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All this Brining business is quite new to me, and I think must be more popular in the US than the UK.

My question is, how is this different to the commercial processes which try and give the illusion of succulence to cheap supermarket meat?

I try and buy meat that hasn't been injected with (admittedly a less wholesome liquid than straightforward brine) added liquid, at greater expense - why would I want to take it home and add my own?


I love animals.

They are delicious.

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Poultry and pork producers ue two methods for restoring succulence to meats: brining and injecting. The former is much more common than the latter, which is usually employed only on turkeys (these are the "self-basting" types). There is no great difference between what is done at the processing plant and what you can do at home, although the vast differences in scale make for different specific techniques.

There are three reasons why you would would do yourself what you won't allow others to do for you:

1) There is no good reason to pay meat prices for saltwater.

2) If you're doing it yourself, you have much more control over the end result. You can vary the brining time, the brine concentration and the brine additives. For instance, the other night I brined a chicken, which I subsequently fried. In addition to salt, I added lemon juice and vinegar-based pepper sauce, giving it some tang and heat in addition to the basic seasoning. Had I bought a commercially brined bird, I would have been limited to surface application of these seasonings.

3) Once meat is removed from the brine, a clock starts ticking. Without the supporting pressure of immersion, liquid will start to leak out of the meat. Of course, all meat leaks to some extent, but brined items, after several days in the meat case, end up wading in deep puddles of pink.


Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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gsquared   

Great class! Congrats!

What are your personal experiences with brining shrimp? I have 2Kg of 20-30 prawns - that is prawns that run 20-30 per Kg, intended for dinner tomorrow and have, since reading your course, been debating whether or not to brine them. Intended cooking method is poaching in olive oil.


Gerhard Groenewald

www.mesamis.co.za

Wilderness

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How did the green chicken taste?

No one believed me when I tried to convince them that it simply wasn't ripe yet.

The thing is, once the skin was removed, you couldn't tell. I sliced it into cutlets and served it with mushrooms and a reduction of stock and Marsala wine. And spinach noodles.


Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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Varmint   

Professor-

I was considering brining a whole hog for my pig pickin. Because we'll be slow cooking this sucker over approximately 18 hours, I was thinking that the brining's effects would be lost. What are your thoughts on this?


Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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Great class! Congrats!

What are your personal experiences with brining shrimp? I have 2Kg of 20-30 prawns - that is prawns that run 20-30 per Kg, intended for dinner tomorrow and have, since reading your course, been debating whether or not to brine them. Intended cooking method is poaching in olive oil.

Thank you.

I brine shrimp for no longer than 30 minutes, maximum, even when I'm just going to boil them.

I've never poached them in olive oil, so I have no experience to guide me. I can't see that you have much to lose, but I don't know how oil-poaching benefits the shrimp (I'm not being a smartass here, I really don't know.)

I'd suggest you either 1) try it and let us know what you think; 2) explain what oil-poaching does, and maybe we can make some guesses about brining.


Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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so what's the *real* answer:  does the addition of any element, other than salt, to the liquid add flavor to the *inside* of the meat.

I believe that water-soluble flavor components of relatively small molecular size do flavor the interior of the meat. That's as unequivocal as I'm willing to get until our Amazon commissions become sufficient to purchase an electron microscope.

It's tricky. For instance, table sugar (sucrose) clearly works. But I don't think molasses does, at least not to the extent that sucrose does, therefore I'm no longer convinced that it makes much difference whether you use brown sugar or white sugar.

I think if you boil garlic cloves to make a sort of tea, you get the tiniest bit of flavoring, but I don't think it's worth the trouble -- and like molasses/brown sugar, you're not getting the whole flavor of it, you're only getting the water-soluble/small molecule parts of it. The same goes for oily herbs like bay, rosemary, basil and sage.

I do think marinating goes on that affects the outer 1/8 to 1/4 inch of the meat, and the more complex flavorings make a difference there.


Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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gabe   

I am a recent convert to brining -- I've done 2 roast chickens now, one brined overnight and one brined for four hours or so. My formula has been the standard one you mention. The first bird was definitely saltier than the second, but both tasted wonderful. My question is: in your experience, does adding sugar to the brine help facilitate browning during roasting? It seems plausible that additional sugar in the skin would enhance caramelization. While I've managed to get nice, lightly browned skin on my roast chicken, I have yet to achieve the dark golden, crispy skin I like the best.

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gsquared   
I've never poached them in olive oil, so I have no experience to guide me. I can't see that you have much to lose, but I don't know how oil-poaching benefits the shrimp (I'm not being a smartass here, I really don't know.)

The idea of oil poaching is to cook the shrimp in oil at a low temp (63ºC) to prevent the short "done/overdone" window when for example, frying them. Something akin to Keller's butter poached lobster.


Gerhard Groenewald

www.mesamis.co.za

Wilderness

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WHAT ABOUT VACUUM MARINATION? TRIED IT?

Dave,

Have you ever worked with or a you familiar with vacuum marination? It is a relatively recent addition to the world of brining and injecting. More suitable to small pieces of meat, vacuum marination involves a stainless steel cylinder which after being filled with brine and protein has most of the air removed from it. The interior has little ledges which pick up the meat as the cylinder slowly revolves and tumbles the meat and seafood in the brine. Somehow the removal of air causes the protein to to act like a sponge and it efficiently quickly soak up the brine. I have had great success working with a vacuum marinator and think they are really useful machines. I first saw them used at the Perdue R & D facility in western Virginia.

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slkinsey   

Dave, I think it really depends on how long you leave the meat in the brine and how strong the flavor is in the brine. I have used herb flavorings steeped in the brine, lemon juice and chili pepper in the brine, and also garlic brines. All of these flavors penetrated deeply, as was evident by tasting some of the flesh near the bone. Part of the secret, I think, is that the flavoring agent has to be really strong in the brine.

I do think your molecular size hypothesis makes sense. For eample, I wonder if it might be the case that pigment molecules are too large or otherwise not able to be carried deep into flesh. When I have brined chicken with chili peppers, the chili flavor was carried deep into the flesh but very little of the red color. The red color ended up mostly on the skin and the outside of the flesh.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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slkinsey   
My question is:  in your experience, does adding sugar to the brine help facilitate browning during roasting?

In my experience, it does.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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Professor-

I was considering brining a whole hog for my pig pickin.  Because we'll be slow cooking this sucker over approximately 18 hours, I was thinking that the brining's effects would be lost.  What are your thoughts on this?

Brining works with dry-heat cooking, regardless of duration. In fact, it gives you a weapon to counteract the drying effects of long, low cooking -- it will be sort of an internal mop -- and will give you a wider window of doneness. For backup, I'll cite the many smokers on eGullet who swear by brining for pork butt (often cooked for close to 18 hours); and the fact that commercial, non-country-style hams are usually brined before being smoked for many hours -- somtimes days.

Clean out the bathtub and brine that sucker.


Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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Dave, very nice course. I'm looking forward to directing a lot people towards it.

As to the herbs, you really do have to add a lot before you notice the affects and then you have to brine the meat for days, at which point it gets pretty salty. Being a cheap ass, I didn't like the idea of spending $5 on herbs and spices every time I made a brine. If I want the herbs and spices, I just do a rub or a marinade after I brine. Also, if you smoke your brined meat, more than likely the herbs in the brine are going to be overpowered.

I'd also like to note that although I like the taste of vinegar from a brine in the meat, it changes the texture subtly, making it chewier so I haven't used any vinegar or hot sauce in my brines. Like above, if I'm looking for some heat, I'll add some cayenne powder or whatever I have up my sleeve.

When I first started experimenting with brine (back before the aughts), I desperately wanted a lot of heat in whatever I was brining. You see, I lived in Texas and my tolerence for hot items was diminishing because contrary to popular myth, Texans are actually wimps when it comes heat. So in one of my brines I finely blended two habaneros and a dozen jalapenos in my gallon brine. It took four days it get any discernable heat and that was onyl in the skin. I was dissapointed to say the least. But, you can always marinade or dry rub after brining to your desired heat level and you also get more control that way.

edit re vinegar: ever heard of ceviche? It's shrimp cooked in lime juice. The citric acid actually cooks the shrimp and a variation of that is happening when you add acid to your meat brines, you're partially cooking the meat, hence the rubbery texture.


