Brining meats is something that many people don’t fully understand or just don’t do because of that reason. I just finished cooling the brine for the turkey in this post, so I figured I’d write a little note about why and how to do it. A brine is essentially a form of curing (with liquid) that at the most basic level, is a solution of salt and water. In order to impart more flavor though, it has evolved into more of an art by the addition of spices, herbs, and a sweetener.
The purpose of a brine essentially is to draw extra moisture out of the meat while at the same time, adding to or enhancing the natural flavor. Despite drawing moisture from the surface of the meat initially, brining also helps the meat retain moisture through the cooking process and creates a uniform texture following cooking as well. Without brining, meats can easily become dry. Most meats common for brining are pork, chicken, turkey and tongue, and then obviously cured/smoked meats and fish. When making a brine and testing to see if you’ve used the right proportions of salt to water, put a potato in. If it floats, nice job! If not, your brine needs more salt. A basic brine recipe is:
1 Gallon Water
2 Cups Kosher Salt
*1/2 – 3/4 Cup Sugar, Brown Sugar, Honey, or Maple Syrup (depending on desired sweetness)
Herbs & Spices; Rosemary, Bay Leaf, Thyme, Sage, Garlic, Peppercorn, Mustard Seed, Nutmeg, Ginger, Allspice, Cardamom, Clove, Star Anise, Fennel… The list goes on…
Combine all ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil to dissolve the salt. Cool completely before using.
*Note- When brining meats, you may have to use a plate or something similar, to weigh down whatever’s being brined to keep it completely submerged.
-Based on the meat being brined, use whatever herbs and spices would make sense for the flavor profile you are looking for. Keep it simple, less is more.