When I first started cooking, I was all about the marinade. Once I started working in a kitchen, I quickly learned that it is not only frowned upon by professional chefs, but it is a waste of money. Learning to make a simple brine gives great results for a fraction of the cost. There are a million brining recipes, but salt and sugar is really all you need. This is a short tutorial to show you how a little extra time and about 50 cents can give you perfect chicken every time.
WHAT IS BRINING:
Here is a quick scientific explanation of brining:
Salt and sugar cause the cell proteins to unravel, or denature. As the individual proteins unravel, they become more likely to interact with one another. This interaction results in the formation of a sticky matrix that captures and holds moisture.
In a nutshell:
Your meat takes in the salt and sugar which in turn help break down tough cell walls and fill the meat muscle with more moisture.
What you can brine:
Less fatty seafood (shrimp/oysters)
*If you are brining a turkey and using a large container, weigh the food down with a wide, heavy object such as a dinner plate or soup bowl. This helps keep the food fully immersed in the brine.
THE MOST BASIC BRINING FORMULA:
1 quart of brine per pound
1 pound of meat= 1 quart of water + 1/2 cup kosher salt + 1/2 cup of sugar
1 hour per pound, but not less than 30 minutes and more than 8 hours
Obviously this can be tweaked (if you have 1 1/2 lbs round up or down without repercussions).
HOW TO BRINE:
1. Mix cold water, salt, and sugar in a zip lock bag and stir to dissolve salt and sugar. Tonight I had 2 chicken breasts (a little over 1/2 lb). So I used 1/4 cup of each.
2. Immerse food in brine, seal, and refrigerate.
3. Set your timer.
4. Once your brining is complete, wash your protein throughly and pat dry. If you are looking for a crispy skin, the protein must be air dried in the refrigerator first. For best results, turkeys should airdry overnight.
5. Cook your simply made, delicious moist meat and wow some people.