Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Brining pork and poultry

Brine. That's a cooking word that used to intimidate me. Once I tried brining, I realized why. It's magic, and magic is a little scary.

The magic of brine is that it adds moisture and flavor to lean cuts of meat. It's a very easy technique to master. This version is perfect for 6-8 servings of smaller cuts of meat: halved, boneless chicken breasts or pork chops.

Quick Brine Recipe

1/3 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup white sugar
2 cups very hot water
1 cup cold water
1 cup ice
5 crushed garlic cloves
1 tablespoon cracked peppercorns
Bay leaf
6-8 servings of halved boneless chicken breasts or pork chops

Put salt and sugar into a reseal-able plastic gallon bag. Add 2 cups of very hot water and seal. Shake until salt and sugar dissolve. Add cold water, ice, garlic, peppercorns, and bay leaf. Allow to cool, then add chicken or pork. Press out as much air as possible and seal. Meat should rest in brine for at least 90 minutes prior to cooking.

A couple of additional tips:

  • I don't recommend this particular brine for more than a 3-4 hour soak. The meat takes on more salt than I like.
  • Remember to drain and dry the meat before grilling, broiling or sautéing for best results.
  • When cooking meat after using this brine, remember to watch your temperature and consider keeping it a little lower. The added sugar means browning will occur much faster.
  • If you buy your meat in larger quantities to save money, try brining prior to portioning and freezing. You streamline your process and the brined meat loses less flavor and texture than when 'unbrined'.
  • You can add other spices to the brine. Try cayenne, juniper or rosemary, or use brown sugar with pork.

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