Brining is the process of submerging food in a saltwater solution. By brining your meat before cooking it, you ensure that it comes out moist and flavorful every time. Brining is a very popular method for Thanksgiving turkeys, since you can complete most of the prep work for the bird the day before. Use a brine when you’re cooking in dry conditions. Roasting, grilling and smoking meats all zap moisture, so the addition of a brine is truly necessary.
Things You'll Need
Select a pot, pan or other container large enough to hold your meat. If you’re brining something large, such as a whole turkey, look for oven-safe roasting bags in the grocery store. They’re made in sizes large enough to fit a whole bird or ham. Do not use garbage bags, since they aren’t made with food-grade plastic.
Dissolve your salt in the water. The basic ratio is 1/4 cup of salt to 4 cups of water, or 1/2 cup kosher salt per quart of water. Heat the water in a large stock pot and stir in the salt until it has dissolved completely.
Add any other ingredients that suit your taste. Rosemary, sage, thyme, and black pepper are easy additions. You needn’t overdo it with the amounts, since the meat will be soaking in these flavors for a while. A tablespoon or two of each spice is perfect for a gallon-sized brine. Slice up an onion, lemon, garlic cloves or an apple to add to the mix. Add a cup or two of apple cider vinegar, maple syrup or sugar.
Place your meat into the desired container and slowly add the brine. If the meat isn’t entirely covered by brine, add a solution of 1 tbsp. salt to 1 cup water. Continue adding the salt solution until the meat is completely covered.
Place your meat in the refrigerator and allow the brine to do its job. For large pieces of meat, such as an entire turkey, you’ll need to let it brine for about 10 to 12 hours. Smaller pieces, such as pork chops or chicken breasts, require only about 3 to 4 hours. You can even brine shrimp, if you wish. Shrimp should brine for only about 30 minutes.
References and ResourcesThe Kitchn: Quick Tip: How to Brine Meat
Savory Sweet Life: How to Brine a Turkey
What's Cooking America: How to Brine Poultry
"The Joy of Cooking"; Irma S. Rombauer, et al.; 2006