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Dry Salting (aka dry "brining") Questions and Advice


Vervain
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We're using Russ Parson's recipe for "Judy-ing" a turkey by dry brining: salting the turkey at 1T per 5 lbs. Right now it's salted (since yesterday) sitting uncovered in the fridge. His recipe does not call for rinsing off the excess salt before roasting, but I'm worried about the turkey tasting too salty. Russ, are you out there? Or does anyone else have experience with this?

Emily
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hiya, there shouldn't be any dry salt by tomorrow. if there is, just brush it off, don't rinse it. i'm a little puzzled: the recipe calls for it to be salted and sealed, then removed from the bag to dry. if you don't put it in the bag, the salt won't penetrate as well--the moisture that comes to the surface will evaporate.

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hiya, there shouldn't be any dry salt by tomorrow. if there is, just brush it off, don't rinse it. i'm a little puzzled: the recipe calls for it to be salted and sealed, then removed from the bag to dry. if you don't put it in the bag, the salt won't penetrate as well--the moisture that comes to the surface will evaporate.

:blush::blush::blush: Well, um, ahem. We're making the turkey today so I just salted it yesterday and put it in the fridge uncovered. So basically, I've probably dried the turkey out rather than helped keep it moist. :wacko: We'd just bought the bird and didn't have much time. I also had a (very) vague memory of an L.A. Times recipe for dry brining that came out years ago. But probably it called for putting it in a bag as well. I recently put seasoned duck legs uncovered in the fridge overnight and they came out so well that I probably just mentally combined the two processes. Aargh. Oh well.

My excuse is that I was just in a bad (mostly for my car) car accident a couple of days ago and am still a little shook up. Hopefully, with enough wine, the turkey will taste good anyhow.

Thanks, Russ, for the reply. Happy Holidays!

Emily
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so vervain, just out of curiosity, how did your experiment turn out?

Thank you for asking. The skin came out tasty and crispy, the best ever. Nothing tasted too salty at all. And the breast meat came out OK, but it really could have been more moist. That, I think, is definitely due to my trying to shortcut your recipe :blush: I did put butter under the skin before roasting which probably helped a bit. But next time I'll be sure not to skip the time in the plastic bag!! :blink:

Just a related question, would putting a whole chicken in the fridge uncovered for a day (no brining involved) make the skin crisper without drying out the meat?

Emily
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all the uncovered refrigerator time does is dry the skin (and any exposed meat). this makes it crisp better. this is particularly important if you've salted or brined, because there is so much moisture left on the skin. and i do think if you try the salting again ... and put it in a bag this time for a couple of days ... you'll find the meat will be moister!

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so vervain, just out of curiosity, how did your experiment turn out?

Thank you for asking. The skin came out tasty and crispy, the best ever. Nothing tasted too salty at all. And the breast meat came out OK, but it really could have been more moist.

Verv,

Cook's Illustrated developed a recipe for dry brined turkey that addressed the dry breast problem. They recommended holding the turkey breast down over two ziploc bags of ice with a small ziploc bag of ice in the cavity for about 30 minutes, just prior to roasting. This cooled the breast meat to 55 degrees while the thighs/legs warmed to about 70 degrees.

This worked very well for me. One hour breast down at 400 degrees followed by one hour breast up at 350. The breast ended about 165 and the leg/thighs were close to 175.

Tim

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  • 3 years later...

So some recipes for, say, pork chops have you salt the chops and then let them sit out for a while to do the osmosis thing (the salt draws out moisture but then it gets pulled back in along with the salt).

Question, isn't there the threat that too much moisture will be lost by evaporation if the meat is not wrapped in, say, plastic wrap, thus making for a more saltier and drier finish?

Starkman

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I was watching America's Test Kitchen today and they did an eye of round roast rubbed with salt and they did wrap it in plastic and kept it in the refer for 24 hrs. But I think that with a steak or chop, some drying of the surface is desirable as it helps with the initial sear. I'm guessing that there's probably a sweet spot to be found if you're trying to achieve both at once.

