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ianeccleston

Anti-Brining

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Fascinating stuff! My next roast chicken will definitely be pre-salted.

wet-aging vs dry-aging

brining vs pre-salting

trend?


Martin Mallet

<i>Poor but not starving student</i>

www.malletoyster.com

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I should also add that pre-salting and drying makes it much much easier to achieve a great crispy crust. I suppose if you're a master chef and can always get the roasting times perfect this won't matter much to you, but for the rest of us this is certainly another major advantage of pre-salting.

edit: of course there's a thread on dry-aging!  Here it is.

There's not much discussion on the matter of pre- versus post-salting, though of course this thread is about beef and not poultry. Nearly everyone is doing post-salting under the idea that pre-salting will draw out too much moisture. Then again, many of these people are drying for 3-7 days.

The entire matter of dry-aging poultry and pork seems underexplored and deserving of more experimentation. I just picked up some more quail so I hope to have another round of results up in a week.

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Pre- vs post-salting

Since I've been such a loyal customer of Texas Quail Farms, they kindly donated an extra pack of six bone-in breast pieces to advance the cause of science.

I pre-salted three of the pieces and left the other three pieces unsalted. The pre-salted pieces weighed 245g all together before salting, 248g after salting. The other group weighed 239g.

I left both groups to dry for about 48 hours. The pre-salted group shrunk to 209g (15.8% weight loss) and unsalted to 198g (17.2%). The difference in weight loss appears to be neglible.

Pre-salted is to the left, unsalted on the right. As you can see, the appearance was the same between both groups.

gallery_36558_2964_23982.jpg

I salted the unsalted group before cooking. I seared the pieces in duck fat and then finished in the oven for a few minutes, allowing the meat to rest for 10 minutes before testing -- or should I say tasting? :biggrin:

gallery_36558_2964_7743.jpg

This time I had a friend join the tasting panel. I presented the samples as A and B instead of pre- and post-salted, reducing the effect of bias. We both independently reached similar conclusions.

Pre-salted was much drier than post-, not unappetizingly dry but certainly not what one would call juicy. Post-salted had no traces of red juices as has been observed previously with brining.

Pre-salted did taste better overall, with flavor evenly distributed throughout the meat. The center of the post-salted meat was a bit bland compared to the outer area. Post-salted was also substantially muskier in flavor, though I should add that this supplier's quail is much gamier in taste than any quail I have ever had, possibly due to the freshness. I actually preferred the more subdued gaminess of the pre-salted, though this may be a matter of taste.

It's interesting that although the measured weight loss between the two groups was essentially the same, the post-salted group ended up being much juicier. This may be attributable to measurement error or simply the difference in the size and shape of the sample pieces.

Is it really possible for the salt flavor to permeate all the way to the center of the breast? An alternate explanation may be that the drying process -- and not the salt itself -- is what develops the flavor.

I'd also like to note that the post-salted group consistently browned better, as the pre-salted was drier. This seems counter-intuitive to the well-known notion that drier browns better, but I suspect that it's possible for meat to be too dry to brown. Searing the quail was quite disconcerting, actually, as there was nearly no sizzle.

After this experiment I am recommending pre-salting over post-salting. However, if your meat is already very dry to begin with then post-salting -- or even not drying at all -- may be a better choice.

I would like to do another round of experiments with wet-aging (packed and sealed in plastic) versus dry-aging. Pork chops are on hold until my preferred vendor, Full Quiver Farms, has them back in stock.

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I just made some dry-aged duck legs the other night that were fantastic. They only had a dry rub (which included some salt) on them and stayed, uncovered in the fridge over-night. After roasting, they had the ideal crispy skin.

Now we're going to try the same with a whole chicken, but I have a stupid question: :blush: would it undo the whole skin-drying process to put some lemon and olive oil and spices under the chicken skin AFTER dry-aging (before roasting)?


Emily

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Kent, thanks for the report. I have a huge (almost 7 lb) chicken in the fridge, and when I'm ready to cook it, I think I'll tag onto your experiment. Cut it in half (through the breast and back) and brine half and pre-salt one half. Was the quail wild or farmed? The chicken I will do was raised by the Menonites (technically farm raised), but somewhat wild. THis chicken even has a name!


Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

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Snowangel: Terrific! I eagerly look forward to your report. I don't know about the quail; I'll have to enquire next time.

Now we're going to try the same with a whole chicken, but I have a stupid question:  :blush: would it undo the whole skin-drying process to put some lemon and olive oil and spices under the chicken skin AFTER dry-aging (before roasting)?

