Brine: What Is It, How To and The Benefits of Brining
Imagine cooking the most succulent, juicy, moist chicken you’ve ever tasted. Chicken that rivals that delicious, professionally prepared one you had in that fancy, upscale restaurant that one time. Now imagine seeing the look on everyone’s face as they taste it, as they melt in the decadence of your culinary creation. Imagine that making chicken like this involved just one extra (incredibly easy) step in the cooking process. Now stop imagining, because it’s reality.
Heat pulls moisture away from and out of porous materials which is why the high temperature cooking process makes many meats and poultry dry. Since this process cannot be stopped, you have to fight against the dryness in another approach. You have to brine your meat and poultry prior to the cooking process.
Brining is similar to marinating. The main difference is that rather than adding spices and flavoring to the meat with marinade, brining simply allows the flavors of the meat to avoid being pulled out during cooking and shine through in the finished product.
To brine your meat and poultry all you’ll need is your meat of choice, cold water, a container large enough to hold your meat, and some Kosher salt.
Step By Step Brining:
The Science Behind Brining
- Moisturizing From The Start – First of all, while the meat or poultry is sitting in the salt water mixture you made it’s slowly absorbing the water. Now it will have more moisture available when the heat starts to draw it out. Since it’s now starting as a juicier cut of meat it will inevitably end up as a juicier meal.
- Preparing Denatured Proteins – Secondly, the salt solution works to denature proteins in muscle fibers causing them to swell and unwind. In the natural cooking process these proteins would unwind and bind back together causing significant moisture loss, but through brining they unwind and bind with water so that the proteins are less likely to bind together again, and push out necessary moisture, during the cooking process.
So now that you know how to brine maybe you’re wondering what you should brine. It’s true that some meats shouldn’t be brined, but this is usually because they’ve already been through the brining process before you purchased them. Check your packaging just to make sure. Some prime candidates for brining include:
As you may have noticed lean cuts of meat definitely benefit more from the brining process than fattier cuts, as they crave the added moisture that it provides. Keep in mind when deciding when to brine that it is best used when cooking in high heat temperatures like the oven, or grill, and should be avoided when cooking in a slow cooker. Since a slow cooker uses the natural juices of the meat to cook these meats could become mushy and unappetizing, if they were brined first.
Now that you know the secret to making succulent, delicious, juicy chicken, turkey, and pork feel free to impress and astound all of your family and friends at the next get together with your new found professional culinary prowess.
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