Jump to content


Welcome to the eG Forums!

These forums are a service of the Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to advancement of the culinary arts. Anyone can read the forums, however if you would like to participate in active discussions please join the Society.

Photo

Experiments with brining chicken


  • Please log in to reply
15 replies to this topic

#1 Keith_W

Keith_W
  • participating member
  • 578 posts
  • Location:Melbourne

Posted 31 August 2012 - 01:18 AM

I have come across a number of brine recipes so I thought I would conduct a brine experiment to see how different levels of salinity affects the final result.

METHOD
- 6 skinless chicken thighs
- 2 each soaked in 8% brine for 8 hours, 6% brine for 10 hours, 4% brine for 12 hours
- all thighs were then breaded and deep fried for the same amount of time, and checked with a thermometer so that the final cooking temperature was 65C.

COMMENT
I had no idea what the ideal soaking time was for the different levels of salinity, so I went with two brine recipes I knew. Heston's brine recipe from In Search of Perfection suggests an 8% brine with an 8 hour soaking time, while Thomas Keller's brine recipe from Ad Hoc at Home suggests a 4% brine with a 12 hour soaking time. So I went with those, and chose an arbitrary brining time for the 6% brine exactly in between the two brines.

I chose skinless thighs because I did not want the skin to affect brine absorption. Also the uniform shape and size means cooking is more uniform (as opposed to a piece of breast, which is thin on one end and thick on the other).

I could have cooked the chicken some other way, but I did not want to poach the chicken since this would have affected the final salinity. I suppose that sous-vide or baking would have yielded a more accurate result, but I felt like eating fried chicken so that's what I did.

In hindsight, I should have weighed the pieces before and after brining but I forgot to do so.

I am aware that the volume of the brine affects the final salinity of the chicken, but I used the same volume for each batch. This means that my samples can be compared to each other, but my results might not be comparable to yours.

RESULT
After brining, all 3 brines had taken on a cloudy appearance but the 4% brine was the least cloudy, suggesting that less chicken juice had leached out into the brine. Sorry, no pictures.

8% brine produced a more salty chicken, but was slightly over-seasoned. I think the brine recipe works for a whole chicken but not for individual pieces. I have made this recipe for a whole chicken before, and it definitely works. The meat had a more cured taste and was less juicy than the other brines. If you can imagine what a McDonalds chicken fillet is like - that was the texture.

6% brine was more juicy than the 8% and had the right amount of seasoning.

4% brine was the juiciest of all, and produced the the most mouthwateringly succulent chicken. However, it was definitely under-seasoned and required some help with added salt at the table.

Based on the result of this experiment I am wondering if I should repeat the experiment with even lower brine concentration. But before that - I was wondering if other eG'ers have conducted similar experiments and what your results are.

Edited by Keith_W, 31 August 2012 - 01:21 AM.

There is no love more sincere than the love of food - George Bernard Shaw

#2 ChrisTaylor

ChrisTaylor
  • host
  • 1,865 posts
  • Location:Melbourne

Posted 31 August 2012 - 02:12 AM

I'd want to see results for a second experiment in which they were all brined for the same amount of time.

Chris Taylor

Host, eG Forums - ctaylor@egstaff.org

 

I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Melbourne
Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between


#3 Keith_W

Keith_W
  • participating member
  • 578 posts
  • Location:Melbourne

Posted 31 August 2012 - 05:06 AM

I don't think they should be brined for the same amount of time, Chris. Using various concentrations of hypertonic saline solution to brine is a bit like cooking with different amounts of heat. If you are comparing baking a chicken at 120C, 160C, and 200C, you can not cook them for the same amount of time. Same with brining.

I can tell you that none of the chickens at the end of the brining time was close to equilibrium. All you need to do is remember what the brine tasted like before you added the chicken. The 8% brine was crazy salty - so salty it was inedible. Yet the chicken turned out OK. IF I had allowed it to reach equilibrium, the chicken would be guaranteed to be inedible.

Ideally, the goal should be to find out what level of salinity in the meat corresponds with the most succulence and tenderness. Unfortunately I do not own one of those meters, but I understand it might be possible to kludge one together with a multimeter. Given that I lack such a machine and the ability to interpret the result, that might be something I should leave for more advanced practitioners.

Just so people have an idea, this is the salinity of some well known solutions:

- 0.9%: salinity of blood and muscle
- 1-2%: average salinity of seasoned foods
- 2.5%: salinity of an olive
- 3.1%: salinity of seawater

Edited by Keith_W, 31 August 2012 - 05:09 AM.

