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
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar (demerara, raw, milled, etc)
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.