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Tests done by Hervé This found that the amount of moisture drawn out of meat by salting was so minimal relative to the total water weight that you'd probably never know the difference either way.

If you leave something uncovered in the fridge overnight, you'll lose lots of moisture to evaporation. In many cases this is a good thing ... like if it's meat that's been processed with water or that has water added. One of the advantages of dry aging, for example, is concentrated flavors from evaporation.

Notes from the underbelly

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... One of the advantages of dry aging, for example, is concentrated flavors from evaporation.

Yes, exactly. All that effort to reduce the water content to concentrate the flavours, to then worry about a few drops from pre-salting ? Part of the glory of bacon is its being drier than fresh pork. Each to his own, but actually testing side-by-side, I much prefer pre-salted meat. As far as I'm concerned, the old saw about losing moisture and making the meat dry, if you salt too early, is an old wives' tale.

You know the other favorite, "braises are much better a day or two after they're made" ? My thought is that that's largely salt equalisation taking place - for those who didn't salt early enough in the preparation process.

QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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paulrahpael,

I'd have to disagree about the amount of moisture pulled out by salt as being so minimal. Maybe, yes, to the water weight, but not in over all affect and effect. I watched a time-laps video on Cook's Illustrated of a piece of roast, I believe it was, salted, wrapped in plastic wrap and left out for an hour. There was quite a lot of moisture pulled out and then pulled right back in. (Hek, I have a horrible palate, but even I can tell the difference when a piece of meat's been salted!)

I'm not so sure that I'd be too happy with a chop that's been salted and put in the frig unwrapped. I tend to think you'd end up with a much more drier product than desired...I don't want my chop the texture of bacon!

I'll have to test this, though, to see how it goes.

Thanks,

Starkman

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I think the amount of moisture pulled out by salt can be relevent in some respects ... it's certainly enough to make it harder to brown the meat if it stays on the surface. And it might be enough to creaet brine that can then get reabsorbed. But I don't believe that it's enough to lead to the meat drying out perceptibly (if, for example, the moisture gets drawn out by the salt and then wiped off). I'm basing this assumption on tests done by food scientists.

Notes from the underbelly

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  • 6 months later...

I really don't have a lot of experience eating really good barbecued ribs. So when I was imagining my own personal perfect rib, I was not trying to recreate a style or make any attempt at being authentic. I figured that a combination of brining and sous vide (with a twist or two) would produce what I imagined. Initial tests were promising and I was starting to fine tune things....

Then I had an opportunity to visit a place that Bon Appetit hailed as the having best ribs in the US. As a non-traditionalist, I didn't really care for the blackened shoe leather 'bark', but the moist, pink, fibrous-but-tender meat underneath was a revelation. I realized I was on the wrong track.

So I did a test, still using sous vide, but eliminating the brining (or any seasoning until just before finishing them under the broiler). I got very close to the texture I was looking for, but the flavor in the meat just wasn't there. So I think, "Well, I'll just season the meat prior to cryovac-ing". But then I thought "If I put salt on the meat and sous vide it for six hours, have I not created a brining situation again?"

So my question is, is there some technical crossover point between seasoning with salt and brining? Is the amount of salt in a rub significantly less than one would end up with in a brine?

Or, what about marinading after cooking? My final plans have always included a final broil/grill of some sort.

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This may be a naive question, but where is the smoke element? I thought good BBQ did not even need more than salt to give a great flavor. We have never brined traditionally done ribs; just rubbed with salt. Isn't it the fat and the collagen breaking down that results in the moist lip smacking result?

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I'm not really looking for a smokey flavor. I guess that's part of my non-traditional approach. And I really don't think I detected much smokeyness in the 'real thing'. Most BBQ rubs have a lot of ingredients. But few of those affect texture. For me, flavor seems relatively easy to work on.

