The process is as old as food itself.  In food processing, brining is treating food with brine or coarse salt which preserves and seasons the food while enhancing tenderness and flavor with additions such as herbs, spices, sugar, caramel and/or vinegar.  Meat and fish are typically brined for less than twenty-four hours while vegetables, cheeses and fruit are brined in a much longer process known as pickling. 

Brining is similar to marination, except that a marinade usually includes a significant amount of acid, such as vinegar or citrus juice.  Brining is also similar to curing, which usually involves significantly drying the food, and is done over a much longer time period.

Why Do You Brine Before Cooking?   Food 5.2

Brining was originally used for food preservation in the pre-refrigeration era. However, there are two solid reasons why you should brine your meat in this century: flavor and texture. Brining infuses the meat with savory, finger-licking flavors, all while tenderizing it to butter-soft texture. 

Does the word "osmosis" ring a bell? That's how brining works: When you place meat in a bath of salty, flavorful liquid, the solution will travel into the meat in order to equalize the salt levels. This means that, before even hitting the heat, your meat has a higher liquid content—so when you cook it, your meat will lose the same amount of moisture, but will still end up juicier. 

Real Southern Fried Chicken Is A Simple Dish —  We cut the chicken in the standard eight piece mode, making simple pieces, two breasts, two thighs, two wings and two legs, then we marinate the chicken pieces in a brine, with salt, pepper, herbs, spices and then paprika, rolled in flour, sometimes, Panko  and for kick, throw some crushed (herb blender or coffee grinder spicy Doritos into the mix and re-flour.  Simple… elegant and delicious.

Add 1/2 to 3/4 inch oil ( I use a Canola and Olive Oil Mix) to a large, heavy skillet. Heat to approximately 365 degrees F (185 degrees C). Place chicken pieces in hot oil. Cover, and fry until golden, turning once, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain on paper towels.  Thats Southern Fried Chicken!  For wings I might use the oven on trays with up to forty wings.

Brine The Chicken  —  Nothing attractive has ever come out of a brine. It’s a chemical transition.  They look weird and then cook incredibly well, looks great and tastes better. Don’t swear it off just yet, though, because brining your chicken before you cook it can be a crucial part of the whole process. 

It adds flavor, keeps the meat juicy, and even reduces the risk of overcooking.  Heres the Secret Brine used by Ya-Ya’s which is rapidly going out of business, the best part of their meal was the brine, their chickens were microscopic, overcooked by and burnt with idiots behind the counter and a lot of run-ins with the kitchen police…because they hired idiots.

Secret Formula  —  There are a few ways to do this. The wet brine is basically a solution ( amounts are flexible) of the following and it varies by culture and tradition. Many brine combinations and amounts on the web… nothing to it.

  • salt
  • sugar
  • water
  • herbs - common Italian mix works well
  • spices and aromatics, garlic and onion

Which you then bring to a boil and stir to allow those flavors to really stew together. After that, you let the whole thing become cold (don’t want those bacteria joining the party) and then submerge the pre-cooked bird or cuts, leaving them to brine for up to two days in the refrigerator. 

Dry brining is a similar technique in which the salt, sugar and seasonings are rubbed straight onto the meat, allowing for a quicker turnaround since they'll soak in after just a few hours. Whichever method you choose, the chicken that ends up on your plate is guaranteed to be far tastier and more exciting than anything you’ve made before.

Another Citrus Marination - Similar Marinade Used By Pollo Tropical

  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice - approx. 2-3 limes
  • 1 tsp lime zest - finely grated 
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice - approx. 2-3 lemons
  • 1 tsp lemon zest - finely grated 
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice - approx. 2 large oranges
  • 8 cloves garlic - minced
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 1 tsp dried basil 

Hint —  Leon’s Fine Poultry - The Old South Brine  —  Our breading is two ingredients: seasoning and all-purpose flour. What really sets the chicken apart is to brine it. Brining is one of those things that’s difficult for home cooks because of space, but it’s the easiest first step of improving your chicken. 

We brine ours for four hours in a super simple mix of water, salt, sugar, and hot sauce. You can play with different aromatics—something like juniper, star anise, citrus peel, going to come across super subtle and nuanced. 

The other thing that sets our chicken apart is that we bread our chicken the day before. Think for a moment when you’ve had fried chicken: You take that first bite of a chicken leg, and the whole crust pulls straight off the leg.  What we do is once we bread it, we let it sit on a rack in the fridge and let air circulate overnight. It’ll allow the moisture of the chicken to soak through the breading, and it makes it super tacky, allowing the breading to stick.

The benefit of brine is that the batter keeps the seasoning from penetrating the meat, but the brine works its way in. Keep a close eye on the thermometer when frying; try to maintain a temperature of 300°F, which will cook the chicken through without burning the exterior.

Yes, it takes time to brine chicken. Four hours to be exact. But it is beyond worth it. The meat is simply succulent. 

First you start by making a brine. The brine in this recipe is composed of water, salt, brown sugar, summer savory (which is my favorite herb, but thyme can be substituted in a pinch) and granulated garlic. 

To make it, simply combine half of the water, the salt, sugar and seasonings and cook just until sugar and salt dissolve. Then add the remaining cold water to the brine and allow it to come to room temperature.

