It used to be synonymous with Thanksgiving turkey. But as grilling, barbecuing, and other forms of dry heat preparation are becoming more popular, so is brining.
Brining: The Definition
For those with mageirocophobia (the fear of cooking), brining may sound like some terribly difficult procedure reserved only for the Gordon Ramseys of this world. Is brining that difficult?
You will be surprised.
Brining is simply the method of preparing meat for dry cooking by soaking it in brine. Brine is a solution of salt and cold water.
As for the brine recipe, it’s easier than 1,2,3 and that’s because the basic recipe contains only two ingredients – salt and cold water.
To prepare your brine, you will need 1 tablespoon of salt for every cup of water. First of all, determine how much water you will need for the meat you will be brining. That will let you know how much salt you will need. To prepare your brine,
- boil half of the water you will use
- add all the salt and stir until dissolved
- add the other half of the water
- put the solution in the fridge.
The Purpose and Process of Brining
Once you are certain that the brine is cold, you can add the meat. If the brine is warm, it may cook your meat. Make sure the meat is completely submerged, covered (or sealed if you are using a Ziploc bag) and refrigerate.
Depending on the cut and size of the meat, you can brine it for anything from 30 minutes to days. For example, chicken cuts and pork chops are small tender cuts therefore 30 minutes in the brine solution is enough. Whole turkey, on the other hand, is relatively larger and tougher and needs 12 hours of brining before you can safely put it in the oven.
What’s the purpose of brining you ask?
Tantalizing question. Brining is a simple technique that serves four palatable purposes.
- Tenderizing meat. Brining is the simplest way to tenderize any, (yes, any) cut of meat. When the salt enters the meat, it breaks down the protein, including tough muscle fibers. This softens the meat. An added advantage is that cooking time is reduced.
- Adding flavor. Creative cooks actually use brining as a way of marinating meat as well. To do this, spices, herbs and/or sugar are added to the brine. The flavors seep into the meat, resulting in a glorious delectable meal.
- Keeping the meat succulent. The major drawback of dry preparation of meat (roasting, grilling, barbecuing) is that the final product is usually dry and tough. Brining is the solution (no pun intended). The salt is absorbed into the meat, denatures the proteins and causes them to coagulate, thus trapping the water inside the meat. This keeps the meat moist, juicy and tender. Now that’s mouthwatering.
- Brining is an ancient, time-tested and proven method of preserving meat. Unfortunately, it is also becoming a forgotten means of preservation. A tasty one at that.
The Benefits Of Brining
Apart from taking your family and friends on a decadent culinary journey that will leave them begging for your secret ingredient, brining has some other benefits off the table. Here are a few of them.
No method of tenderizing and flavoring food is simpler than brining. Anyone can do it, turning them into a world class chef in an instant. No need to look for complicated equipment or recipes to produce a flavourful meal.
Not only is brining meat simple, it’s also cost-effective. For one, the ingredients are easy to procure at affordable prices. Another reason brining is cost effective is that it cuts down on cooking time, saving power and the earth (and money) in the process.
Dry heat preparation of meat is the healthiest method of cooking meat. You cut out the oils that are needed to cook using other methods like frying or stewing. Brining takes this healthy method of cooking a step further by helping you cut down on your sodium intake. Since the meat would have absorbed salt from the solution, there is no need to add table salt. The amount of sodium brining adds to your meat? You will be surprised that it is actually very low according to an experiment conducted by Cook’s Illustrated.
What Kind of Meat Can I Brine?
The beauty of brining is that it’s applicable to any meat you fancy. You can brine pork chops, ribs, fish, beef, poultry, you name it.
The only thing you have to pay attention to is the duration of the brining for each type of meat. Otherwise, if it’s meat, brine away.
Brining – Succulent Meat the Easy Way
Mageirocophobia or not, brining is the easiest way to get that meat succulent. This simple, cost-effective, and above all, tasty method of preparing meat for cooking will surely win you accolades. In your home at least. Besides, those empty plates (not to mention the lip smacking), are reward enough for any cook.