All about brining; what it is, when to do it, how to do it.
|Brining; What it is.
Brining has big scientific explanations as to how it works and why it works. If you are interested in the scientific aspects, just google it. You will get more scientific information than you ever wanted to know, possibly confusing you further on the subject. To simplify it all, I will give you a more basic explanation:
When raw meat is placed into a brining solution, the salt and sugar contained in the brine is higher than that of the meat. The brine will then begin to permeate the cells of the meat. The increased salt and sugar within the cells of the meat will draw more water into it. The proteins within the meat will change in a way that allows the additional water to become trapped inside the cells of the meat. The cooking process creates a reaction in the meat, due to the salt and protein action, which prevents the escape of the additional moisture. Thus, you are practically guaranteed a deliciously moist and tender final product, even if it ends up slightly over-cooked.
Another marvelous benefit of brining is that it enables you to add a splash of flavor to the meat internally, if you so choose. This is accomplished by adding seasonings, flavorings and sauces directly into your brining solution before you begin the brining process. By doing this, the liquid that is absorbed into the meat is infused with the flavors of your additions to the solution. The options for this are seemingly endless. I will share more on this in a moment.
Brining; When to do it.
Brining is perfect for use with meats that can tend to be dry once cooked, such as; chicken, turkey and pork. I even use it for beef, especially when making fajita's! Trust me on this, you cannot go wrong by brining these meats. If you try it just once, you may be like me, in that you will never cook these types of meats again, without first brining them! It doesn't really matter how you are going to prepare these meats (grilled, roasted, stuffed and baked, fried ... you get the idea), the results will be amazing.
Brining; How to do it.
It is a pretty simple process really. Once the salt and sugar have dissolved completely and you have your solution mixed thoroughly, simply add the meat, being sure it is completely submerged in the brine. After this it is just a matter of waiting for the process to complete. The minimum time for this is 30 minutes, however, you may gain more benefit by allowing it to sit for 1 to 3 hours. This is especially true if you have added any seasonings, flavorings or sauces to the brine. Waiting a bit longer provides for a better opportunity for the flavors to be more fully absorbed. You can also allow your meat to brine over night in the refrigerator, ensuring perfection!.
1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 quart cool water
When I prepare my brine, I like to start with about one cup of very warm water, as it promotes the dissolving of the salt and sugar. Once it is fully dissolved, I add the rest of the water (cool) and stir well. You do not have to begin with warm water as I do, it will just extend the time it takes for the dissolving to occur.
You can choose to brine in either a container that will accommodate the brine and the meat, or as I prefer, you can enlist the service of a quality gallon sized ziplock storage bag. If you are going to be brining large meat products, the zip lock will not work, and you may likely need to increase the amount of brine you prepare.
Ideas on flavor infusion.
Now, for the fun part! The variety of flavor infusion is so diverse that I could never cover all of the choices here. This is where your personal tastes and superb creativity will come into play. In the spirit of sharing and providing a bit of inspiration, I will give you a few of my favorites. Shhh...don't tell anyone, these are top secret!
Garlic Teriyaki: I absolutely love this one for chicken, especially when it will be used in a stir fry, in a vegetable dish, or even served chilled on salad.
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced.
1 TBSP garlic powder
1 cup teriyaki sauce or marinade.
Mix thoroughly into the basic brine. Allow to rest for at least 1 1/2 to 3 hours in the refrigerator. Drainbrine from meat prior to cooking.
Smokey Montreal Delicious with chicken, pork, or beef.
1 1/2 TBSP Montreal steak seasoning
1 TBSP Smoke seasoning (liquid)
2 cloves finely minced garlic
Mix thoroughly into the basic brine. Allow to rest for at least 1 1/2 to 3 hours in the refrigerator. Drain brine from meat prior to cooking. Due to the coarseness of the Montreal seasoning, I suggest stirring (if in a bowl) or massaging bag (if in a ziplock) at least 3 to 4 times while brining and just before draining brine to keep seasoning well distributed.
Lemon Pepper This one is great for chicken. I like to take 1 fresh lemon, wash it, half it and squeeze it into the brine, then add lemon halves to the brine.
1/3 cup lemon juice (if using a fresh lemon, reduce to 1/4 cup)
1 TBSP fresh cracked pepper (I use a pepper mill - aka grinder)
2 TBSP fresh, finely chopped parsley
Mix thoroughly into the basic brine. Allow to rest for 1 1/2 to 3 hours in the refrigerator. Drain brine from meat prior to cooking. Due to the coarseness of the cracked pepper , I suggest stirring (if in a bowl) or massaging bag (if in a ziplock) at least 3 to 4 times while brining and just before draining brine to keep seasoning well distributed.
Spicy Cayenne Jalapeno When you want a little (or a lot) of spice in your life! Adjust amounts to suit your tastes.
1 tsp. cayenne Pepper
2 tsp. jalapeno finely diced (If you leave the seeds in it will be spicier)
2 tsp. garlic powder
Mix thoroughly into the basic brine. Allow to rest for 1 1/2 to 3 hours in the refrigerator. Drain brine from meat prior to cooking. Due to the coarseness of the jalapeno pepper , I suggest stirring (if in a bowl) or massaging bag (if in a ziplock) at least 3 to 4 times while brining and just before draining brine to keep seasoning well distributed.
Hints & Tips
To drain brine off of the meat, I use a spaghetti strainer.
Do not rinse meat after draining.
DO NOT reuse brine. Dispose of all used brine.
If you intend to chop or slice meat for the dish you are preparing, do this prior to brining for best results.
You can also prepare the brine, add your meat and freeze for future use.
There you have it. Everything you need to know for successful brining for delicious meats! If by chance I did miss something you need to know, please contact me via email to let me know and I will post it here, as well as in a reply to your email.