Thursday, March 7, 2013

To Brine or Not to Brine? That Shouldn't Even Be a Question

Do you brine? No?
Do you only brine the Thanksgiving Day turkey? Why only then?
Think it's too much of a hassle? It's not!
Or are you scratching your head wondering what the heck is brining? Read on!

Brining is the process of soaking a protein, such as chicken, in a salt & sugar water solution.  Ratios of salt to sugar vary but I prefer the 2:1  or 3:2 (salt:sugar). It's the secret many chefs probably don't want to share.  It's cheap and at it's very basic form requires nothing more than a container, water, kosher salt and sugar. Sometimes I will use brown sugar, honey, molasses in place of sugar. You can also use any type of juice, beer, wine, stock in place of the water or a combination of these liquids with the water. You can also add in onions, herbs, chilies or any other aromatics you have lying around.  Click here for a larger version of the chart.

Get creative and experiment - the possibilities are endless.

Let's look at the science behind the brine. The salt in the brine cause the protein to relax and unfold.  Some of the meat's cell moisture flows into the brine and the brine flows into the meat's cell.  That's simple osmosis. The salt relaxes the protein so much that the meat actually holds even more water which creates moisture. Which gives you super flavor, over-all textural improvement and a very moist piece of meat.

I brine everything, except red meat (red meat I dry brine but that's for another post), before I cook it. And by everything I mean all poultry, shrimp, some fish, lobster and pork. Nowadays, it's just the Hub and I that I cook for, but I still brine. If I have 4 chicken breasts, I put them in a covered container with 2 quarts of cold water, 3 tablespoons of salt, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and let them sit in the brine for up to 6 hours in the fridge. Same holds true for pork. It truly makes a big difference in moistness and flavor. Don't have 6 hours? Even if you brine for 60 minutes or less, some brining is better than no brining.


  1. I love this brine chart since I never remember the parts of salt and sugar. Brining really does make a difference especially with good ol' chicken breast which I tend to think is dry and sometimes flavorless.
    Brining is a culinary miracle!

    1. Glad you liked e chart! And you are right it is a culinary "miracle".
      Thanks for stopping by and being the first person to comment. Come back soon!