Fellow eaters - you have most likely heard about brining meat. Now that you’ve shown you have excellent taste in chicken, we want to encourage you to step up the game a bit by learning to brine.
When I first investigated brining, I thought it was for turkeys and it required a 5-gallon bucket. No thanks! My dry rub is just fine and this is toooo much trouble.
Years later, after our Son-In-Law Shawn joined our family crew, I decided I needed to learn how to use brines. Well actually, Shawn kind of shamed me into it.
Shawn not only has a masterful way with all manner of meat cooking, he has a diabolical coaching style. He is like some sort of guru that you would go to for enlightenment. He doesn’t just come out and give his opinion directly. He poses a question. “Bruce, how long did you brine that?” Then, with the slightest look of disdain, he follows with, “Oh, well there are many ways to smoke meat. I’m sure your’s will be fine.”
Off to the internet I went. To my surprise, I discovered just how easy it is to whip up the brine. No 5-gallon bucket required!? Just a freezer bag.
What is a brine?
Brines are simply a salt water solution which is absorbed into the meat. The brine solution tenderizes the meat and also packs in more moisture. This added moisture is especially helpful when grilling and roasting.
It is most appropriate for lean meats such as pork, chicken, rabbit and game. It is not necessary for meats such as beef or lamb, due to their fat content.
Brine versus Marinade
A brine is not a marinade. You can certainly do both a brine and a marinade. The brine packs moisture deep into the meat, while the marinade provides a surface layer of flavor. Do the brine first, and then marinade second. And you can freeze the meat after these processes.
There are brine recipes which suggest adding herbs and other ingredients to the brine. My two cents is that this is unnecessary (actually a waste of the herbs). I often add brown sugar or Dr. Pepper, but that is it. Salt is the important ingredient. For additional flavor - use the marinade or dry rub after the brine.
I often use a dry rub rather than a marinade. The possibilities are endless!
How long to brine?
For smaller cuts such as chicken breasts, leg quarters or thighs, or pork chops, you can brine for 30 minutes to 4 hours.
For larger thicker cuts, such as whole chicken or pork loin, I like to brine for longer, say 12 hours.
As mentioned earlier, you can freeze the meat after brining, and you still get the great benefits when you are ready to thaw and cook.
Simple Brine Recipe
Look, I can’t even make this complicated!
Grab a box of Morton’s Kosher Salt - and get a big one, because you will do this again.
4 Cups of water
4 TBS of Kosher Salt (note, if using table salt, reduce to 3 TBS salt)
2 TBS dark brown sugar - optional, but it does add a nice touch of sweetness
Put the water in a freezer bag, add the salt and sugar and mix it all up until dissolved. Add your meat, press out the air from the bag and set aside in a bowl in the refrigerator until ready to cook, or further marinate.
Gang, you gotta try it! Too easy!!