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A method involving the soaking of food in a liquid solution consisting of water, salt, sugar, and possibly herbs and spices in order to preserve, tenderize or flavor various food and cuts of foods. Foods placed in brines as a means to cure or pickle the foods are brined in order to extend the shelf life of an item, such as meat, fish and vegetables. For foods brined to enhance flavors and moisture content, brining is a process that is undertaken to add moisture to the muscle fibers within the food and to assist with dissolving proteins in the fibers so they become liquid instead of solid in mass. As the food soaks, the salt, which may also contain seasonings and spices, penetrates into the meat fibers. This allows any flavored seasonings or spices placed in the liquid brine to be drawn in as well, thus enhancing the quality of the food being brined. A brining spice that is often added to a brine may consist of a variety of seasonings such as coarse or flaked salt (sea salt and kosher salt are common), pepper or peppercorns, sage, allspice, thyme, galic, cardamom, lavender, juniper, citrus zest, and other selected ingredients. The time required for brining should be considered, since over brining will dry out and affect the meat, giving it a very salty and undesirable flavor. For smaller meats such as pork, shrimp or fish, brine for only 20 to 40 minutes, depending on size. For larger items, such as turkey, geese or large roasts and cuts of meat, brine for 6 to 24 hours depending on size. A standard guide is to brine the food item for one hour (1:00) to one hour fifteen minutes (1:15) per pound.

Foods such as chicken, pork, turkey, fish, and shrimp, which are considered lean meats, are good foods to brine. However, before brining it is always wise to check to see if the food has been "pre-basted" with a marinade or brined seasoning flavored with a brining spice. As an example turkey, pork or beef processed by major manufacturers and food processors, is often pre-basted with a flavor enhancer or moisturizing agent that may affect the value of brining again. Brining a pre-basted meat often results in overly soggy meat, since too much moisture could be added by brining.

To make one gallon of brine for smaller to medium-sized food items, use:

  • 4 quarts of cold water
  • 1/2 cup of coarse Kosher salt (dissolves faster than table salt)
  • 1/2 cup of sugar or a sweetener (honey, maple syrup or brown sugar) if sweetening is desired.
    This portion can be increased or decreased depending on the size of the item being brined. As an example, if a whole fresh turkey (12 to 14 pounds) is being brined, use 2 gallons of water, with 1 cup of salt and 1 cup of sugar.

    To prepare the brine, mix the salt and sugar with half of the water required in a large non-reactive pan or stockpot if large poultry is being brined. A non-reactive material is required so the salt does not affect the finish. Place the pan/stockpot on high heat and allow the mixture to dissolve into the water by stirring periodically. After the solution is completely dissolved, turn off the heat and remove the pan so it can cool. When the solution is cool, add the remaining quart of cold water for medium to small items or the remaining one gallon if brining a large turkey. Using a large pan, a stockpot, or a brining bag, submerge the food completely in the water and place the brine container holding the food in the lower section of the refrigerator for 6 to 8 hours if small in size or 12 to 24 hours if larger. It is wise to occassionally turn the food being brined to make sure all parts of the meat are brined. If using a brining bag, remove all the air in the bag and seal it tightly to make sure it will not leak. Although a bag made for brining is heavy duty and is typically secure, it is always a good idea to consider placing the bag filled with solution into a deep pan, bowl or the refrigerator vegetable crisper in case the bag should leak. Discard the bag after the meat has been brined.

    When brining, keep the food at a temperature of 39ยบ F or less so bacteria is not allowed to grow. An alternative to adding salt to the water is to rub a salt or a salt and seasoned mixture over the entire piece of food being brined. Then place it in the water, allowing the salt to desolve as it brines. After brining is finished, wash the excess solution off the surface of the food, discard the used brine (never reuse) and begin cooking.

  • USDA Nutrition Facts

    Total Fat30g
    Total Carbohydrates2g
    Dietary Fiber2g
    Serving Size0.5 cup
    Total Fat0g
    Total Carbohydrates15g
    Dietary Fiber1g

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