How to Make a Basic Brine
Brining is a simple technique that replaces the water in meat and poultry with the brining solution which yields juicier, more flavorful meat. With this quick refresher, you'll learn how to make a basic brine so you'll be well on your way to juicy, flavorful meat and poultry in no time.
Brining is a simple way to infuse lean cuts of meat and poultry with moisture and flavor, and is easy to do in a home kitchen. A brine is nothing more than a saltwater solution (although sugar and flavorings, such as peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, and fresh herbs are often added). As meat soaks in the brine, it absorbs the salt and draws in water, plumping up the muscle fibers, making them juicier. How long to brine is debatable, but we’ve found that two hours is adequate for most cuts of meat and poultry (but it’s fine to go an hour or two longer). After 24 hours, however, brining can cause a “hammy” texture and overly salty flavor.
To Make a Basic Brine
Bring a quart of water, ½ cup kosher salt, and ½ cup brown sugar to a boil, along with any herbs and spices you choose. Simmer to dissolve the salt and sugar and release the aromatic oils from the added flavorings. At this point, the brine must be cooled to at least 40° to prevent bacterial growth in the meat. To speed the cooling process, pour the brine over 6–8 cups of ice cubes. You’ll have ice-cold brine in no time. Once cold, add the meat or poultry, and refrigerate while brining.