I recently posted an article on Butterflying and Grilling a whole chicken (https://cookingsecretsformen.com/2019/06/26/grilled-butterflied-chicken/), and casually mentioned something about a brining article would be posted soon. Well it’s now soon, so here is my take on brining.
The process of brining is not hard to do, just takes a little time and planning. You can’t decide at 5pm that you want to brine a chicken and have it for dinner that night.
Brining is the process of submerging a protein (Chicken, turkeys, pork, beef and/or lamb) in a brine solution, which is salt dissolved in water. The protein absorbs extra liquid and salt, resulting in a juicier and more flavorful dish. This technique is really good for leaner cuts of meat that tend to dry out during cooking, like chicken and turkey breasts and some pork chops. Just make sure when choosing your protein that it’s untreated. Avoid anything labeled “kosher,” “enhanced,” or “self-basting.” If you try to brine one of these you’ll end up with really salty meal.
In layman’s terms, when you submerge a protein in a brine, it absorbs the salt, which in turn, retains water. The salt-infused water saturates the meat. The water solution pumps up the amount of liquid in the protein by as much as 40 percent, but the salt also helps the muscles and connective tissues retain the liquid during cooking. (Salt is used to give processed meats a better texture. For example, hot dogs made without salt would be limp. Same principal applies to brining.)
I usually add sugar to the brine. Sugar has little if any effect on the texture of the meat, but it does add flavor and helps the browning of the skin. There is a difference in the type of salt used for brining. You will sometimes see both kosher and regular table salt in recipes that call for brining. Because of the difference in the size of the crystals, cup for cup, table salt is about twice as concentrated as kosher salt.
Even if you are in a hurry, you can brine your chicken, pieces or whole. A minimum of 30 minutes for pieces and an hour or two for a whole chicken. Of course, brining a chicken overnight is the best.
A Simple Brine
- A ratio of 4 quarts of water and
- 1 cup of kosher salt.
- ½ cup of sugar
- the peel of 1 lemon
- fresh garlic, crushed with skin left on
- One tablespoon of whole black peppercorns
- Fresh rosemary. (No need to chop herbs in a brine)
- Substitute for what you have on hand or prefer. Herbs and aromatics help flavor the brine
- You will eventually drain the brine, so leaving the peel on garlic and/or onions is actually preferred
- Bring water and all ingredients to a boil. Stir to dissolve the salt.
- Once dissolved, remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. You can put the pot in the fridge to speed up the cooling process. Or add ice.
- Do not put the chicken (or any protein) into a hot brine. You will end up cooking it prematurely.
- Once cooled sufficiently, place the chicken (or whatever you are brining) into the brine and refrigerate. Anywhere from 2-24 hours.
- A little trick to get crispy skin is to air dry the chicken after removing from the brine. After brining, take the chicken out, discard brine and rinse the chicken inside and out under cold water.
- Place it on a platter, pat it dry and place it back in the refrigerator for an hour to dry the skin.
- Take it out of the refrigerator an hour before grilling, smoking or roasting.
- Season the chicken with salt and pepper.
- Cook, eat and enjoy a juicier meal