Back to Basics: Brining

I’ve been telling people to brine chicken for as long as I’ve known my dear friend K.

She first introduced me to brining meats at her annual Christmas soiree. I still remember the way I felt when I sank my teeth into what was probably the best roast chicken I’ve ever had to date – the skin was crisp and golden and the meat was so juicy that my tastebuds sent signals to my mind to blurt “I’m not leaving your house until you tell me how you made this.”

She laughed, said “Brined chicken and lots of butter,” and gave me the recipe. I left just before dawn only becuase we were busy talking the night away and making it very clear (albeit with a slur) that this friendship feels transcendental to us both – kind of like how we both feel about brining meats.

Here’s why:

Two very important reasons to start brining today – flavour and texture.

Cooking forces the internal juices out of the meat. When you steep it in a savoury bath beforehand, the salt in the brine will help relax the protein strands in the meat while retenting the moisture in it. It’s kind of like giving the meat a really tasty deep-tissue massage.

What do I brine?

So far I’ve only been brining chicken and turkey, but the internet tells me that you could do it with any piece of drier or leaner meats like turkey, a rack of ribs or even shrimp. Will update once I get around to brining these.

How do I do this?

What I usually do is dissolve 1/4 cup of salt, a tablespoon of sugar in 1 litre of warm water and then submerge a whole chicken in there once it has completely cooled before letting sit in the fridge overnight. If I’m making chicken breast, I’d let it sit in the brine for about an hour else the texture gets a little too mushy. When the mood strikes, I’ll add some aromatics like black peppercorns, lemon peel, bay leaves – whatever I have in my kitchen that I feel might give the chicken an extra boost of flavour, basically.

Once the meat has been brined, I take it out of the brine, give it a little rinse to remove any surface, pat it dry and let it come down to room temperature before cooking it however I want.

Are you with me on #TeamBrine? Let me know in the comments below.

2 Comments

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