Every year when we make a turkey for Thanksgiving, we brine it. And inevitably most of the
people who join us for Thanksgiving look at us like we're crazy when we talk about brining ...
until they taste the bird. If you can imagine the juiciest, most flavorful turkey you've ever had -
that's what brining gives you. We'll share with you how and why to brine meats, what meats can be
brined, and how to cook meat that's gone through this preparation.
What is Brining Meat for?
I think the biggest confusion for people who don't understand brining meat is that they think
first of other foods they're familiar with that are brined: pickles. In both cases, the item brined
is soaked in saltwater and spices, but canned pickled items stay in their brine until serving - so
the end result is very salty, wet and the texture is generally quite soft. This is not what you
want when you're brining something like a turkey!
For meats, you brine them for a limited period of time, generally 2 to 24 hours depending on the
strength of the brine and type of meat. But after brining, you remove them from the liquid and use
another traditional method to actually cook the meat. The brining allows the meat to absorb some of
the brining liquid, infusing it with a bit of salt and spice, and changing the cellular structure
of the meat so it can absorb more liquid than if it weren't brined. This cellular process also
makes the meat extra tender.
What Meats to Brine
You can brine any type of meat, but the technique is used most frequently for meats that have a
tendency to become dry after cooking, like poultry. White turkey meat, for example, gets dry
extremely quickly even with just a slight bit of overcooking, which most people who cook turkey on
Thanksgiving end up doing. Brining is a great way to give yourself a little extra margin of error,
and ensure the meat stays juicy whether you get the cooking time perfect or go just slightly
Another great cut of meat for brining is beef brisket. Brisket comes from the cattle's breast
muscles, and are responsible for holding up 60% of the animal's weight. All that work means the
meat is pretty fibrous with a lot of connective tissue, so it needs to be cooked in a way that
helps tenderize the meat. Which brings us back to brining! Brined brisket is the starting point for
corned beef - which is then typically boiled or
roasted, depending on how you're preparing the meat.
How to Brine Meats
The two key ingredients to start with are water and salt. The typical brine solution calls for
1 cup of salt to a gallon of water. You'll need enough liquid to fully immerse the meat. You
may need to heat the water or liquid to get all the salt dissolved, but if you do just chill the
liquid back to refrigerate temperature before starting the brine. Depending on the size of what
you're brining, you can use a sealed plastic bag or large stainless steel bowl.
The amount of time in the brine will vary depending on the size and type of meat, but a good
rule of thumb is 1 hour for every pound of meat. Add a bit more time for heavy meats like pork or
beef. You can also get creative with the flavorings in the brine, such as using cider or dark
beer for part of the liquid, or adding spices like peppercorns or whole garlic
Tip: if you're brining something really big like your Thanksgiving turkey, it gets a bit more challenging
finding a container and keeping it chilled. We actually put it in a big plastic cooler in the
bathtub, and add a couple bags of ice to the brining liquid. Just make sure to wash that cooler
How to Cook Meat that's Brined
Meat that's been brined can be cooked in basically any method: roasted, fried, grilled, boiled,
smoked - and doesn't require a lot of special handling. The only things to keep in mind are that
you don't need to add any extra salt, so if you're following a recipe that calls for that or a lot
of spices you can leave those off. Also, if you're using a dry cooking method after brining, let
the meat sit for a few hours in the fridge out of the brown before cooking it. This will ensure you
get the right meat texture and the outside can still get good and brown.
Easy Food & Wine Recipes Using Brined Meat
Grilled Rachel Sandwiches with Homemade Corned
Corned Beef Hash with Sweet Potatoes & Cabbage
Do you think brining meat is a 'do' or a 'don't'? Tell us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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