I doubt it. I feel that my results show that the salting and hanging affects deeply into the meat. I'm not absolutely certain, but that's about as good as I can tell just tasting without doing a proper chemical analysis.

The lemon and oil should also burn off very quickly in the oven so you'll still be able to get a crispy skin and crust.

Funny that you mention duck legs as most duck leg confit recipes recommend salting and drying. Looks like those people already know the secret!

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Now we're going to try the same with a whole chicken, but I have a stupid question:  :blush: would it undo the whole skin-drying process to put some lemon and olive oil and spices under the chicken skin AFTER dry-aging (before roasting)?

I doubt it. I feel that my results show that the salting and hanging affects deeply into the meat. I'm not absolutely certain, but that's about as good as I can tell just tasting without doing a proper chemical analysis.

The lemon and oil should also burn off very quickly in the oven so you'll still be able to get a crispy skin and crust.

Thanks for responding Kent. But how would they burn off when they're under the skin?


Emily

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I recently did a pre-salted roast chicken (Keller's simple roast chicken) and a pork shoulder chop (3/4-1 in). Both turned out great (the pork was so good, I was hungrier after eating it than before :biggrin: ), I was worried that the relatively thin chop would dry out during the process but it was not so!


Martin Mallet

<i>Poor but not starving student</i>

www.malletoyster.com

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Thanks for responding Kent.  But how would they burn off when they're under the skin?

What I mean is that it won't contribute much moisture to the skin, not enough to affect the final crispiness that you'll be able to achieve with ease. However, you may have difficulty seperating the skin after you've dried the chicken for more than a day -- the skin may become fused to the meat and difficult to pry apart.

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I'm cooking a turkey for Thanksgiving (oddly enough, I've never had one...) and was definitely thinking that pre-salting is the way to go. I'm picking it up on Friday morning, but am only cooking it Monday night. When should I start pre-salting?


Martin Mallet

<i>Poor but not starving student</i>

www.malletoyster.com

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I'm cooking a turkey for Thanksgiving (oddly enough, I've never had one...) and was definitely thinking that pre-salting is the way to go. I'm picking it up on Friday morning, but am only cooking it Monday night. When should I start pre-salting?

Cook's Illustrated has an extensive article on what they call "salt-roasted turkey", including instructions for pre-cooling the breast to keep it from over cooking in the most recent (Nov/Dec 2006) issue. Also available on their website.

BTW, they say 24-48 hrs of salt time.........

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Awesome information in this thread. Thank you, Kent!

I'll have to admit this is the first I've heard of the "pre-salted" phenomenon, and I'm a long time briner and brining advocate.

Although I'll probably still brine my turkeys at Thanksgiving (hey, it's cold outside and I can save the refrigerator space) I will definitely try the pre-salting method next time I roast a chicken or cook duck breasts or pork parts.

Again, thanks for the insight!


Don Moore

Nashville, TN

Peace on Earth

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Cook's Illustrated has an extensive article on what they call "salt-roasted turkey", including instructions for pre-cooling the breast to keep it from over cooking in the most recent (Nov/Dec 2006) issue. Also available on their website.

BTW, they say 24-48 hrs of salt time.........

I checked out the recipe from Cook's Illustrated, they would have me wrap the turkey in plastic wrap over the entire pre-salting period! It seems to me that defeats much of the purpose. I'll go with 48 hours salt time (start Saturday night). Icing down the breasts seems like a pretty good idea, I may do that as well.

edit: another question: do you get the salt to stick after it's been dried? When I was trying to S&P my chicken the seasonings just bounced off harmlessly. I hesitate to rub oil on it beforehand, fearing that this may interfere with crispiness.


Edited by Mallet (log)

Martin Mallet

<i>Poor but not starving student</i>

www.malletoyster.com

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Pre-salting vs brining: pork chops

I picked up some nice butterflied pork chops from Full Quiver Farms, about 3/4" inch thick. Their meat has a wonderful "porky" flavor, unmatched by even the best supermarket pork. I usually get the rib chop as Cook's Illustrated say it is the fattiest portion of the loin but this was all they had on hand.

gallery_36558_2964_39697.jpg

I prepared each piece for about 24 hours. Pre-salted on the left, brined on the right.

gallery_36558_2964_5479.jpg

Then I seared in duck fat and finished in the oven.

gallery_36558_2964_127993.jpg

Much of the visual difference between the two is obscured by the browning but if you look carefully you can see that the pre-salted is a darker, more amber color while the brined is fairly white. This is apparent in the meat but especially in the fat cap.

