Why Brining Produces More Succulent Meat

Turkey Cooked Brined and Seasoned with Spices Brining is often associated with the Thanksgiving turkey, a popular way to ensure a moist, flavorful bird, but brining goodness extends to other forms of meat as well. Chicken, shrimp, fish, and...

Turkey Cooked Brined and Seasoned with Spices
Turkey Cooked Brined and Seasoned with Spices

Brining is often associated with the Thanksgiving turkey, a popular way to ensure a moist, flavorful bird, but brining goodness extends to other forms of meat as well. Chicken, shrimp, fish, and pork make good candidates as well due to their tendency to toughen when overcooked. What is so good about brining and is it worth the extra effort? Let’s find out why cooks everywhere favor this method of cooking when they want juicy, plump and tasty result.

Meat tends to become tough when overdone. It has to do with the muscle fibers found in meat. Heating causes the protein bonds in muscle fibers to tighten and squeeze out moisture. Result? Shrinkage and moisture loss. When you soak meat in brine, salt unravels the protein bonds, thereby opening spaces for moisture uptake. Food experts note that brining reduces moisture loss to as little as 15 percent, as opposed to the 30 percent normally lost in regular cooking.

Brining requires two main ingredients: water and salt. Any other ingredients serve to enhance flavor. Accordingly, the percentage of water to salt is important to ensure that you’re not over salting the meat. In general, use 9.6 ounces of salt (slightly under one cup) to one gallon of water. Use table salt (without iodine) or kosher salt. Just remember, table salt weighs 10 ounces per cup, while Kosher salt weighs about 5 to 8 ounces per cup, so when using Kosher salt, you may have to use a little more. Make enough brine to completely submerge the meat.

Here are some meat types and brining times:

Chicken Parts - 1 1/2 hours

Chicken Breasts - 1 hour

Whole Chicken (4-5 Pounds) - 8 to 12 hours

Turkey Breast - 5 - 10 hours

Whole Turkey - 24 - 48 hours

Cornish game hens - 2 hours

Pork chops - 12 - 24 hours

Pork Tenderloin (whole) - 12 - 24 hours

Shrimp - 30 minutes

Basic Brine

  • ¼ Kosher salt
  • ¼ cup coconut palm sugar (healthier alternative to sugar)
  • 4 cups of cold water

Mix all the ingredients together. Pour over meat and refrigerate. Time for brining depends on meat—delicate and smaller pieces of meat require less time. For example, fish may only require 20 to 30 minutes of brining, whereas a whole turkey (less than 12 lbs) may require anywhere from 8 to 12 hours.

To make the basic brine recipe more interesting, don’t be afraid to add fresh herbs and spices or liquids such as apple cider, wine, tea, beer, rice wine vinegar, stock. Liquids can be used to replace some or all of the water. You may also choose to add seasoning for a distinctive flavor: Mediterranean, Italian, Cajun or Asian, to name but a few.

Go brine and enjoy tastier, more succulent meat. As always, using the right cookware will help the cooking process. For more information on your cooking needs, contact us.