Breaking down the collagen can be done in a variety of ways. Different times and temperatures. But brining can fundamentally change the texture. I discovered this when I brined our first Thanksgiving turkey. The breast meat was phenomenal. But the next day I went for the traditional turkey sandwich with mayo on white bread and found that the meat was not up to the task. It was somehow too refined and aristocratic. Not dry enough to get married mayo and soft bread.

Edited by IndyRob (log)
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Not really because for brine to diffuse into the meat it has to be in a cold environment. If you add salt during sous vide it isn't brining and only the surface really gets affected. Placing salt for 6 hours during this time might make the outer layers of the meat salty without doing much to the inner layers. Brining penetrates the meat affects both texture as it hastens cell breakdown of the meat inside whereas marinating only basically affects flavor at a shallower level. Marinating after cooking is pointless unless you mean glazing the food in which case you will taste the surface glaze and this may not be all that bad as ribs are rather thin anyway.

I'm a plant-rights activist... I only eat meat!

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  • 4 weeks later...

Hate to burst your bubble, but salt + water + meat, it's brining. Brining works via osmosis. More salt outside of the meat than inside, so osmosis moves the salt (and water) into the meat. When you're doing a dry salt rub, you're doing the opposite effect: you dry the meat out, because the relatively dry surface of the meat covered in salt has less water than the inside. Salt goes in, water goes out.

And temp makes no difference here. As long as it's warm enough for your salt water to be water instead of ice, your meat is brining. A marinade works the same way. Salt goes in. If you're going to use salt, you're going to need to dial it down if you don't like the taste after a six hour soak.

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In practice dry salting doesn't dry out meat. Samples that have been salted and weighed before and after long rests in the fridge show no more weight loss than unsalted meat. It's been suggested that the salt draws water to the surface, and creates brine which is then absorbed. The advantages are that you get the partial denaturing of the proteins (which allows them to retain more moisture) and the flavor, but not the dilution of meat flavors that comes from the added water of traditional brining.

Personally, I stopped traditional brining after a year or so of experimentation with it. I didn't like the dilution of the natural flavors. But some things, like poultry, I like to rub with salt a day ahead.

If you add salt to a cooking medium, like a poaching stock or the fluids in a sous vide bag, you're not brining. Brining works by osmosis, as percival says, but once the proteins denature past a certain point they become a fully permeable membrane, through which moisture flows freely, regardless of ion concentrations. You will get salt into the meat (and probably more deeply / more quickly than brining would) but it's not going to have any effects besides making the meat salty.

Edited by paulraphael (log)

Notes from the underbelly

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Personally, I stopped traditional brining after a year or so of experimentation with it. I didn't like the dilution of the natural flavors. But some things, like poultry, I like to rub with salt a day ahead.

I don't quite follow your reasoning here: we add salt in modest quantities to enhance our ability to perceive flavors. I don't see how the salt is "diluting the natural flavors": in my experience, it enhances them. It doesn't mask the natural flavors any more than just cooking the food does. A bit of fond never bothered me one bit, even if it does "dilute the natural flavors."

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Personally, I stopped traditional brining after a year or so of experimentation with it. I didn't like the dilution of the natural flavors. But some things, like poultry, I like to rub with salt a day ahead.

I don't quite follow your reasoning here: we add salt in modest quantities to enhance our ability to perceive flavors. I don't see how the salt is "diluting the natural flavors": in my experience, it enhances them. It doesn't mask the natural flavors any more than just cooking the food does. A bit of fond never bothered me one bit, even if it does "dilute the natural flavors."

Not the salt, the water. I find brined chicken to be extremely juicy, but the juices don't taste much like chicken.

Processes that intensify flavors often do so by removing water and concentrating the juices (like dry aging). Brining does the opposite. It's analogous to the extra water injected into cheap poultry and hams.

I also found brined birds to border on being excessively salty. This can be fixeed through careful calibration, but dry salting makes it easier to get the quantities right.

Notes from the underbelly

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