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Death to brining


Busboy
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The first fundamental mistake is that all of the brining recipes are written in volume of salt (cups) per volume of water. That works if you have the right volume for the type of salt used. Table salt, Morton's kosher, Diamond kosher, etc. all yield a different final salt concentration for a given volume. That is because of differing densities for the different salts. To be really correct, recipes should be written by weight.

Is there any point to using anything but the cheapest table salt for brining? While the different types of salt are quite different in the crystalline form, I don't believe it makes any difference after they're dissolved. I've gone as far as to weigh a cup of the salt specified in the recipe and then substituted with the same wight of plain salt.

The difference between theory and practice is much smaller in theory than it is in practice.

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Is there any point to using anything but the cheapest table salt for brining? While the different types of salt are quite different in the crystalline form, I don't believe it makes any difference after they're dissolved.

i think iodized table salt contains something other than just salt, and i'm assuming that something is iodine in some form. i'm not sure what happens to that compound when it is put in water, however. i don't bother buying the stuff, so i just use kosher salt for everything.

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As you might expect, I am pretty suspicious of adding sugar to the mix. :hmmm:

yeah, what she said, but especially that bit about the sugar. when i read the initial post (admittedly, i'm late to the party), what immediately occurred to me was that someone had oversugared the brine. with poultry, i use no sugar at all because the taste and the texture always reminds me of sliced luncheon meat. with pork, i am not so dogmatic. but less is definitely more.

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I agree with almost everything fifi said. I do believe in adding sugar to a turkey brine -- the bird is so damn big that the sugar (it seems to me, I'm not a scientist) keeps the parts near the surface from getting way too salty in the amount of time required to brine it.

As for brining duck, you brine it for the same reason as chicken, to keep it moist and juicy. I don't add extra stuff to the brine mostly because I feel like I'm wasting peppercorns, thyme, etc. I can't really taste the difference when these extras are added, so why bother?

Don Moore

Nashville, TN

Peace on Earth

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When poultry that is consistently flavourful and plump is consistently available, I'm prepared to give up brining it.

Note: fresco lives in Nirvana. :laugh:

If supposedly untreated chicken breasts or thighs are 69 cents a pound as a loss leader special at the grocery store, it is darned tempting to smoke up a bunch for the freezer pantry. I brine.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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I do believe in adding sugar to a turkey brine -- the bird is so damn big that the sugar (it seems to me, I'm not a scientist) keeps the parts near the surface from getting way too salty in the amount of time required to brine it.

sugar does not counter salt. sweet is not the opposite of salty, it's just different. try it without the sugar sometime.

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I do believe in adding sugar to a turkey brine -- the bird is so damn big that the sugar (it seems to me, I'm not a scientist) keeps the parts near the surface from getting way too salty in the amount of time required to brine it.

sugar does not counter salt. sweet is not the opposite of salty, it's just different. try it without the sugar sometime.

You know, I know that, and when I posted that I sort of asked myself, "I wonder where I got that opinion?" So I must have gotten that opinion somewhere at some point, and just stuck with it.

I think I will try just normal brining, though probably with a turkey breast just to see if it is equally yummy. It could just be that Southerners like sweet things. :biggrin:

Don Moore

Nashville, TN

Peace on Earth

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So, for someone who searched vainly yesterday for the "formula" for brining, will someone please post it? How much salt (proportional by weight) to how much water?

Many thanks.

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

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

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

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The eGCI course on brining is here. Note that Dave the Cook addresses the quantities for different brands of salt. I use Dave's proportions for Morton's kosher salt because, for some inexplicable reason, Diamond Crystal is hard to find here in Houston. That is a sorry situation because I prefer Diamond's texture for other uses. (We can now get paltry little round canisters at Randall's.)

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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And yea, Moses did came down from the mountain bearing God's definitive words on the subject of brining, as expressed by Jane Grigson's book; "French Charcuterie and Pork Cookery" Non-kosher editon, obviously.

It has, in Jane's inimitable style, everything you need to know about brining, and had the singular honour of being transalated and sold in France, to wide acclaim (no mean feat there, I assure you)

Personally, I think brining is good in moderation, and can elevate a good piece of meat into a sublime one. This does, however, have its time and place and the, how shall I say, less traditionally sensitive element of the professional cooking community tends to carry it to extremes. I was expecting the day to come when some enterprising soul was going to put brined banana on a menu. Probably at the Fat Duck in Bray.

And if you'll forgive the appropriate pun, brining will rarely make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

Allan Brown

"If you're a chef on a salary, there's usually a very good reason. Never, ever, work out your hourly rate."

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My name is Malawry and I am a relatively new briner, but an enthusiastic one.

I'm fairly new to cooking all sorts of meats and only started to play around with brining chicken in the last few months. I think it adds a great flavor to chicken parts or whole chickens for roasting. No sugar, though. I'm actually baffled at Busboy's experience with brining.

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And if you'll forgive the appropriate pun, brining will rarely make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

But, according to Fergus Henderson it can make a tasty main course out of a sow's cheek and tongue. "Brine your pig's head for three days, rinse it and place it in a large pot..." (The Whole Beast, p 80.)

Varmint, I admit that I've never had the visceral negative reaction I have to brined poultry when served pork or beef that may have been brined. As someone pointed out up thread, pork belly is often brined; at the same time we were crinkling out noses at the brined baby chicken, my wife and I were battling over who got the last bite of the pork belly.

