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Brining Chicken


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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 (log)
There is no love more sincere than the love of food - George Bernard Shaw
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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.

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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.

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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"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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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

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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?

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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

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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.

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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:

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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.

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  • 5 years later...

Glad I found this topic. I have a chicken in the fridge, in brine, that I put in last night. Life and grandchildren intervened, so I'm not roasting it tonight. I would put it in the fridge and let it air dry, but I have an engagement tomorrow night and can't roast it then, either, so it will have to be Friday. Should I:

 

(A) Leave it in the brine one more day, then take out and air dry in the fridge?

(B) Go ahead and take it out and let it air dry in the fridge for two days?

(C) Something else? It occurs to me to take it out, rinse it, put it back in the empty bowl and cover, then wait until tomorrow to spatchcock it and let it air dry. But I can do that tonight, if y'all say.

 

It's Ruhlman's lemon-herb chicken brine, which I think is 5 percent. Right at 6 oz of salt for a liter of water.

 

Thanks!

 

Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

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I wouldn't leave it in the brine, you'll risk over-brining it which can also lead to bad texture.

It should be fine air drying in the fridge for a couple days, but I find that the skin doesn't dry well in the hollows between the legs and breast, and the like.

I use a hair dryer, dedicated to the purpose of even drying poultry before it goes into the oven, or spit, or the like.

The couple days rest will also help equalize the salt throughout the bird.

Edited by DiggingDogFarm (log)

~Martin :)

I just don't want to look back and think "I could have eaten that."

Unsupervised, rebellious, radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, and adventurous cook. Crotchety, cantankerous, terse curmudgeon, non-conformist, and contrarian who questions everything!

The best thing about a vegetable garden is all the meat you can hunt and trap out of it!

 

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7 minutes ago, DiggingDogFarm said:

I wouldn't leave it in the brine, you'll risk over-brining it which can also lead to bad texture.

It should be fine air drying in the fridge for a couple days, but I find that the skin doesn't dry well in the hollows between the legs and breast, and the like.

I use a hair dryer, dedicated to the purpose of evening dry poultry before it goes into the oven, or spit, or the like.

The couple days rest will also help equalize the salt throughout the bird.

Cool. Thanks. I'll go ahead and take it out, and stick it back in the fridge whole on a rack couple of nights, and maybe spatchcock it Friday morning and let it dry some more before I roast it.

 

Edited by kayb (log)
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Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

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I experimented with brining chicken for about a year, and found that results were consistently worse than when not brining. A brined chicken will absolutely retain more water. This is only a benefit in cases where you're protecting yourself against drying out the bird from overcooking. If you don't dry out the bird from overcooking, you'll have a bird with a subtly altered, slightly cured texture, and less intensely flavored juices (at best) or salty juices (if you're not careful). 

 

I find it much easier to just cook the bird well. This requires manipulating some physics, because the dark meat needs to be cooked 5 or 6 degrees F hotter than the breasts, but the breasts are more exposed to direct heat. I protect the breasts with foil for about half the cooking time when roasting. This tweak is usually enough to get all the meat to come to the right temperature at the the same time that the skin browns. I'm typically aiming for white meat temperature of 140–145F, dark meat 148–153F. 

 

At least a few high end chefs disagree with me on this. I haven't heard their exact reasoning. Also, I haven't experimented with equilibrium brining, as described in Modernist Cuisine.

Notes from the underbelly

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Poultry often tends to be over-brined, IMO.

For best results, a 0.75% to 1.0% equilibrium brine is, usually, plenty—moisture retention, seasoning, without a 'cured' texture

 

 

Edited by DiggingDogFarm (log)

~Martin :)

I just don't want to look back and think "I could have eaten that."

Unsupervised, rebellious, radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, and adventurous cook. Crotchety, cantankerous, terse curmudgeon, non-conformist, and contrarian who questions everything!

The best thing about a vegetable garden is all the meat you can hunt and trap out of it!

 

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9 hours ago, paulraphael said:

I experimented with brining chicken for about a year, and found that results were consistently worse than when not brining. A brined chicken will absolutely retain more water. This is only a benefit in cases where you're protecting yourself against drying out the bird from overcooking. If you don't dry out the bird from overcooking, you'll have a bird with a subtly altered, slightly cured texture, and less intensely flavored juices (at best) or salty juices (if you're not careful). 

 

I find it much easier to just cook the bird well. This requires manipulating some physics, because the dark meat needs to be cooked 5 or 6 degrees F hotter than the breasts, but the breasts are more exposed to direct heat. I protect the breasts with foil for about half the cooking time when roasting. This tweak is usually enough to get all the meat to come to the right temperature at the the same time that the skin browns. I'm typically aiming for white meat temperature of 140–145F, dark meat 148–153F. 

 

At least a few high end chefs disagree with me on this. I haven't heard their exact reasoning. Also, I haven't experimented with equilibrium brining, as described in Modernist Cuisine.

 

Unfortunately, I am by chicken the way I am by pork; it has to be well done. I love a good steak rare to medium rare, and I will eat my weight in beef tartare (or raw tuna, for that matter), but pork and chicken must have NO pink. Brining tends to soak out the residual blood in the body cavity (mine are farm birds, and not the most neatly gutted). I cook to a dark meat temp of 165, usually covering the breasts for the first 30 minutes of cooking. Brining in the Ruhlman brine gives me plenty of juiciness, and I do not notice a "cured" taste or texture; more sensitive palates than mine might.

Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

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16 hours ago, Charles Stanford said:

 

Boulud's a great chef, and I've loved some meals at his restaurants, and even reverse engineered some recipes from him, but nevertheless, that's a terrible roasted chicken recipe. I don't have to try it to know. And I'd be surprised if he cooks that for his family.

 

That chicken will have some combination of very overcooked breasts and undercooked thighs. There is nothing in the technique to deal with the different cooking requirements of these parts, and trussing actually exacerbates this problem greatly. In this case brining is just a band-aid to help compensate for bad cooking.

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Notes from the underbelly

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1 hour ago, paulraphael said:

In this case brining is just a band-aid to help compensate for bad cooking.

 And if you didn’t happen to notice that the salt is kosher salt shown in the photograph but not mentioned you could completely ruin it using 3/4 of a cup of table salt to 1 gallon of water x 18 hours. I found the idea that the amount of ingredients used in the brine didn’t matter quite alarming.  

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

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"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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My poor, misbegotten chicken. I got him out of the brine whenever I did it, and let him dry in the fridge for what wound up being two days. I spatchcocked him today and roasted him at 425 for 40 minutes and set him aside, while I was in the throes of cooking ahead for Easter dinner.

 

Now I'm sick of the kitchen and don't want anything to eat. So I guess he'll go in a big plastic bag and decamp back to the fridge. He'll be good next week.

 

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Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

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  • 4 weeks later...
On 3/31/2018 at 10:00 AM, paulraphael said:

 

Boulud's a great chef, and I've loved some meals at his restaurants, and even reverse engineered some recipes from him, but nevertheless, that's a terrible roasted chicken recipe. I don't have to try it to know. And I'd be surprised if he cooks that for his family.

 

That chicken will have some combination of very overcooked breasts and undercooked thighs. There is nothing in the technique to deal with the different cooking requirements of these parts, and trussing actually exacerbates this problem greatly. In this case brining is just a band-aid to help compensate for bad cooking.

Thanks for the laugh!

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