What IS Brining?
In cooking, brining is a process similar to marination in which meat or poultry is soaked in brine before cooking. Equal parts sugar and salt is added to cold water in a container, where the meat is soaked usually six to twelve hours. The amount of time needed to brine depends on the size of the meat. More time is needed for a large turkey compared to a broiler fryer chicken. Similarly with a large roast versus a thin cut of meat.
Brining makes cooked meat moister by hydrating the cells of its muscle tissue before cooking, via the process of osmosis, and by allowing the cells to hold on to the water while they are cooked, via the process of denaturation. The brine surrounding the cells has a higher concentration of salt than the fluid within the cells, but the cell fluid has a higher concentration of other solutes. This leads salt ions to diffuse into the cell, whilst the solutes in the cells cannot diffuse through the cell membranes into the brine. The increased salinity of the cell fluid causes the cell to absorb water from the brine via osmosis. The salt introduced into the cell also denatures its proteins. The proteins coagulate, forming a matrix that traps water molecules and holds them during cooking. This prevents the meat from dehydrating.
Thanks to Wikipedia for the above info!
*You can brine any proteins (or even vegetables) that you’d like, but I recommend it most with poultry. A good brine will yield the moist, succulent kind of meat that every cook is looking for. Here is a simple brine recipe that you can use for any meat:
Basic Brine Ingredients:
- 1 gallon warm (not hot) water
- 3/4 cup kosher salt
- 2/3 cup sugar
Combine all ingredients in a large pot or bowl and whisk together until the salt and sugar is dissolved. Submerge meat in the liquid and place in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or overnight. Once the brining process is complete, take the meat out of the liquid, strain off liquid and dry well with a towel.
*Some brines contain herbs, spices, vinegars and citrus. You are welcome to find any recipe or try anything you like to infuse flavors into your food through brining. This Basic Brine recipe is just a jumping-off point– the possibilities are endless. Believe me though, once you brine, you’ll never go back!