FANFOOD Guide to Brining













What is a Brine | Why?
Brine Basics
Ratios | Times
Science of Brining & Effects
Brining Strategies
Equilibrium Brining
Brining Tips & Tricks
Standard Brining Table
Common Brine Q &A
Cooks Illustrated Brine .pdf







Brining adds moisture, making it the best choice for lean proteins.

Salt in the brine not only seasons the meat, but also promotes a change in its protein structure, reducing its overall toughness and creating gaps that fill up with water and keep the meat juicy and flavorful.

There is a ton of information out there about brining, and we hope to touch on just some of it here.
Brining is a technique you should not only use, but need to understand in detail whether you are just getting started using a brine, or you are an experienced “briner”.


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What is a Brine?


In its simplest form, brine is a salt and water solution that food products, most commonly meats, are soaked in for a given period of time to improve the product’s overall quality




Why Brine?


The goal of brining is to apply enough salt to meat or seafood that the food retains more juices during cooking and that flavor is enhanced without curing the flesh in process.


When food is brined correctly, the process yields three major benefits:


Texture | Flavor | Moisture


There is a textural improvement, especially when brining proteins.

Brines can and will enhance overall flavor. Not only does the salt contained within a brine help to season the food product (assuming the brine is applied correctly), but brines also commonly contain secondary flavor profiles such as herbs, spices and aromatics, that are chosen specifically to enhance the overall flavor of the food product being brined.

By far the biggest reason food is brined, and that’s moisture retention. Especially when it comes to cooking lean proteins such as chicken breast, pork tenderloin and even fish, brining allows proteins to retain more moisture throughout the cooking process resulting in a moister finished product.

How Does it Work?

The easiest way to explain how brining works is the movement of salt and water into proteins in a good thing.

What is a Brine and How does it work?

jump: to the Science of Brining Section
See: Osmosis
See: Diffusion


Understanding the Brining Process



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Brine Basics


Rule of Thumb: 1 hour per pound



Basic Brining Needs:

Container: A non-reactive container (like glass, stainless steel, or a brining bag) large enough to hold the protein and the liquid needed to brine, but small enough that you can refrigerate it to keep the brine and protein cold.

Liquid: Fully submerging the protein in the brine is important, so the shape and size of your container will determine how much liquid you need, Plan on about a pint of liquid per pound of protein. Additionally, water should be the predominate liquid. If you choose to add another liquid for flavoring (like beer or broth), it is recommended that you replace less than a quarter of the water with the flavored liquid.

Salt: Two types of salt will work: kosher salt or table salt. If using kosher salt, add ¼ cup per quart of liquid. If using table salt, add 2 tablespoons per quart. The reason for the measurement difference is the size of the salt crystals. Kosher salt has bigger crystals and isn’t as compressed as table salt, meaning you can get about twice as much table salt by weight into the same sized volume measurement container.

Sugar: This is an optional ingredient and is typically used to balance the saltiness of a brine. Use about 2 tablespoons per quart of liquid. You can decrease that amount if desired, but it is not recommended to use any more or it could make the final cooked protein burn easier and taste too sweet. If you are using a sugar-heavy seasoning (like Platte River Rib Rub, Asian Delight BBQ Rub, or Brown Sugar & Spice Honey Ham Rub) to flavor the brine, you can skip the sugar all together.

Spices: Brines also commonly contain secondary flavor profiles such as herbs, spices and aromatics, that are chosen specifically to enhance the overall flavor of the food product being brined. Any herb, spice, sweetener, fruit, vegetable will work; let your imaginations run wild. Think of a brine as a soup, there can be a lot of complexity in soup or just simple ones.


Advanced Brining Needs:


Digital Scale: This is important if you are using the Equilibrium Brining Method (see below). It is also important to NOTE = Kosher salt has bigger crystals and isn’t as compressed as table salt, meaning you can get about twice as much table salt by weight into the same sized volume measurement container. To be 100% accurate you may need to weight the Salt.

Jaccard AKA needler: Tenderizes meat by shortening the muscles fibers, but also allows for brines and marinades to diffuse quickly throughout the protein.

Injector: which allows liquids to be injected directly into the interior of the flesh, speeding up diffusion.



