Have you ever had a piece of turkey or chicken that was bland or dry? So much so that is like chewing on a hockey puck? That’s because that home cook didn’t know about brine.
Brine, in its simplest form, is a solution of salt and water. Have you ever noticed that meat shrinks when you cook it? That’s because it’s losing moisture. When you brine protein, the meat soaks up that extra moisture (which also makes this a great way to flavor your meat, kind of like a marinade). Adding that moisture ensures that you will not lose as much of the natural moisture during the cooking process. It’s all very scientific and has to do with proteins and fibers and binding – I don’t know, I’m not a scientist, but trust me THIS WORKS!
How long you brine a protein depends on its size. For example a chicken can brine for up to six hours whereas a turkey will take closer to 24 hours. Some other protein to try this on includes fish, shrimp, and pork, which take even less time to brine. The solution should cover the whole of the meat, and it should be kept refrigerated the entire time it is brining (I brine my Turkeys in a clean garbage bag, due to its size, and flip it every eight hours to ensure even absorption – just make sure it’s not one of those scented bags).
Salt and water are the two essential ingredients in any brine. You can also add dried herbs, whole peppercorns, vinegar, sugar, chicken broth, etc. Although the amount of salt being added to every brine seems frightening, properly brined met should NOT taste salty. I have included a simple chicken brine recipe below. Happy brining!
Chicken Brine Recipe
- 1 gallon water
- 1 cup kosher salt
- 10 bay leaves
- 1 head of garlic, cloves individually smashed with peel left on
- 2 tablespoons black peppercorn
- 1 bunch thyme
- 1 bunch parsley
- ¼ cup of light brown sugar
- Juice and zest of two lemons
Combine all ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Stir and keep boiling until the salt dissolves (2 minutes). Remove from heat, and allow to thoroughly cool. Once cooled down, add some ice, pour over the chicken, cover and refrigerate for up to six hours (no less than 4 hours). Before cooking, rinse the chicken thoroughly with cold water, discard brine, and pat the chicken dry with paper towels.