Once it comes to room temperature, place the chicken in a resealable plastic bag, pour the brine over the top, seal and refrigerate for at least 2 hours but not more than four. You don’t have to use a resealable plastic bag another non-reactive container will work as well.

After the chicken has brined, you want to rinse it to get all the extra salt off. Then pat the chicken dry with paper towels.

When people make fried chicken, the issue is that it’d be practically burnt on the outside before it was cooked through on the inside. There is a technique for making the perfect fried chicken is to cook it in a cast iron skillet covered for 7 minutes. Turn it an then cook covered for another 7 minutes. Then maybe 3 or 4 more minutes uncovered just to get the color that I want. By covering the chicken while it cooks, it ensures that both the inside and outside will be done at the same time. It’s that easy!

Garlic Chicken + Olive Oil Drizzle  —  Dry rubbed with garlic and drizzled with garlic oil makes Garlic Fried Chicken a hit with all garlic lovers. It’s crispy, succulent and perfectly garlicky.    If you are a garlic lover, you are going to fall head over heels in love with this Garlic Fried Chicken.   Garlic crispy goodness on the outside, tender and succulent meat on the inside. And the whole finger licking good thing totally applies here because you don’t want to waste any of the delicious garlic oil that is poured over the top.

You could use this technique with any flavor of fried chicken as the chicken is simply coated with a dry rub of salt, pepper, paprika and granulated garlic and marinated for at least 4 hours. The longer the better. Finally when you’re ready to cook you simply dredge the chicken in flour. That’s it. No wet batter. No egg/milk wash. Just flour. And then fry until perfection.

After you fry the chicken, you sauté garlic in olive oil with a little parsley, just until the garlic is fragrant, and then pour that over the plate of freshly fried chicken.

How Brining Works  —  The chemistry behind brining is pretty simple. Meat already contains salt water. By immersing meats in a liquid with a higher concentration of salt, the brine is absorbed into the meat. Any flavoring added to the brine will be carried into the meat with the saltwater mixture. Because the meat is now loaded with extra moisture, it will stay that way as it cooks.

The process of brining is easy but takes some planning. Depending on the size of what you want to brine it can take up to 24 hours or more. If you are going to be brining a whole bird, you will also want an additional 6 to 12 hours between the brining and the cooking. If you want your poultry to have a golden, crispy skin, it needs to sit in the refrigerator for several hours after you remove it from the brine so that the meat can absorb the moisture from the skin.

The most basic process of brining is to take approximately 1 cup of table salt (no iodine or other additives) to 1 gallon of water. Another way to measure this concentration is with a raw egg. The ideal brine has enough salt to float a raw egg. You will need enough brine to completely submerge the meat without any part being out of the liquid. Some items might need to be weighed down to stay under. Brine meat for about an hour per pound. Remove from brine (don’t reuse the brine)and rinse to remove any excess salt before cooking.

What to Brine  —  So what should you brine? Just about any meat you choose. Poultry in particular benefits greatly from brining, regardless of how you plan to cook it. Large roasts, racks of ribs and anything you plan to smoke will be better for having been brined first. But this isn’t just a great barbecue tip but a good idea for meats whether you smoke, grill, roast or fry them.

How to Make a Basic Brine  —  The typical brine consists of 1 cup of salt for each gallon of water (or other liquids). Start by determining the amount of liquid you are going to need. To do this take the meat you plan to brine and place it in the container you are going to use. The container can be almost anything that will easily fit the meat but isn't so big that you have to prepare far more brine that you need. Plastic containers, crocks, stainless steel bowls, resealable bags or any non-corrosive material will work.

Once you know how much liquid is needed start by boiling 2 cups of water for each cup of salt, you will need. Once it boils, add the salt (and sugar if you are going to be using sugar) and stir until dissolved. Add other spices and herbs. Combine with the remaining liquid (should be cold). The brine should always be cold before you add the meat so you should refrigerate it before you add the meat. You don't want the brine cooking the meat.

At this point, you can add other brine ingredients like juices or cut up fruit. Submerge the meat into the brine. You can use a plate or other heavy object to keep it down. It is important that no part of the meat be exposed to the air. Saltwater brines will kill bacteria and keep the meat from spoiling, but it doesn’t work if part of the meat is sticking out.

Brine meats for about 1 hour per pound in the refrigerator. It is important that everything is kept cold. The specific amount of time will vary. Lighter meats like poultry or seafood do not need to be brined as long as denser meats like pork tenderloins. Use the following chart to give you an idea of how long to brine. Remember that the longer you brine, the stronger the flavor will be. If you over brine you could end up with some very salty meat.

Once the meat is properly brined, remove it. You do not need to rinse unless you were using a high salt concentration in the brine or if there is a layer of visible salt on the surface. 

Otherwise, you can take cuts of meat straight to the grill, smoker, or oven. Whole poultry is the exception, however. To get a crispy, brown skin, whole birds should be removed from the brine, wrapped in foil or plastic and put in the refrigerator overnight or for at least 12 hours.

Basic Brining Times —  

Shrimp    30 Minutes

Whole Chicken (4 to 5 pounds) Too much longer will produce very salty (yuck)  chicken.

Turkey (12 to 14 pounds)     12 hours

Pork Tenderloin (whole)     12 hours

Cornish Hens     1 to 2 hours

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