To brine is to treat food with a brine solution or coarse salt which preserves and seasons the food.
The process enhances tenderness and flavour with additions such as herbs, spices, sugar, caramel and/or vinegar.
Meat and fish are typically brined for less than twenty-four hours while vegetables, cheeses and fruit are brined in a much longer process commonly known as pickling.
Brining is similar to marination, except that a marinade usually includes a significant amount of acid, such as vinegar or citrus juice.
Brining foods in a mixture of salt and water is a form of curing and is one of the simplest methods that can be used to tenderise, moisten and flavour your meat.
Brined meats are also usually more tender.
How to make brine
- The most basic brining mixture incorporates a minimum of 1 tablespoon of salt to every 1 litre of water.
- We recommend salt flakes as they are easier to dissolve, and the use of non iodised salt where possible.
A good rule of thumb for achieving an effective cure is that it should contain enough salt in the mixture to allow a raw egg to float.
This equates to 20% of the salt in the liquid. Always store cured meat in a refrigerator.
- In terms of the quantity of mixture required, you will need enough brine to completely submerge the meat.
- Some foods may need to be weighed down to stay submerged.
How to brine meats
Brining is typically a process in which meat is soaked in a salt water solution similar to marination before cooking.
Meat is soaked anywhere from 30 minutes to several days.
The amount of time needed to brine depends on the size of the meat:
More time is needed for a large turkey compared to a chicken.
Similarly, a large roast must be brined longer than a thin cut of meat.
- Meat is best brined for approximately 4 hours per kilogram.
- Depending on the size of meat you wish to brine, it can take up to 24 hours or more.
- Beef and lamb can be submerged in the same solution for up to 3 days.
Brining can also be achieved by covering the meat in dry coarse salt and left to rest for several hours.
The salt draws moisture from the interior of the meat to the surface.
This is where it mixes with the salt and is then reabsorbed with the salt essentially brining the meat in its own juices.
The salt rub is then rinsed off and discarded before cooking.
As opposed to dry salting, fish brining or wet-salting is performed by immersion of fish into brine, or just sprinkling it with salt without draining the moisture.
To ensure long-term preservation, the solution has to contain at least 20% of salt, a process called “heavy salting” in fisheries; heavy-salted fish must be desalted in cold water or milk before consumption.
If less salt is used, the fish is suited for immediate consumption, but additional refrigeration is necessary for longer preservation.
Cucumbers in brine (dill pickles) are a fine example.
Pickled vegetables are immersed in brine, vinegar or vinaigrette for extended periods of time.
They undergo anaerobic fermentation which affects their texture and flavour. Pickling can preserve perishable foods for months.
Antimicrobial herbs and spices, such as mustard seed, garlic, cinnamon or cloves, are often added.
How to brine pork & poultry
- If you are brining whole poultry you will need to add 6 to 12 hours between brining and cooking.
- It is best to sit the poultry in the refrigerator for several hours after you remove it from the brine so that the skin can dry before cooking.
- Also, when brining poultry or pork in a low salt solution it is recommended that you change the brining liquid every 24 hours.
- Once you have finished brining lightly rinse the cut of meat to remove any excess salt before cooking.
- Never reuse the brine.
- NOTE: Don’t brine meats that say “self-basting,” “flavour-enhanced” or “enhanced” on the package.
Salty fluids are already injected into these meats.
Basic Brine Recipe
Here is a basic brine recipe that you can use for chicken, pork, turkey and other meats.
This brine is a simple combination of salt, sugar, and water and is great at adding both flavour and moisture to meats.