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Simple Brine Ratio



BASIC1 Quart1/2 cup1/2 cup1 quart per pound1 hr per pound
Diamond Kosherno more thannot less than 3 hrs
2 gallons of brineor more than 8 hrs
1/4 cup +
 2 Tbs Morton Kosher
1/4 cup table salt
Any by Weight
= 5 oz. of salt
HIGH HEAT1 Quart1/4 cup2 Tbs1 quart per pound1 hour per pound
ROASTINGDiamond Kosherno more thannot less than 30min
OR GRILLING2 gallons of brineno more than 8 hrs
3 Tbs
Morton Kosher
2 Tbs table salt



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1 hour per pound

If you miss by a few minutes either way you’ll be just fine, but for those of you out there who think, “If a little brining is good then a lot of brining must be better,” that’s not really how it works. If you go too much longer than the 1 hour per pound method you risk the protein becoming too salty and over seasoned.

Brine time is how long the protein should sit in the brine for. The rest time is how long the item should be allowed to rest out of the brine after being rinsed. For example, when brining a chicken breast in a 5% brine, it is recommended that you brine for 4-6 hours, remove the breast from the brine, rinse, and let rest for 2-4 hours in your refrigerator before cooking.
Also, when brining the pork loin or pork chop, you can substitute 100% of the water with cola, which is pretty classic approach to brining pork.

Note: Do not use canning salt with cola

See: Brining Tips & Tricks


How Long to Brine?

The size of the item your brining, the relative strength of the brine and your individual preferences will all make a difference.

Here are “sample” times. Feel free to adjust –SLIGHTY-


Item – Brine Time

Whole Chicken (4-5 Pounds) – 8 to 12 hours

Chicken Parts – 1 1/2 hours

Chicken Breasts – 1 hour

Whole Turkey – 24 – 48 hours

Turkey Breast – 5 – 10 hours

Cornish game hens - 2 hours

Shrimp – 30 minutes

Pork chops – 12 – 24 hours

Pork Tenderloin (whole) - 12 – 24 hours


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Science of Brining & Effects


How does a Brine Work?


Now for the nerdy / Alton Brown version of how brining works:


The most conventional explanation of how brining works describes the movement of salt and water into proteins through a process called osmosis. This however is incorrect. Brining actually works through diffusion, not osmosis, and it’s important to make that distinction if we are to truly understand how a brine works.

If given enough time, molecules will move from an area of higher concentration (brine) to an area of lower concentration (protein), eventually achieving an equilibrium. This is diffusion.

Osmosis on the other hand deals specifically with the movement of water from an area of higher concentration to that of a lower concentration, through a semi-permeable membrane.

First, whenever you have less of something dissolved into more of something, you have a solution. So a brine can actually be thought of as a salt water solution, in which the salt is dissolved in the water. The thing you have more of in a solution, in this case the water, is the called solvent, and the thing you have less of, in this case the salt, is called the solute.
For osmosis to occur, there must be a semi-permeable membrane in which the solvent can pass through, (in this case the water) but the solute, can’t. The reason why osmosis works is because when you have billions of molecules randomly bouncing around, some of the solute molecules will be approaching the membrane opening, while a water molecule is approaching the opening from the same side. Even though the large solute molecule isn’t completely blocking the membrane’s opening, it is still large enough to block certain approach paths. So as a water molecule starts to randomly move towards the membrane’s opening, there’s a good chance it will run into the larger solute molecule and ricochet off, never making it through to the other side.

It’s important to understand that osmosis is based purely on the probability of water’s molecular movement overtime. Because the solute molecules on the right side of the membrane are too large to pass through the membrane’s opening, it is more likely, over time, that more water on the left hand side of the membrane will pass through to the right, then water on the right will pass to the left. This process of water being statistically more likely to move from an area of higher concentration to an area of lower concentration while passing through a semi-permeable membrane is the definition of osmosis.

So if osmosis did occur during the brining process, here’s how it would actually work: if you placed a chicken breast into a brine, the salt would be considered the solute. That would mean, if osmosis really were at play, the water contained within the chicken breast would actually have to move outward into the brine.

To further prove that osmosis is not at play during the brining process, lets use some deductive reasoning and work our way backwards. If osmosis actually occurred during the brining process, two things would have to be true:

First, the solute, or the dissolved salt, would have to be too large to penetrate a proteins outer membrane. We know this is false because the interior of brined meat can obviously become salty.

Second, If the salt was actually too big to to pass through the protein’s outer membrane, then the moisture within the object being brined would actually flow outward into the salt water solution, since in osmosis, water will flow through a semi-permeable membrane from an area of higher concentration to an area of lower concentration.

