- By Tom Jackson
- Nov 21, 2022
A common phrase used in the culinary world is “fat is flavor.” But what do you do with a piece of meat that has very little fat, such as a turkey? Our team of experts all agree that when preparing a lean meat that must be cooked over a long period of time, we will almost always brine it.
In its simplest form, brining is soaking meat in a solution of salt and water. The usual formula is 3-6% salt added to enough water to cover your entire piece of meat. You can soak for as little as 30 minutes and up to several days depending on the size and density of the food you are preparing. The typical recommended time is 30 minutes to 1 hour per pound of meat. Your meat should be thawed completely before brining for the best results. After you have brined, you can usually expect a juicier and more tender bite than you would have without brining.
Meats with less fat contain dense muscle fibers that are surrounded by proteins. As food is heated, these proteins and muscle fibers will contract which pushes moisture out and also makes the meat tougher. Therefore, meat loses weight as it cooks, and overcooked meat becomes tougher to chew. Brining allows salt to break down cell walls in the proteins and those cells are then able to take on extra water through osmosis. This can add additional water weight prior to cooking which counterbalances the amount of water weight lost while cooking. Salt also dissolves the protein filaments which prevents them from tightening and makes the meat more tender. The additional salt also adds seasoning to the inside of the meat creating better flavor throughout.
Flavor can also be added in the form of herbs and spices. Sugar can also be used to balance the salt, but finding the right balance can be hard to figure out, so many prepared brines such as Sweetwater Spice Co. brines and Cattleman’s Grill Butcher House Brine take the guesswork out of brining. Just add the brine mixture to water and soak for the recommended amount of time and then you are ready to season the outside and cook.
If your goal is to provide a flavorful, moist, and tender piece of meat, then brining is definitely worth the effort. Besides adding flavor and moisture, brining also provides an extra safety margin when cooking lean and delicate meats such as fish, lean pork, and poultry so you are less likely to overcook them. One other benefit of brining is that because it provides more moisture to the outside as well, it prevents the exterior of the meat from becoming dry and tough when exposed to high heat. So, if you ask us, the benefit of brining far outweighs the risks of cooking without brining.
3. Cast Iron Pan
You can cook much more than just T-bone steaks and pork chops on a grill. With this 12" Lodge cast iron skillet, you can saute, sear or stir fry, and you can do it anywhere on any kind of grill. If you're new to cast iron, check out our guide to caring for cast iron and our 5 everyday cooking applications.
Our staff is filled with home cooks who use our products every day and would be happy to answer your questions.
Go and brine again!
Some of our favorite brining accessories