One way to avoid overcooking meat and seafood is brining, or soaking lean meats or seafood in a solution of salt, sugar and water prior to cooking to make for a smoother texture and juicier flavour. As the meat soaks in the solution, it slowly takes on the flavours of the seasoning and becomes covered in a sticky coating. Once the meat is heated and cooked, the sticky coating turns into a jelly-like barrier, trapping in the meat's moisture. A wide array of brine formulas exist, but you can use a standard, all-purpose brine for most things.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
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Things you need
- Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- Cold water
- Apple cider or orange juice
- Bay leaves
- Dried herbs and spices
- Lemon or orange slices
- Black peppercorns
- Lean meat, such as turkey, poultry or pork, or seafood, like salmon or shrimp
- Plastic 1 to 2 gallon zipper-lock bags, plastic containers or a cooler
- Ice packs
Choose the meat you would like to brine. The best options are ones that are lean and have a mild flavour, such as pork, poultry and turkey. Shrimp is also a good candidate.
Mix together cold water, sugar and salt in a brining container. For every pound of meat, use 1 qt. of cold water and a bit of either apple cider or orange juice, 1/2 cup of sugar, and 1/2 cup Diamond Crystal kosher salt. Kosher salt measurements vary depending on the brand you use.
Stir mixture together until sugar and salt dissolve.
Add extra ingredients for flavour. Some examples are dried herbs and spices like sage, basil, rosemary, cinnamon and cloves, citrus slices, black peppercorns and garlic cloves.
Place meat or seafood in brining container and submerge in the solution. If you are using a large brining container, be sure that the meat is fully submerged in the brine by weighing it down with a heavy plate or bowl.
Refrigerate. If the brining container you are using is too large to fit in a refrigerator, cover the meat with ice packs. For every pound of meat you are brining, refrigerate for 1 hour before roasting.
Tips and warnings
- To maintain a crispy skin after roasting your brined meat, dry it in the refrigerator, uncovered; meat parts should be dried for several hours, whole birds, overnight.
- Do not brine beef or lamb. Both are typically eaten rare to medium-rare, meaning that they maintain more natural moisture than leaner meats and do not benefit as much from the process.
- Do not make more than 2 gallons of brine.
- Avoid refrigerating brine for less than 30 minutes or more than 8 hours.
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