Brining is a simple step that can be used in a variety of ways to increase the flavor and juiciness of your cooked meats, particularly pork and poultry. The science is simple: Brine includes salts and sugars that attract and hold water. By brining your meats, these salts and sugars get into the meat and help hold the moisture throughout the cooking process. This process is most noticeable with low fat meats, like flank steak or poultry. The culinary trick is to include flavor with your brine, so that you get an additional bonus to the moisture-holding benefits of brining.
The simplest recipe is:
• 1 gallon (4 liters) water
• ½ cup (125 mL) kosher salt (or ¼ cup [75 g] regular table salt)
• ½ cup (125 mL) brown sugar (other varieties can be used as well)
1. Mix all brine ingredients together until salt and sugar are dissolved. Hint: dissolve the salt and sugar in a pot of boiling water, then remove from stove and add ice or cold water to cool the mixture down.
2. Rinse meat with water and place into a bowl.
3. Cover meat with cold brine, cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. You can brine up to 24 hours if needed as bigger cuts of meats will need more brining time.
4. Remove from brine, pat dry and follow your favorite seasoning and grilling techniques.
Note: It is always best to allow the meat to “rest” for a few minutes after grilling, as the heat has contracted the muscle and piercing/slicing during this “contraction” time will force the juices from the meat.
Brining Flavor Additions:
The brining process is not the final flavor of your grilled chicken. You can think of it as the step that flavors the inside of the chicken while your sauces and spice rubs flavor the outside of the chicken. Therefore, the aromatics that you add to the brine should compliment what you are going to put on the outside.
Some surefire additions to the brine include:
• Garlic Powder
• Onion Powder
• Black Pepper (peppercorns)
• Bay Leaf
• Mirepoix (chopped onions, celery and carrots)
Note: The shorter your “Brine Time” the more flavorful you want to make your brine.
Brining is an extra step, but one that can add to your “Grill Master” repertoire. Not only does it add flavor and keep the juices inside of the meat, but the sugar also adds to the caramelized look of the meat. So, as you think about the seasoning on the outside of your grilled creations, don’t forget about the inside!