December 31, 2013


I have become a true believer for brining. And no, I'm not talking about that "20-30% saline solution or 'broth' solution" that you see on the grocery store chicken these days. How did that ever get started? Well, we know the answer to that. It added weight and chicken is sold by the pound. And it did help to keep chicken moist. But I really don't want someone else brining my chicken for me. I'm not saying you have to buy organic chickens if they are cost prohibitive for you. But if you can, please do. Buy as minimally processed, humanely raised chickens as fit your budget.

Anyway. Back to brining.

J. Kenji Lopez-Alt of the  Food Lab section explains it better than I could and so I quote him here:

"Brining is the process by which a lean meat (most often chicken, turkey, or pork) is submerged in a salt water solution. As the meat sits, the salt water will slowly dissolve key muscle proteins (most notably myosin, a protein that acts as a sort of glue, holding muscle fibers together). As the myosin dissolves, two things take place.

First, the ability for the meat to hold onto moisture increases. See, you can imagine meat as a series of long, skinny toothpaste tubes tied together. As you cook meat, the tubes of toothpaste get squeezed, pushing out valuable juices. Myosin is one of the key proteins responsible for this squeezing action, so by dissolving it, you prevent a lot of moisture loss from taking place.

Second, it alters the texture of the meat by allowing dissolved proteins to cross-link with each other. This is the main principle in sausage making—dissolved proteins can bond with each other, creating a pleasantly bouncy, tender texture. By brining a chicken breast or a pork chop, you're in effect giving it a very light cure—the same process that converts a raw wet ham into a supple prosciutto."

So far I have just tried the Thomas Keller brine as you know. This lends an intense, herbal flavor to the chicken. But it's a lot of work and as much as I like the results, I am comfortable using a simpler salt brine in the future.

Now, there's been some talk about Chick Fil A using a "pickle juice" brine. As I understand it, you can brine pickles Kosher dill style and that's just a salt brine (I think) or go the vinegar and salt water brine route. Like Kenji, I don't think there is any vinegar in the Chick Fil A recipe, hence a salt water brine.

Now: Here is a link to a Bon Appetit recipe that includes for a brining prior to frying the chicken:

Here is a link with the actual recipe:

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