, sage, thyme, rosemary, garlic, onion, peppercorns and the list could go on and on.
You will also find sugar as a key ingredient as well. Without the sugar, the meat may taste more salty-with the same amount of salt. The sugar decreased the perception of saltiness without making it taste sweet. Keep in mind that these flavors will be subtle.
Salt measurements will also differ depending on the kind of salt you use. A rule of thumb seems to be 1 cup of Diamond Crystal Kosher salt is equivalent to ¾ cup of Morton Kosher salt which is equivalent to ½ cup of Table salt.
Here are the critical ingredients:
|Turkey (one whole bird)||1 1/2 cups Morton Kosher salt for every 2 gallons of water. Add an equal to slightly smaller amount of white or brown sugar. Brine 10 to 18 hours.|
|Chicken (one whole bird)||1/2 cup Morton Kosher salt for every gallon of water. Add an equal to slightly smaller amount of white or brown sugar. Brine approximately 2 hours for every pound of chicken.|
|Pork Chops (two chops 1-2 inches thick)||3 Tablespoons Morton Kosher salt for every 4 cups of water. Add an equal amount of white or brown sugar. Brine a minimum of 4 hours up to overnight.|
You can easily dissolve small portions of salt in cold water without the need to heat the water, like in my Brined Pork Chops with Balsamic Onion Glaze. Working with larger quantities of salt and adding aromatics that you want to infuse the liquid with may require boiling a portion of the liquid. Always return liquid to room temperature or colder before adding the meat.
I find it easiest to brine in a large resealable plastic bag. You can find sizes large enough for brining whole turkeys in specialty stores like Williams Sonoma.
The meat must be completely submerged in the liquid.
Always brine in the refrigerator or if needed in an ice chest with plenty of ice to keep the meat below 40 degrees.
Once brining time is complete make sure to rinse meat thoroughly and pat dry.
Never add additional salt to the recipe after brining.
For crispier skin, you may need to refrigerate without covering the meat for a few hours after you remove it from the brine.
Meats that have been brined tend to cook more quickly, so make sure to have a thermometer at hand and check regularly!
Follow these tips, and you should be set to wow your family with some amazingly mouthwatering meals.