Edited by col klink (log)

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Varmint   
Professor-

I was considering brining a whole hog for my pig pickin.  Because we'll be slow cooking this sucker over approximately 18 hours, I was thinking that the brining's effects would be lost.  What are your thoughts on this?

Brining works with dry-heat cooking, regardless of duration. In fact, it gives you a weapon to counteract the drying effects of long, low cooking -- it will be sort of an internal mop -- and will give you a wider window of doneness. For backup, I'll cite the many smokers on eGullet who swear by brining for pork butt (often cooked for close to 18 hours); and the fact that commercial, non-country-style hams are usually brined before being smoked for many hours -- somtimes days.

Clean out the bathtub and brine that sucker.

I certainly don't want to overdo it, as I want moist barbecue, not moist ham. At what point does the pork to ham transition occur?


Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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bilrus   

This is a simple question, but I don't recall seeing it in the instructions.

What do you do with the meat after it comes out of the brine? Rinse? Rub dry? Air dry?


Bill Russell

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My question is:  in your experience, does adding sugar to the brine help facilitate browning during roasting?

In my experience, it does.

It makes some sense, plus I trust Sam on this one.

However, I dislike the taste of the sugar in the chicken meat itself -- it makes the thighs taste like this lunch meat my Mom used to buy called honey loaf, which I think was made by molding ham scraps, sugar, salt and gelatin to make a slicable "sausage."

Besides, there are other ways to get crisp skin.


Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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slkinsey   
I certainly don't want to overdo it, as I want moist barbecue, not moist ham.  At what point does the pork to ham transition occur?

You should be able to brine a 200 pound whole hog for 24 - 48 hours with little concern that it will get "hammy."


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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I am a recent convert to brining -- I've done 2 roast chickens now, one brined overnight and one brined for four hours or so.  My formula has been the standard one you mention.  The first bird was definitely saltier than the second, but both tasted wonderful.  My question is:  in your experience, does adding sugar to the brine help facilitate browning during roasting?  It seems plausible that additional sugar in the skin would enhance caramelization.  While I've managed to get nice, lightly browned skin on my roast chicken, I have yet to achieve the dark golden, crispy skin I like the best.

HOW TO GET VERY CRISPY SKIN ON YOUR BRINED & ROASTED CHICKEN

Try the following:

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. It's not compulsary, but I suggest using a 4 lb. bird. 2 1/2-3 lb. chickens will cook through before the skin becomes quite crisp

Cut the raw brined chicken (2 methods):

1) Split in half tucking in the wing tips so they lie flat.

OR

2) Split the chicken through the backbone and spread the chicken out so that it can lie flat in one piece.

Dry and then season the chicken to taste.

Choose a large black iron skillet (or alternatively a heavy roasting pan) large enough to hold the chicken in one layer. Set it over high heat and when it is quite hot add 2T vegetable or olive oil to the pan and when it is almost smoking place the chicken, skin side down, in the pan and start to brown it. After just a minute put the skillet in the preheated oven and roast the chicken without turning or moving it. After about 40 minutes, check the bird: you may want to raise the heat to 400/425 degrees F. to further enhance crisping the skin. Total roasting time should be 50 minutes plus. When properly done the fat renders during cooking and the skin crisps beautifully in it. You may also weight the chicken during cooking which causes even more of the skin come in contact with the pan and crisp. A foil covered brick works well for this purpose.

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Clean out the bathtub and brine that sucker.

A dirty tub might add some nice "mushroomy" accents to the pork.

Sounds like it's time to make some gin. :biggrin:

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slkinsey   
However, I dislike the taste of the sugar in the chicken meat itself...

Just for the record, I don't usually include sugar in the brine for the entire brining period. A good idea to try is to mix in some light corn syrup into the brine for the last hour or so. The sugar then penetrates the skin and the very beginning of the flesh only. It does give the skin a "lacquered" effect that can be difficult to get by other means.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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