Yet we know through basic observation that both water and salt will enter into a protein during the brining process, we can conclude that brining works through diffusion, not osmosis.
Now the natural question is, “why do we need the salt, besides the seasoning? If water moves into a protein through diffusion, why can’t we just soak a protein in water and have it become juicier?”

And the answer is, technically you can. You can soak a protein in pure water and it will swell, taking on additional water weight, but not as much water as if you add salt to the soaking liquid, and more specifically, proteins also will not bind to water as effectively during the cooking process unless salt is present.

In cooking, brining is a process similar to marination in which meat is soaked in a salt solution (the brine) before cooking. Brining makes cooked meat moister by hydrating the cells of its muscle tissue before cooking and by allowing the cells to hold on to the water while they are cooked,

The brine surrounding the muscle fiber cell has a higher concentration of salt than the fluid within the cells. This leads salt ions to enter the cell via diffusion. The high salt concentration immediately begins to do its work on the protein complexes within the muscle fiber. The end result is the muscle fibers draws in and retain a substantial amount of water by both osmosis and capillary action. The meat’s weight can increases by 10% or more, allowing for greater moisture in the food after cooking. In addition, the dissolved protein does not coagulate into the normally dense aggregates, so the cooked meat seems more tender.

To understand how the brining process works, let’s start with a pretty standard scenario, and imagine that we’re brining a boneless-skinless chicken breast. To create this brine we’re going to simply add salt to some water. The amount of salt that we add isn’t important at this point; we’re going to get into actual measurements and ratios a little latter, but for the sake of this exercise, let’s just assume we’re adding some salt to a container of water to create a brine.

At this point it’s important to clarify that what we cooks refer to as salt, is known to chemists as sodium chloride, which is just one of many forms of salt contained within a much broader family of chemical compounds. This is important to understand because when salt is dissolved into water, it actually breaks apart into a positively charged sodium ion and a negatively charged chloride ion. The positively charged sodium ion is predominately what effects flavor, adding seasoning to the meat or making the brined meat taste salty if it’s over brined, whereas negatively charged chloride ions are what allow brined proteins to uptake more moisture.

What happens next is the separate sodium and chloride ions will diffuse throughout the food much like heat does during the cooking process. And just like heat will flow from hot areas to cold areas, sodium and chloride ions in a brine will flow from areas of higher concentration to areas of lower concentration.

Now it does take about 100-1,000 times longer for salt to diffuse into food than heat. This is why we can roast a pork belly in a matter of hours, but that same pork belly will take about three months for the salt to transform into pancetta.

If given enough time, the ion content of the brine and food will form an equilibrium, up to a certain point. This means, that there will be an equal amount of sodium and chloride ions inside the chicken breast as there are outside, in the brine. Once sodium and chloride ions start to diffuse into the chicken breast, something interesting occurs.

Chloride ions, from dissolved salt, diffuse into muscle fibers and accumulate along the surface of protein filaments. As these ions increase in number, they generate a negative charge that loosens and pushes neighboring filaments apart — analogous to the way magnets with the same polarization repel each other. The charged filaments push far enough apart that they cause the muscle fibers to swell — if water is available to fill the space opened up in the process.”

Remember earlier the assertion was made that soaking meat in plain water will increase it’s water weight through diffusion but the meat will not absorb as much water compared to when salt is present? This is true because the negatively charged chloride ions create larger than normal gaps between protein fibers by first diffusing onto their surface and then repelling one another. This in turn allows extra space for additional water to diffuse into the protein being brined.

Now the naturally intuitive question arises; why do both dry salt rubs and brines yield juicier meats? In fact, there is a blatantly false culinary dogma that states salting meat before cooking will draw out excess moisture, yielding a dry, finished product.

This however is not only false, but the exact opposite of what happens when a protein is salted.

Even if there is no surrounding water to draw in, proteins are modified by the ions in ways that cause them to bind the water in the flesh more tightly — as well as to resist the shrinking of muscle fibers that squeezes juices out during cooking. The flesh continues to swell and bind water more tightly until its salinity increases to 6%, and then it shrinks and begins to lose water.

So at less then 6% salinity, salting meats actually prevents the muscle fibers from shrinking and squeezing out water during the cooking process. Now just to put this into perspective, the average threshold at which food begins to taste overly salted is usually above 1% by weight. So even though a protein containing 5-6% salt by weight will retain moisture while being cooked, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you want your overall salt content to be that high.


