I LOVE this technique! I don’t have any pictures yet, but this recipe is so simple you won’t even need it.
What is Brining?
Traditional (wet) brining is a great way to make a protein moist and more flavorful during cooking. Usually this is done with poultry, but it can be done with most proteins (pork and fish are commonly brined). The time in the brine varies drastically depending on the type and size of the protein.
Herbs, spices, and/or other flavorings are often added to the brine. This is COMPLETELY USELESS!! Unless you are adding about 2 pounds of rosemary per gallon of water, the flavor of whatever you put into the brine won’t noticeably affect the flavor of the protein. What is important is the ratio of salt, water, and sugar.
Here is a basic traditional brine recipe:
Per 1 quart of water:
1/4 cup Kosher salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
Mix over heat until the salt and sugar are completely dissolved into the water. Cool the liquid completely before using.
What’s the Problem with Brining?
While it’s true that brining helps proteins retain liquid during cooking, and while it’s true the protein is seasoned throughly from the brine, the protein tastes less like itself. The meat basically becomes water-logged with salt water. Think of how you feel and look after too much salt. The same thing happens when you brine a piece of protein.
Dry Brining: The Cure
I much prefer dry brining. It omits any water and is sugar-free.
- The protein gets seasoned just as thoroughly as traditional brining
- There is actually some water loss, resulting in a more intense flavor of the protein
- It only requires the amount of space for the protein (not the space needed to hold all of the water covering the protein in traditional brining)
Dry Brine Recipe
This recipe could not be any simpler. I like to make batches of it ahead of time (make sure you label it, otherwise it will look just like salt).
1 cup of Kosher Salt (use Diamond brand)
1/4 cup baking soda
Combine the ingredients thoroughly and store in a container.
When you want want to use it, season whatever you’re making liberally, just as you would with regular salt. This dry brining recipe works best with poultry.
For a chicken: dry-brine for 18-36 hours
For a turkey: dry-brine for 36-48 hours
For a duck: dry-brine for 24 hours
If you’re going to do red meat or fish, you can do this same process, but omit the baking soda. By process, I’m referring to the time and it takes for the salt to thoroughly penetrate the muscle fibers in the protein.
For 1 inch steaks: dry-brine for 2-4 hours
For roasts (pork and steak): dry-brine for 12-36 hours
For fish filets: dry-brine for 10 minutes