Everything You Need to Know About Brining
It's the secret to really juicy meat!
We have to admit that achieving perfectly cooked juicy meat every time is a bit of a struggle. Even with loads of experience, many cooks have a hard time achieving meat that is just cooked and deliciously juicy.
The real cheat to getting unbelievably juicy pork chops, corned beef, and even fried chicken is brining. Brining is a great way to keep meat juicy even when it’s just the slightest bit overdone. If you’ve always wanted to learn how to brine, but didn’t know exactly where to look, then you’ve come to the right place. Have a look at our must-knows about the basics of brining.
1 The Basic Proportions
In its simplest form, brine is a simple combination of salt and water. These two ingredients are enough to lend the meat of your choice with loads of extra juiciness. To make the perfect brine, though, you’ll need to remember a basic ratio:
¼ cup of salt : 1 liter of water
As long as you remember these amounts, you won’t stray too far from the path to succulent pork chops and roast chicken.
2 It’s a science
The main purpose of brine is to provide all manner of meat with a boost of liquid by way of osmosis. In lay man’s terms, osmosis is the molecular process by which water permeates into a porous, cellular compound, which in this case is meat. This means that brining literally adds extra juice to your meat without having to use fancy scientific tools or syringes.
3 Flavor boost
While brining is used to make meat juicier, that doesn’t mean you can’t use it to add flavor. On the contrary, many types of brine, such as the ones used for fried chicken and corned beef, contain a variety of aromatics and spices that infuse the meat with all sorts of flavor. Once you’ve got the basic brining solution down pat, you can play around with the flavors you introduce to your brine.
You can use hardy herbs such as thyme, rosemary and bay leaves, as well as whole spices like cinnamon sticks, cloves, peppercorns and even juniper berries. Some cooks even add some sweeteners (think honey or brown sugar) to the brine to balance out the salt.
4 Finding the right container
Once you’ve learned to make your brine, it’s just a matter of leaving your meat to soak in the brine, in the fridge for a few hours. Do make sure that the container you use for brining is large enough that the brine just covers all the meat, and has a cover.
Brine only really works if it covers the entire chicken breast, and not just half of it, and a cover makes sure that the smells in your fridge don’t seep into the mix. Also, since brine is made of a fortified salt solution, it will most probably react with most metals, so do avoid using containers made of reactive metals such as copper, aluminium or even steel in order to avoid damaging your containers or messing up with your brine’s chemistry.
5 Take your time… but not too much
Brine works best if left to work for a few hours, or even overnight. That way, the meat’s proteins have enough leeway to take in all the water the brine has to offer. However, try to avoid letting it soak for more than twelve hours, especially when working with smaller cuts such as chicken breasts or pork chops. If you leave it too long, you’ll risk over-salting your meat, making it almost inedible. Make sure to set a reminder on your phone or to use a kitchen timer when you can!