Traditionally brining (or curing) was a way to preserve meat. Brining as described here is a flavor brine intended to increase moisture retention and enhance flavor.Flavor brining is a process of soaking raw meat in a salt water and spice solution for a period of time before cooking. Some of the brine will be absorbed into the meat. Salt in the brine de-natures some of the meat proteins which in turn blocks water from escaping during cooking. The result is juicy food enhanced with the flavor of the brine. Brining properly will not significantly increase salt content in meat. The best meat types for brining are poultry, pork, fish and seafood. Whether you roast, smoke, grille or fry, brining first will enhance the flavor, increase moisture retention and shorten cooking times.
Brine vs Marinade
Marinade's add flavor to the outer layer of the meat. Typically a marinade will incorporate an acid such as lime / lemon juice, vinegar or wine combined with herbs and spices. A marinade will only treat only the outer most portion of meat by adding flavor.
A brine is more science than just adding flavor like a marinade. When a brine is absorbed by meat it changes proteins and enables moisture retention during cooking. The result is a moist, juicy meat enhanced with the flavors contained in the spices and herbs in the brine. A brine adds flavor throughout the meat, not just the outer layer.
3 Steps to Success
Step 1: Make the Brine
Combine salt and spices with water until dissolved. This can be done with boiling water then chilled, or with cold water. The brine must be chilled before and during use to avoid partially cooking or spoiling the meat.
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Step 2: Brine Time / Soaking Time
Combine the chilled brine and meat in a non-reactive container made of stainless steel, plastic (food grade), glass or ceramic. The meat must be completely submerged for the entire soaking time to achieve the desired result. Soaking times vary by meat type and size.
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Step 3: Prepare for cooking
Thoroughly rinse meat before cooking to remove any remaining brine. Allow to dry, or pat dry with paper towels for crispy skin on poultry. Avoid adding additional salt, but a no or very low salt rub can be applied to add more flavor. Brining will reduce cooking times, up to 30%. Use a meat thermometer to avoid overcooking..
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