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What Is Brining?

Brining meat prior to cooking adds flavor and keeps the meat tender.
Coarse-grained kosher salt is often used to add flavor to a brine or marinade.
Peppercorns can be added to a brine to enhance flavor.
Cucumbers are brined to make pickles.
Apple cider vinegar is a common ingredient in many brines.
Regular table salt can often be used for brining.
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  • Written By: Anna B. Smith
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 03 October 2014
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Brining is the process by which meat is marinated for several hours in a solution with a high salt content before it is cooked. This soaking process allows the meat to absorb a great deal of liquid prior to being prepared, and retain that moisture. Brined meat is generally more tender and flavorful than that which is not marinated. There are a wide variety of recipes for this type of marinade available, and many are easily adaptable to any cooking needs.

This cooking technique is viewed by many chefs as a beneficial step in the preparation and cooking of meat. Soaking it in a salty solution can add a great deal of flavor. The basic ingredients of brine are salt and water, but any combination of other spices and liquids, such as peppercorns and fruit juices, may be added to this base mixture so that their flavors are also imparted to the meat.

This method typically begins when salt and sugar are mixed in the liquid. Through diffusion, these two ingredients move from a high concentration, in the brine itself, to an area of low concentration, in the meat or other food item placed in the mixture. Any other spices or flavors added usually also transfer with the salt and sugar during this process.

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Brining generally creates more tender meat. This happens because salt allows the cells of the meat to absorb the marinade via osmosis. As the meat cooks later, it releases this stored liquid slowly and does not dry out. It may also reduce the overall cooking time of the prepared dish.

This process can take up to 24 hours for certain types of meat. A turkey, for example, should be completely thawed and placed in a cold brine solution the day before the meal. This allows all parts of the bird to thoroughly absorb the liquid, including the skin. Other meats that cook well when marinated in this way are chicken and pork.

To make a basic brine, a cook can combine 1 cup (292 g) of table salt for every gallon (3.78 l) of water. Either iodized or kosher salt may be used. Any combination of spices, such as cloves, garlic, cinnamon, and nutmeg, may also be added. Apple juice and vinegar are other common ingredients.

Cheeses can be brined as well. They are typically washed periodically in a salty solution during the aging process, which adds flavor, from the brine itself and through the addition of bacteria. Limburger and camembert are both cheeses made this way. These kinds of cheese are typically identified by a rind that builds up on its exterior due to the additional bacteria.

Brining may also be referred to as pickling or corning. Meats are corned, while vegetables are typically said to be pickled. After the process has finished, these foods are stored in vinegar. For this reason, pickling tends to give foods a sour, salty taste.

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John57
Post 5

@Belted-- I am not exactly sure what you mean by using a dry brine, but I will cover both sides of a roast with salt and wrap it overnight before I cook it the next day.

This makes for a very tender roast and it sounds like it might have the same effect as brining without the liquid.

Mykol
Post 4

@ZsaZsa56-- I am glad you had such good results with your turkey. I have always wanted to brine a turkey for Thanksgiving too, but have not tried it yet. You see this done on a lot of the cooking shows during the month of November.

I have always heard how tender and juicy the turkey is after you have done this. I guess I am always hesitant to try something new when I am having so many guests over. I stick with what I know has worked for me in the past.

I just need to brine a turkey for our family some other time of the year and see how it goes before I do it for a big holiday meal.

backdraft
Post 3

Lots of people do not think to brine pork but it is one of the best uses of a good brine. Pork has such a mild flavor and it often gets dried out from lack of fat. Brine is a great way to give the meat flavor and juice.

Plus, brining lets you take a really mediocre piece of pork and give it some amazing flavor. You can cover up a lack of quality by suing a good brine.

Belted
Post 2

Has anyone tried using a dry brine? I just recently heard about this and I am really curious. If someone has experience I would love to hear about the flavor you used and your experiences using it with various kinds of meats.

ZsaZsa56
Post 1

For years we have had the whole big Thanksgiving meal at my home. About thirty guests every November. Over the years I have been able to refine my recipes so that they are perfect but I always struggled to make a really great turkey.

Then one year I saw a program about brining and I tried it and we had the most amazing turkey. The meat was juicy like no turkey you have ever had and it was infused with a herby, salty flavor that complimented it perfectly. It was so easy to do and the results were amazing. I will never cook another turkey without brining it first.

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