Everything You Need To Know About Brining Meat Everything You Need To Know About Brining Meat

Everything You Need To Know About Brining Meat

Did you know, meat loses about 30 percent of its weight while cooking? There is nothing worse than biting into a dry, flavorless piece of your favorite chicken, turkey, or pork chop. Thankfully, there is a long renowned tradition to keep that piece of meat as flavorful and tender as that perfect golden recipe photo shows. Brining was originally used for food preservation in the pre-refrigeration era. However, there are two necessary reasons why you should brine your meat in the 21st-century: flavor and texture.

 

What is Brining?

Soaking meat in a solution of water and salt, known as a brine, allows both water and salt to enter the meat, adding moisture and flavor. Brining is an easy, two ingredient technique that submerges the meat in a salt water solution before cooking or grilling. You are essentially marinating the meat in salt water, herbs, spices, and other aromatics. Before purchasing a piece of meat to brine, check the label to make sure it hasn't already been injected with a salty solution. Brining meat should happen at least 12 hours in advance of when you want to cook the meat and can be done with water, salt, and sugar or a dry brine using a variety of herbs and spices.

 

Is Brining the same thing as Marinating?

While marination and brining are a pivotal part of the grilling process, they do not work interchangeably. Marinating tenderizes and adds flavor to the surface of the protein, where brining increases the tenderness and allows the meat to retain its moisture. However, by brining the meat you can reduce marination time substantially. While brining doesn’t replace marinating, using a combination of techniques can actually be even faster, and yield a more delicious meal.

 

Why Do you Brine your Meat Before cooking?

Brining protects lean cuts of meat as they cook. Brining meat also allows the moisture to stay inside, and absorbs the liquid. This keeps the cut of meat tender and well rounded. To infuse your meat with extra flavor, throw some extra spices and aromatics into your brine that will complement the finished dish. Some dishes call to add beer, coffee, tea, and other liquids, this does not replace the salt water, but acts as an additional active ingredient.

 

What Meat Should be brined?

Leaner and drier cuts have benefited from brining because they don’t have a lot of fat to account for flavor or moisture. Meats like turkey, chicken, and pork chops are great candidates given their consistency to dry out or become tough. Red fatty meats like steak are not the best to be brined. Never brine a kosher, self-basting, or enhanced turkey—these types of turkeys are already treated with salt, so brining them could render them inedible.

 

Person cutting into a brined cooked turkey How Long does it Take to Brine meat?

A general rule of thumb is to leave your meat in its brine for roughly one hour per pound. So for a 12 to 14 pound Thanksgiving turkey, an overnight brine in salt and water or with a flavorful dry rub will do the trick. Smaller cuts like pork chops or chicken breast for weeknight dinners take far less time and are typically ready to be cooked in 1/2 hour to an hour.

 

How to Wet Brine Meat?

The basic ratio for any wet brine is one cup of kosher salt to one gallon of water. Make sure to fully dissolve the salt in the water. Add some fresh herbs such as rosemary, thyme, smashed garlic, and peppercorns to infuse flavor into your salt water brine. Keep an eye on the clock—if you leave your brine in too long the meat will become soggy, and turn into mush.

Once you add the protein to the brine, if the protein starts to rise and float on the surface of the liquid, place a plate or something similar on top to weigh it down.

 

Assorted spices on a light wooden table What is Dry Brining?

Dry brining, also called pre-salting yields the same result as wet brining! Dry brining is similar to a wet brine, without the – you guessed it – water. Coating the meat in a salty dry brine allows the moisture to stay locked in while cooking. The salt draws out moisture which causes it to dissolves, leaving your meat glowing from the new submerged moisture. Dry brining is also the easier cleaner alternative than a wet brine. Get the same great taste and texture without all the hassle!

 

How to Dry Brine meat?

General dry brining technique calls for 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt per pound of meat, plus whatever other dried herbs and spices you so choose. Pound everything down into a sandy texture, then rub it overwhelmingly on the meat. Unlike a wet brine, dry brining a piece of meat takes a little longer. Place the meat in a very sturdy Ziploc bag and refrigerate for one to 2 days. Pat down meat dry and allow it reach room temperature prior to cooking or grilling.

Pro tip: Adding a large pinch of sugar to your dry brine will help the meat caramelize as it cooks. 

 

General Brining Tips and Tricks

You're almost ready to brine! Here are some quick general tips and tricks to help you dish up a successful and moist meal.

  1. Do not brine kosher meat, as it has already been salted as part of the standard process.

  2. Do not brine if you plan on deep frying as a cooking method.

  3. You can brine any size. The key is to ensure you have the right size container and enough brine to keep things fully submerged.

  4. If you purchased a turkey or other poultry with a pop-up timer, leave it in place. If removed, the timer will leave a hole for juices to escape

  5. Peppercorns, garlic cloves, dried herbs, whole spices, citrus or other fruit, mirepoix or fruit juice, are all great additions to both dry and wet brines.

Pro tip: If your meat has skin on it, drain it, then pat dry a few hours before cooking time, and leave in the fridge, uncovered. It will end up juicy and tender, with shatteringly crisp skin that becomes beautifully golden brown when you cook the meat.

 

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