Malawry, if I get my act together to try to organize an eGDC picnic next month (once everyone digests the Indian street food dinner) maybe we can grill up dueling birds and do a taste-off.

Finally, I'm not entirtely buying the concept that it's impossible to cook a good free-range chicken without turning the breast to sawdust and, frankly, if you can get a decent product, most ducks and pork cuts are pretty easy to handle. Unless the cut, or a particular preparation, demands it, why not just grill the stuff up the way god and Nieman Ranch meant it to be?

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Busboy, you're on. Then we should come post photos and testimonials here.

To be fair, I suggest we use the same type of bird. It would be a great experiment.

(Yeah, I realize this probably won't happen for a couple of months. But it sounds like fun!)

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Fifi, well put. Though I do use Patrick O'Connell's seasoned brine for turkey. I think the length of time does infuse some additional flavor into the bird.

Busboy:

Wrong salt = wrong brine concentration = a bacon bird.

Brining too long = bacon bird.

My first brining experience was a whole chicken overnight. A beautiful bird. Then my next was chicken parts also overnight. Salty, salty, salty. Lesson learned and brining has been my friend ever since. I will not make a turkey without brining.

"Half of cooking is thinking about cooking." ---Michael Roberts

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Pretty sure salt = salt = sodium chloride = NaCl

Focusing on the wrong detail.

Different salt will have a varying volume when measured. The point is that salt needs to be measured by its weight.

"He could blanch anything in the fryolator and finish it in the microwave or under the salamander. Talented guy."

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Pretty sure salt = salt = sodium chloride = NaCl

Focusing on the wrong detail.

Different salt will have a varying volume when measured. The point is that salt needs to be measured by its weight.

You're right, of course, chefdg, but I think malcolmjolley was referring to ExtraMSG's preference for pickling salt.

In any case, ExtraMSG is misinformed. Due to differences in surface-to-mass ratio, different crystal shapes will dissolve at different rates (in fact, Kosher salt, especially the Diamond Crystal brand, will dissolve faster than table salt, for this very reason). But they will all dissolve eventually, at any temperature above 32 F (0 C). The only limitation is the amount of salt a given volume of water will hold, and reasonable brining formulae do not approach this limit.

Dave Scantland
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dscantland@eGstaff.org
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Eat more chicken skin.

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Due to differences in surface-to-mass ratio, different crystal shapes will dissolve at different rates (in fact, Kosher salt, especially the Diamond Crystal brand, will dissolve faster than table salt, for this very reason). But they will all dissolve eventually, at any temperature above 32 F (0 C).

Actually, to be a stickler, they'll dissolve below 32 F. In fact, sprinkling salt on ice will lower the melting temperature. Recently, I did a little 'spearmint' for the kids, and we threw salt and ice cubes into a blender and got down to about 19F.

Anyway, I'm still convinced that NaCl = NaCl. I doubt that any commercially sold salt is less than 99% NaCl and I refuse to waste my money on kosher salt for brining.

The difference between theory and practice is much smaller in theory than it is in practice.

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I dislike the taste of sodium hexacyanoferrate in my salt, so I find table salt pretty rank.

You don't need kosher salt; rock salt is reasonably pure and will do fine.

Allan Brown

"If you're a chef on a salary, there's usually a very good reason. Never, ever, work out your hourly rate."

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Tommy, I think Kosher salt doesn't dissolve in room temp water or colder. Thus, pickling salt, I think, is preferred for brining.

Yes it does. I do that all the time. You just have to stir it a bit. I don't notice much if any difference in solubility rates between types of salt. Physics says so.

I didn't mention pickling salt. I think it is close to the same density as table salt.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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I dislike the taste of sodium hexacyanoferrate in my salt, so I find table salt pretty rank.

right.

i see no logic in brining with a salt i wouldn't use to cook. i haven't done a cost comparison, though, so i'm not sure if kosher salt is insanely more expensive than table salt. but with the amount i'm using, it doesn't amount to a whole lot of money per year.

Edited by tommy (log)
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Tommy, I think Kosher salt doesn't dissolve in room temp water or colder. Thus, pickling salt, I think, is preferred for brining.

I rarely have a problem with my kosher salt not dissolving. If you do, try heating the water up a little. Just make sure not to make the water too hot otherwise you'll end up cooking the meat before you want to.

Busboy, the only time do I notice a difference in texture from a brine is when there is an acid present and especially if it's been brined for a long time. Lightly seasoning your chicken with a saline solution should not turn it into a rubber band.

My tried and true recipe is very simple:

1 gallon of water

1 cup of kosher salt.

You can use pickling salt, but go with 1/2 cup versus a whole cup. There was a difference between Morton's and Diamond Crystal but it wasn't dramatic enough to change the amount. I think the equivalent of table salt is 1/4 cup. Somewhere on this forum I did a weight comparison but I haven't been able to find it. Once you find a particular volume switch to weighing the salt. That way you can use any salt you'd like and you won't have to worry about over/under brining.

Honestly, what you're doing and what you think has been brined is really off of what we're doing here. I routinely hear "this is the best chicken (or turkey) I've ever had" from people who've never had a brined bird. Not only that, I've been to fantastic restaurants where I've thought "hey, this chicken isn't half bad -- this dish would be perfect if they only brined it."

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