There is no love more sincere than the love of food - George Bernard Shaw

#4 ChrisZ

ChrisZ
  • participating member
  • 402 posts
  • Location:Sydney

Posted 31 August 2012 - 06:28 AM

I have only tried equilibrium brining, using the tables in Modernist Cuisine. This works for me because I don't have to worry about the exact amount of time the meat spends in the brine - 24 hours might turn into 48 if I'm forgetful or if dinner plans change. I always brine pork belly and scallops - seems to make a noticeable difference to their juiciness.

My understanding is that brining is all about juiciness/succulence and not about seasoning. I thought the idea was to replace the natural salts and sugars which had been lost since butchering, not to add additional seasoning. I think that once you get a higher concentration of salts & sugars than you would naturally, you are technically curing the meat and not brining it. So even if I've had a pork belly brining for a few days before I cook it, I wouldn't expect it to be better seasoned - I would still expect to have to season it just as much as if it hadn't been brined. I would only expect it to be juicier.

#5 michaelp

michaelp
  • participating member
  • 1 posts

Posted 08 November 2012 - 11:47 PM

My understanding is that brining is all about juiciness/succulence and not about seasoning. I thought the idea was to replace the natural salts and sugars which had been lost since butchering, not to add additional seasoning.


Second the equilibrium brining. It's changed the way I cook. I brine by this method regularly and multiple times per week. @Keith_W, if you haven't tried out the method, you definitely should. As a practical matter, ChrisZ's point about not worrying about an exact time is a real blessing.

My bad if I missed it in MC, but I don't recall seeing a "losing salts and sugars" discussion there or hearing about it elsewhere. What would be the mechanism for losing salt after butchering? Maybe there's something obvious. Can't think of anything though.

I also thought it was mentioned that the sugar in the equilibrium brine recipe was to offset some of the harshness of the salt.

Whoops, baby woke up. Have to stop here.

#6 Keith_W

Keith_W
  • participating member
  • 578 posts
  • Location:Melbourne

Posted 09 November 2012 - 03:56 AM

Thanks for the replies, Chris and Michael. I must have missed the section on brining in MC ... time to go re-read it I think. The damned book is so heavy, kind of hard to read it in bed (which is where I do most of my casual reading!).

Chris, I am a doctor so I have some understanding of salt and fluid loss. There isn't all that much salt loss after butchering, and I will prove it to you. If we were talking about a 70kg adult male, 60% consists of water (about 40kg). Of this, 2/3 (i.e. 26L) is intracellular fluid (ICF), and 1/3 (13L) in the extracellular fluid (ECF). The extracellular fluid also includes 4L of blood. The concentration of Na+ between the ICF and ECF is maintained at a gradient by a salt pump, the Na-K-ATPase pump. The concentration of Na+ in the ECF and blood is the same, because the barrier between the two compartments is a membrane riddled with big holes.

If this adult male were to die, the first thing that would happen is that the salt gradient across the ICF and ECF would equilibrate, since the energy-dependent salt pump would stop working. Given that [Na+] in ECF is 140 mmol/L and [Na+] in ICF is 10 mmol/L, the final [Na+] would be 110 mmol/L (6.4 g/L).

Suppose we were to drain all the blood from this adult male before the integrity of the membrane were lost. Some quick maths tells us that the new [Na+] would be 107 mmol/L (i.e. 6.3 g/L).

(Please excuse the rounding, I did it for reasons of clarity and not for mathematical precision. I am on a cooking forum and not a forum full of my nitpicky peers!!)

This simple calculation would tell us that salt loss after slaughtering would reduce the overall tissue salinity by a fairly miniscule amount. Of course the calculation for a chicken would be different to that of an adult human, but I don't know the numbers for chickens whereas I know the numbers for humans :)

Michael, if you have more to say about equilibrium brining after your baby goes back to sleep, I would love to hear it. And welcome to eGullet, by the way.

Edited by Keith_W, 09 November 2012 - 04:02 AM.

There is no love more sincere than the love of food - George Bernard Shaw

#7 radtek

radtek
  • participating member
  • 290 posts
  • Location:San Antonio, Texas

Posted 09 November 2012 - 08:05 AM

Ha I have seen more nit-picky behavior from forum participants...! I'm in the medical field as well and am painfully aware MD's certainly rank in the top 5 for being particular.