The results were not as one-sided this time. The brined was considerably juicier than the pre-salted while the flavor difference was only slightly in favor of the pre-salted. The margins are close enough it's very hard to choose which was better: flavorful but dry vs juicy but not as flavorful. Unlike poultry, brining pork did not leave any unappetizing blood in the meat.

Keep in mind that even the best pork is a much drier than poultry. Unlike with my previous poultry experiments, I would have preferred both pieces to have be juicier -- whereas the brined poultry were often too moist.

The flavor difference was also not as drastic with poultry, which I attribute to the fundamental nature of the meat. Where the pre-salting really shined was on the fat portions. The fat cap on the pre-salted piece was much more appetizing than that on the brined piece. The brined fat had little salt flavor and its flavor was simply overwhelmingly fatty and difficult to stomach while the pre-salted had a rich, developed flavor to it. I imagine pre-salting would be great for making lardons.

Pork chops may be a good candidate for brining then salting and drying. This did not work well for the quail but this was because poultry does not take well to brining at all. Pork chops on the other hand could benefit from the added moisture provided by the brining -- while still being able to gain the flavor advantages of salting and drying.

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It seems like the pre-salted chop kept its shape a lot better as well.


Martin Mallet

<i>Poor but not starving student</i>

www.malletoyster.com

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It seems like the pre-salted chop kept its shape a lot better as well.

Very good point. This is yet more evidence that drying and salting changes the meat in some way. It may be that it removes moisture at a slow and steady rate which allows it to keep its shape when cooked. The brined piece experiences a rapid lose of moisture when cooked and so curls up.

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I see that nobody has ventured very far into turkeys, so here we go. I've tried just about every kind of turkey around: various permutations of air chilled, free range, organic, naturally raised, Mennonite, and kosher.

I've tried all kinds of cooking methods, at low temperatures and high, turning in various patterns and leaving alone, using foil for all or part of the cooking time, salting or brining or neither, basting or not, stuffed with various things or empty.

Some of these birds were juicy, some were dry, some tasted good, some had little taste at all. The one thing I never got was a great tasting turkey. Perhaps there was no such thing.

Well, I found a way. I gave up on the fancy birds and got one from a supermarket: a President's Choice (Canadian private label - about 15 pounds) turkey injected with real butter.

I butterflied it and put it in a solution of 3 liters of Coke Classic and a cup of kosher salt. I let it stand at room temperature for about 4 hours. I wasn't worried about microbes with all that sugar, salt, and acid, but I don't think doing this in the fridge would alter the results very much - it would certainly lengthen the cooking time.

I poured off the solution, toweled the bird, and dried the surface with a hair drier.

I mixed up a dressing, mounded it over the bottom of a nonstick roasting pan, and spread the butterflied turkey on top with all skin-covered surfaces exposed.

I spread some softened butter the bird and sprinkled it generously with a dry rub-type mixture.

I put it into a home convection oven preheated to 450 and reduced it to 375. It sat in the oven, untouched, for 1.5 hours.

It was the best turkey I've ever eaten. Both dark and white meat were juicy and succulent. The skin was beautifully, evenly brown and crisp. It smelled and tasted like turkey. It wasn't salty or sweet, cured or rubbery, or weird in any way. It did not taste even slightly of Coke. It was delicious. And the dressing mixture tasted like it had come from a stuffed bird, did not become salty from the drippings, and was adequately cooked through. There were sufficient drippings to make a wonderful gravy.

Thinking this outcome a fluke, I did it again for Canadian Thanksgiving the other day. The results were exactly the same. Try it and let us know what you get.

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There is some interesting new research on brining that says it is NOT osmosis, and that the brine penetrates more during cooking than in the soaking:

http://amazingribs.com/recipes/rubs_pastes_marinades_and_brines/zen_of_brines.html


Remember: No rules in the bedroom or kitchen,

Craig "Meathead" Goldwyn

http://amazingribs.com - The Zen of Ribs

http://amazingribs.com/smoke_signals_newsletter - "Smoke Signals" BBQ Newsletter

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I'm not sure I understand this argument... isn't osmosis just diffusion across a membrane? So is he saying that there are no membranes in meat, or that that's not where the salt goes?


Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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I'm not sure I understand this argument... isn't osmosis just diffusion across a membrane? So is he saying that there are no membranes in meat, or that that's not where the salt goes?

All I saw was that meat doesn't accept dye molecules very well.

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In any event, I'm dry-brining (or pre-salting) my Bell & Evans turkey this year. It's 24 hours in, sitting uncovered on a rack in the fridge. Cooking starts at about 1 PM tomorrow.

I did the same thing for my heritage turkey last year. Definitely preferred it to wet brines I've used in prior years.

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