How To Brine Turkey, Chicken, and Other Meats
Why do we brine meats, fish and poultry? To make them moist and tender! I am captivated by the effects of brining on protein rich foods. The salt in the brine solution causes the proteins in the meat to unwind a bit, or denature, trapping extra water and flavors from the brine. The result — a juicy, succulent, flavorful chop, chicken or fish fillet! And, it is SO easy!
To brine single size portions of meat, fish or poultry, mix enough brine solution to ‘bathe’ the item in liquid. This requires a fair amount of brine, and a vessel large enough to hold it. I like to use zipper bags, held in a shallow pan or tray. Mix the brine, add the meat; squeeze out the air and seal. Refrigerate if necessary. But a good thing can be overdone, so brine only as long as directed below, especially for smaller cuts. Remove the meat from the brine and pat dry. If you are not ready to cook yet, refrigerate the meat until 15 minutes prior to cooking.
Recipe (proportions – scale ingredients to the amount of liquid necessary to cover the food you are brining):
for 2 cups brine:
- 3 tablespoons Kosher salt
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
Dissolve salt and sugar in 1/2 cup hot water, then add 1-1/2 cups cold water. Pour into large re-sealable plastic bag or shallow dish. Brining times:
- Shrimp & Scallops 15 to 45 minutes
- Fish fillets or steaks 1 hour
- Chicken breasts 1 to 1-1/2 hours
- Pork chops 4 hours
- Whole fowl 1 hour per pound
To brine large pieces of food, as in a whole chicken or turkey, you will need a vessel large enough to hold the bird submerged in liquid. A large mixing bowl or pot will hold a chicken. A stock pot works well for very large birds. Again, be sure you have plenty of liquid. After mixing and placing the food into the brine, you will find that it tends to float. Place a large zipper bag of ice on top! This will prevent floating and keep the food cool at the same time. To brine a turkey overnight, place it in a clean picnic cooler, add the brine, and top with ice packs. Check it regularly and replace any melted ice. Again, be sure to dry the bird before cooking.