This recipe introduces the basics of brining meats, from the classic holiday turkey to even everyday cuts of chicken, pork chops, shrimp and fish that you might put together on a weeknight. This is where a simple brine really shines from its ease of preparation and its capacity render a juicier, more succulent product.
What is brining you might ask? Brining is the process of submerging meat in a brine solution, which is simply salt dissolved in water. The meat absorbs extra liquid and salt, resulting in a juicier and more flavorful final dish.
The basic ratio for brining is 1 cup salt to 1 gallon of water or a ¼ cup to a quart. I like to heat a portion of the total water you are utilizing (let’s say a 1/3 of the initial volume over the stove) and dissolve the total amount of salt in that. Once dissolved (heating it helps facilitate the process of dissolving the salt) you can stir in the remaining water with cold water to quickly bring it down to temp for soaking the meat in.
How long? General rule is 1 hour for each pound. Your average holiday turkey or even larger roaster style chicken you would go overnight or up to 12 hours. I employ this for oven roasting large poultry and when I BBQ birds in my smoker. It renders moist succulent meat that is perfectly seasoned and juicier since thru the process of osmosis that we might recall from 7th grade science where the saline solution travels into the cut of meat where there is a lesser concentration. So not only is the meat moister since the moisture loss that occurs during cooking is offset by the absorption in the brine, but the proteins are broken down thru the extra salinity, like it gets a massage and is more relaxed so to speak during the cooking process resulting in a more tender product as well.
Small cuts like chops, breasts, fish filets and shrimp will benefit from a 30-minute bath. After soaking, pull it out, rinse thoroughly and pat dry. It is ready for the oven or grill!
I have included a standard brine with additional aromatics that will infuse and enhance the dish. Feel free to substitute any number of complimentary ingredients depending on the direction you want to go flavor wise:
BASIC TURKEY BRINE
· 2 gallons water (cold)
· 2 cups kosher salt
· 1 cup granulated sugar
· 3 teaspoons garlic (crushed)
· 3 to 4 sprigs rosemary (or 1 tablespoon dried)
· 3 to 4 sprigs thyme (or 1 tablespoon dried)
· 3 to 4 sprigs sage (or 1 tablespoon dried)
· 1 teaspoon allspice berries (cracked)
· 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1. Gather the ingredients.
2. Dissolve the salt, sugar, and aromatics in the water.
3. Submerge the turkey in the brine, top with a plate, and put a large can or a few cans on the plate to hold the turkey under the brine.
4. Refrigerate the turkey in the brine for 12 to 24 hours.
5. Before roasting, rinse the turkey well with cold water and pat dry.
6. Roast without additional salt following your favorite recipe
7. Serve and enjoy!
I hope this enlightens and inspires you to venture to greater heights of cooking and enjoyment.
Bon appetit, buen provecho, and happy cooking!
~ Chef Mike