Once upon a time, brining was used as a way to preserve food. Today, we use the brining technique to bring out the salty, umami flavours in our food.
Brine, simply put is salty water. Often people also add additional seasonings or spices depending on the purpose. Some people add sugar which creates a salty, sweet favour.
Brining is useful as it slows the development of bacteria, and adds moisture to meats which would otherwise dry out on a bbq or smoker. Brining could add as much as 10% to the weight of the meat, by simply adding moisture to the muscle fibers.
Brining is used for meats which tend to dry, including chicken breast and pork chops. It’s also used to enhance flavours for smoked fish and ham.
As a general rule, the brining ratio is 250g of salt to every 4L of water. For sweet brines, add the same amount of sweetener (sugar, maple syrup etc) as salt. It’s important to dissolve the salt / sugar and you can do this by using warm water. Be sure to let the brine come to room temperature before adding any meat.
Brining should take place in the fridge, using a deep dish or resealable bag (again in a dish). As a general rule, brining takes 1 hour per 500g of meat.
Simple chicken brine:
- 4L warm water
- 250g Kosher salt
- 250g brown sugar
Pour the warm water into a container (make sure the container is twice the volume of the water). Add the salt and sugar and stir until dissolved.
Place the chicken in brine, cover, and refrigerate two hours for 1kg skinless breasts, 4 hours to overnight for whole chickens. Drain and pat the chicken dry before cooking. 4L of brine is enough for 2.5kg of whole chicken or bone-in chicken pieces, and up to 4kg of skinless, boneless chicken breasts.