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Old 08-06-2009, 04:50 AM   #1
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To brine or not to brine?

I have always brined chicken breast before I grill them or marinate them. But I think there should be cautions when doing this. I cooked Chicken Tandoori and of course I brined the breast before I spiced the breast. It turns out to be a bit saltier than expected. So Im asking, to brine or not to brine?

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Old 08-06-2009, 07:16 AM   #2
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If I'm not mistaken, Brining is a way of preserving meat or vegetables (to slow them from going bad because bacteria don't like salt.) And generally, when preparing a brined meat it is customary to soak it in fresh water to remove the salt before cooking.

On the other hand, Marinading in a solution of herbs, or spices, or juices (such as lemon or pineapple) soak into the meat for flavor. Most marinades should not be rinsed off before cooking (there is always an exception.)

Chicken does not normally need to be brined, although there are brined chicken recipes, primarily from regions of the world that lack refrigeration, but you risk making a very salty chicken and it actually takes longer to cook. Brining also makes the meat tougher instead of being tender.

I would ask myself the question, "What is it I want to add to the flavor and texture of the chicken that I'm serving?"

In any event, a short soak in fresh water (about 15-20 minutes) should solve your problem.
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Old 08-06-2009, 08:34 AM   #3
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Arky that is completely incorrect. Brining is not for preservation. You are not using enough salt to preserve and you are introducing [b]more[/i] liquid to the meat which would work against preservation. You also would never soak a brined piece of meat in fresh water as that would undo exactly what you did with the brine so it would be pointless. The most you would do is quickly rinse the surface of the meat off before cooking, but even that I never bother with.

Brining is done for two reasons. It is done to add flavor and it is done to add moisture. Chicken and pork are the most commonly brined pieces of meat, but there are others that benefit from brining as well.

Brining introduces flavor throughout the entire piece of meat, while marinading only penetrates the first 1/8 of an inch of the meat. That is not to say that marinating is not a good thing to do. It does add flavor, but not as completely as brining and not in the same way. I am not sure where you are getting your information that brined chicken recipes are primarily from regions of the world that lack refridgeration. I am guessing you have brining confused with something else since brining also does not make meat more tender. Quite the opposite actually. As a matter of fact, one of the dangers of brining is that if you over brine by either using too much salt or letting the meat sit in the brine for too long (or both) then the meat gets spongy which is not that great of a texture to have in your meat. It is anything, but tough though.

marcmanaois, if your chicken came out too salty then there are a few things to consider.

1. You used too much salt in your brine. Next time cut back on the amount of salt.
2. You left the meat in the brine too long so it soaked up more salt than it needed. Next time cut back on the amount of time the meat is in the brine.
3. Did your marinade also have salt in it? If so, skip the salt in the marinade next time or better yet, either brine or marinade, but don't do both.

Brining is not a necessary step to take, but if you are like me (and it sounds like you are) then you like what brining does for your meat. It flavors it from the inside out and also adds moisture so it is harder to overcook the meat. Even if you do overcook it, it will still be juicy and tender. You could always skip brining though if you feel it will combine with the marinade to give your chicken a too salty taste.

When I brine chicken breasts I make the water about as salty as the ocean (maybe a hair less). I describe it as pleasantly salty, meaning you should be able to take a sip and not feel like you need to spit it out right away. I leave the breasts in the brine for 2 hours. I would go 3 max, but definitely no longer than 3. I find two to be ideal though.

Do NOT soak your meat in fresh water after a brine though as that will undo what you just did. brining works by osmosis. When you put the chicken in the salt water, the salt water travels into the meat so that the salinity is equal on both the inside of the chicken and the water. If you were to put a brined chicken in fresh water then the salinity would be greater inside the chicken so the salt water would be replaced with fresh water as the salt water is sucked out of the chicken. So after all that time waiting to get the salt in you are just taking it out. What would be the point in that?
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Old 08-06-2009, 08:59 AM   #4
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It depends on how you are preparing your chicken. If one is brining the meat, then further seasoning wouldn't be advantageous. I would pick one method per recipe. I wouldn't bother brining chicken breasts, unless that was the only way I was going to season the meat.
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Old 08-06-2009, 09:05 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GB View Post
Arky that is completely incorrect. Brining is not for preservation.

According to the Webber Grill people and history:
Historically, brining has been used as a method to preserve meat. Meat is soaked for many days in a very strong saltwater solution with the addition of sugar, spices, and other ingredients. This curing process binds the water in the meat or removes it altogether so it's not available for the growth of food-spoiling microorganisms.
With the advent of mechanical refrigeration, traditional brining became less popular for food preservation, but is still used today in the production of some meat products."