My opinion is to split the salt 50/50 with sugar. I've found that the end result is more pleasing be it chicken, pork or shrimp.

#8 Baselerd

Baselerd
  • participating member
  • 454 posts
  • Location:Texas

Posted 09 November 2012 - 08:42 AM

Modernist Cuisine states that the purpose of brining is to cause muscle fibers to swell and absorb water (and better retain water during cooking) due to the ion deposition onto the individual muscle fibers - causing them to repel and make room for more water. Other factors mentioned include the denaturization of proteins in high salinity, changing their water affinity. They also mention brines do effectively season the meat with the added salt.

I always add some amount of sugar to brines as well.

#9 nickrey

nickrey
  • society donor
  • 2,158 posts
  • Location:Sydney, Australia

Posted 09 November 2012 - 01:34 PM

Keith, the brining and curing section in MC is in volume 3 starting on page 169. You should find that it answers your questions. With regard to using sugar, I tend to find US palates prefer food sweeter than we Aussies: as a result, if I use it I tend to cut the recommended proportion of sugar in cures by half.

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four.
Unless there are three other people." Orson Welles
My eG Foodblog


#10 qrn

qrn
  • participating member
  • 748 posts

Posted 10 November 2012 - 03:45 PM

I stopped brining chicken long ago,now I just break it down in to pieces and put them in a big pot-with a lot of mortons canning and pickling salt on it,
and let it sit for a half hour or so,then rinse it off and put all the pieces in a large nonstick,pan and bake it at375,untill it looks nice and brown
Bud

#11 radtek

radtek
  • participating member
  • 290 posts
  • Location:San Antonio, Texas

Posted 10 November 2012 - 04:13 PM

I stopped brining chicken long ago,now I just break it down in to pieces and put them in a big pot-with a lot of mortons canning and pickling salt on it,
and let it sit for a half hour or so,then rinse it off and put all the pieces in a large nonstick,pan and bake it at375,untill it looks nice and brown
Bud


How is that not brining?

#12 qrn

qrn
  • participating member
  • 748 posts

Posted 10 November 2012 - 06:18 PM


I stopped brining chicken long ago,now I just break it down in to pieces and put them in a big pot-with a lot of mortons canning and pickling salt on it,
and let it sit for a half hour or so,then rinse it off and put all the pieces in a large nonstick,pan and bake it at375,untill it looks nice and brown
Bud


How is that not brining?

well I guess its a semantic thing.its lots easier than brining ,what with all the letting it sit in the brine,it(the salt) just gets absorbed into the meat and does not change the moisture content as a wet brine would do,(sez here in the small print), ho ho,,
bud

#13 Greg Honeycutt

Greg Honeycutt
  • participating member
  • 18 posts

Posted 10 November 2012 - 06:43 PM



I stopped brining chicken long ago,now I just break it down in to pieces and put them in a big pot-with a lot of mortons canning and pickling salt on it,
and let it sit for a half hour or so,then rinse it off and put all the pieces in a large nonstick,pan and bake it at375,untill it looks nice and brown
Bud


How is that not brining?

well I guess its a semantic thing.its lots easier than brining ,what with all the letting it sit in the brine,it(the salt) just gets absorbed into the meat and does not change the moisture content as a wet brine would do,(sez here in the small print), ho ho,,
bud

I guess it works like a cure, like duck confit? Just salt instead of a salt solution.

#14 gfweb

gfweb
  • participating member
  • 3,418 posts

Posted 10 November 2012 - 07:18 PM

Interesting piece here on brineing vs salting.
http://www.seriousea...html?ref=search

#15 radtek

radtek
  • participating member
  • 290 posts
  • Location:San Antonio, Texas

Posted 10 November 2012 - 07:20 PM

Brining is curing- particularly if left long enough.

In the end the result is the same. Salting the meat is easier though and I get the point. Much like when I get a Rock hen and salt it down for a couple hours uncovered in the fridge while getting the grill ready. Actually that is more like 1.5 hours drinking beer and 30 minutes heating the Egg. :laugh:

#16 adey73

adey73
  • participating member
  • 603 posts
  • Location:Moscow, Russia

Posted 11 November 2012 - 04:36 AM

MC has a phosphate brine, but can't track down the ingredients unless I buy 25kg bags.

Has anyone played with this?
“Do you not find that bacon, sausage, egg, chips, black pudding, beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, fried bread and a cup of tea; is a meal in itself really?” Hovis Presley.