It’s used to make pickles, olives, giardiniera, sauerkraut and a whole host of other delicious foodstuffs. But today we’re going to discuss the benefits of brining your proteins, specifically chicken. (and we show you how easy it is in the video above)
We’ve taken a slightly different tack on brining than most. While we have the utmost respect for the culinary and technical expertise of Michael Ruhlman (and in fact used his recommendations as a starting point), we think there may be a better way to brine.
Ruhlman and most other briners recommend a standard brining solution that consists of the following:
1 gallon water
8 ounces kosher salt
4 ounces sugar
The sugar is used primarily to counteract some of the saltiness in the flavor profile. For that reason, this ‘standard’ brine comes with some cautions:
- Do not exceed recommended salt to water ratio.
- Pay close attention to recommended brine times.
- Allow meat to rest after removing it from brine.
Generically speaking time is not your friend, but when it comes to brining, we disagree. A longer, slower brining process is preferred. The additional time allows the salt to break down the intertwining protein strands in the muscle which helps to tenderize and allow the protein to take on and hold more water. (this is what makes the meat seem more juicy)
Cooking any protein results in part of its water weight being cooked off or evaporated away. You are essentially drying your meat out when you cook it, especially if you don’t properly sear it to begin with. However, even if properly seared, pork, chicken and turkey often suffer the dry, ‘saw dusty’ consistency that comes with over cooking. Using a brine helps the meat to take on more moisture so that even if you over cook it a bit the end result will still seem more moist than normal.
If you are going to make the time to brine, take the time to brine and do it slowly – don’t rush it! Ironically, as salt purveyors we recommend using less salt in your brine. We suggest the following brine solution for poultry:
1 gallon water
3 ounces sugar (optional)
If you want to add citrus (juice & zest together are best), herbs or other aromatics to your brine, we suggest that you prepare the brine in advance. Add the salt, sugar and other aromatics to a pot and bring the water to a simmer until the salt and sugar have dissolved. Remove the pot from the heat and chill before using the brine.
Let your chicken brine for 6 hours. No more, no less. This longer brine time allows the salt to do its work on the muscle tissue. (Always brine meat in the refrigerator, never brine at room temperature. If you cannot fit your meat container into the refrigerator, use a cooler or other suitable container and keep brine chilled with ice.)
Drain the chicken, and let it rest and air dry in fridge for 2 more hours. This will help the salt become more evenly diffused throughout the meat. Salt always seeks equilibrium in musculature, but it needs time to do that. If you don’t follow this step and go straight to cooking after taking the protein out of the brine, the outside edges will tasty salty. Additionally, air drying will produce a more crispy skin if your bird is still skin-on.
Our lower salt solution brine also allows you to season your chicken with another rub or marinade if you so desire. Just remember that most rubs have lots of salt in them, so go easy with those. However, a herb, garlic, shallot and white wine marinade works great!
In the near future we’ll offer a few more posts on the subject of brining, including:
How to brine:
- a turkey
- baby back ribs
- pork chops
Don’t ever settle for dry overcooked chicken again. Make sure you have everything you need and get started brining some chicken for the grill this week! Because, you can now make the best, moistest chicken ever – over and over and over again!
- Add the salt, sugar and other aromatics to a pot and bring the water to a simmer until the salt and sugar have dissolved.
- Remove the pot from the heat and chill before using the brine.
- Let your protein brine for 6 hours.
- Drain the protein, and let it rest and air dry in fridge for 2 hours.
- Roast, broil or grill as you would!