"While traditional brining was meant to preserve meat, the purpose of flavor brining is to improve the flavor, texture, and moisture content of lean cuts of meat."


"Some people don't like the texture that results, while others complain about the flavor, saying that it makes everything taste like ham (especially if sodium nitrite or Morton Tender Quick has been added to the solution) or that the meat tastes too salty."


Therefore, if it's too salty, remove some of it by quickly rinsing. That won't effect the brine that has soaked into the meat but it will remove some of the saltiness from the surface.


I do stand corrected about making it more tender. I was thinking about drying afterward like you sometimes do with ham. (I still wasn't quite awake.)
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Old 08-06-2009, 09:17 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Arky View Post
According to the Webber Grill people and history:
Historically, brining has been used as a method to preserve meat. Meat is soaked for many days in a very strong saltwater solution with the addition of sugar, spices, and other ingredients. This curing process binds the water in the meat or removes it altogether so it's not available for the growth of food-spoiling microorganisms.
With the advent of mechanical refrigeration, traditional brining became less popular for food preservation, but is still used today in the production of some meat products."


"While traditional brining was meant to preserve meat, the purpose of flavor brining is to improve the flavor, texture, and moisture content of lean cuts of meat."
I stand corrected. However, the OP was obviously talking about brining for flavor, not preservation.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Arky View Post
Therefore, if it's too salty, remove some of it by quickly rinsing. That won't effect the brine that has soaked into the meat but it will remove some of the saltiness from the surface.
How would you know if it is too salty though? You certainly will not take a bite of the raw chicken to see if it is too salty and soaking it after it is cooked, I am sure you will agree, would not be a good idea.

It seems the information you have posted is dealing with commercial brining. I don't know anyone who would add sodium nitrite to their brine. What we are dealing with here is a bit different.
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Old 08-06-2009, 10:32 AM   #7
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we use nitrite in corned beef & bacon brines, not brines for cuts of meat.
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Old 08-06-2009, 11:13 AM   #8
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Check it out:

Cook's Illustrated: The Basics of Brining
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Old 08-06-2009, 11:42 AM   #9
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Oh man - I am a HUGE fan of brining! Anyone who hasn't already tried it, you are in for a treat.

I think you are both correct, GB and Arky, because the word "brine" can be used to describe several techniques, including old-school preservation techniques. What you are imaging, though, Arky, is not what modern recipes and techniques for brining are like at all. I think that the OP was talking about brining in the modern sense.

Cook's Illustrated has an interesting article on brining - how it works from a scientific standpoint, and also master recipes for brining. If you're a member of their site, this is also a great article with more specific formulas. I use their formulas to brine chicken and pork regularly.

Brining, when done correctly, should not leave a salty taste on your meat. Seasoned, yes, but not salty. It matters not only how much salt you are using, but what kind of salt you're using. If you're using table salt, for example, you'd use much less salt than if you were using kosher salt. There are even variations between the fineness of different brands of kosher salt to consider.

I have used brine as the sole means of flavoring meats, but I've also used it in conjunction with sauces and rubs without running into problems with saltiness. That said, these weren't commercially prepared sauces or rubs, which tend to be pretty salty to begin with.

I almost always brine chicken breasts and pork tenderloin now. It is the best method I've tried to get a truly tender texture. When I skip this step, I really notice it.

I'll leave you with one of my favorite brines - hope you enjoy it!

Cilantro Lime Brine

3 medium limes
2 stems green onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
teaspoon crushed red pepper
teaspoon ground coriander
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar (demerara, raw, milled, etc)
cold water
ice cubes

1. In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup cold water, kosher salt, and sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until salt and sugar dissolve. Remove from heat.
2. Zest 1 lime, set zest aside. Juice all three limes. Measure lime juice and add cold water if necessary to make 1 cup of liquid. Add to a medium measuring bowl.
3. Add lime peel, green onion, garlic, cilantro, red pepper, and coriander to the bowl. Add salt solution and mix well.
4. Pour brine solution over 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a large zipper bag or other airtight container. Brine solution should totally cover chicken; add cold water if necessary. Add ice cubes and refrigerate for 1 hour.
5. Pat chicken dry and cook as desired. I love to grill or broil this chicken and serve it taco or fajita style.
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Old 08-06-2009, 11:50 AM   #10
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apple*tart, that brine sounds amazing. Thanks for posting it. I can't wait to give it a go.
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