Changes in Muscle Fiber as a Result of Brining

The main structural component of meat is the myofibril which occupies about 70% percent of the volume of lean meat. Mybofibrils contain about 20% of protein, the rest being water. Thus the majority of water in meat lies in the myofibrils in the spaces between the thick and thin filaments. Myofibrils can swell to more than twice their original volume when immersed in salt solutions.

In porcine meat three distinct water populations were identified using proton LF NMR: one tightly bound to the the muscle proteins; a second trapped within the myofibril structure; and the third corresponding to water outside the myofibrillar lattice or even outside the muscle cells.

In meat water seems to be held by capillary action. The majority in the interfilament spaces with the myofribrils but a substantial part in extracellular space and the spaces between myofibrils. From Offer: the major effect on the increase in water mobility was probably due to the increased protein electrostatic repulsion leading to increase myofilament spacing. at a concentration of 4.6 – 5.8 %

Changes in myofibrils in high salt solutions have been verified using phase contrast microscopy. At low NaCl concentrations, swelling of the fibers, and high values of water holding capacity were observed. The increase in water holding capacity is likely attributed to the lateral expansion of myofibrils, which is coupled to protein solubilization.

While low concentrations of NaCl produced swelling of the fibers, and high values of the water holding capacity at higher NaCl concentrations the phenomenon was reversed, fiber volume decreased, the tissue lost its own water and proteins precipitated causing disruption in the matrix Gravier .

To understand the mechanism further it is important to first take a look at muscle fiber anatomy.

The basic unit of the muscle fiber is the sarcomere.

A sarcomere is the basic unit of a muscle’s cross-striated myofibril. Sarcomeres are multi-protein complexes composed of three different filament systems. Sarcomeres are multi-protein complexes composed of three different filament systems.



The thick filament system is composed of myosin protein which is connected from the M-line to the Z-disc by Titin It also contains myosin-binding protein C which binds at one end to the thick filament and the other to Actin.

The thin filaments are assembled by actin monomers bound to Nebulin. Which also involves tropomyosin; a dimer which coils itself around the F-actin core of the thin filament.
In a sarcomere under physiological salt conditions, the thick and thin filaments are tightly held in place.
Mechanism of Brining at muscle fiber level — thick and thin fibers repel

McGee in his text “On Food and Cooking’, pg 155-156 states that: “Brining has two initial effects. First, salt disrupts the structure of the muscle filaments. A 3 percent salt solution (2 tablespoons per quart/30 gm. per liter) dissolves parts of the protein structure that supports the contracting filaments themselves. “Second, the interactions of salt and proteins result in a greater water-holding capacity in the muscle cells, which then absorb water from the brine…The meat’s weight increases by 10% or more…In addition, the dissolved protein filaments can’t coagulate into the normally dense aggregates, so the cooked meat seems more tender.”

Olfer and Trinick (1983) explain that it is primarily the chloride ions in salt (NaCl) binding to the filaments that allows for the filament lattice expansion to occur (see below).
Myofibrils have been observed by phase contrast microscopy, and are seen to swell quickly to about twice their original volume in salt solutions resembling those used in meat processing. Such swelling is highly cooperative. Pyrophosphate reduces very substantially the sodium chloride concentration required for maximum swelling. In the absence of pyrophosphate, swelling is accompanied by extraction of the middle of the A-band; in its presence the ,4-band is completely extracted, beginning from its ends. Offer and Trinick suggest that that CI- ions bind to the filaments and increase the electrostatic repulsive force between them. A crucial factor in swelling is likely to be the removal at a critical salt concentration of one or more transverse structural constraints in the myofibril (probably crossbridges, the M-line or the Z-line) allowing the filament lattice to expand.

As long as the cross-bridges remain attached the lattice cannot swell much: conversely, if the lattice does swell appreciably, the cross-bridges cannot remain attached. Under such circumstances one can see why the swelling should be a highly cooperative phenomenon: when the cross-bridges dissociate they must all do so at the same time to allow swelling. When this occurs the thick filament backbone will no longer be stabilized and depolymerisation occurs from the ends as with separated thick filaments.

A final concentration of 0-8 to 1M ( 4-6-5.8% ) sodium chloride gives maximum water uptake Xiong (2000). Salting out occurs at about 90-100 g/l At higher salt concentrations a reverse effect was observed. Fiber volume decreased, the tissue lost its own water and proteins precipitated causing disruption in the matrix.



Chloride ions bind to the filaments and increase electrostatic repulsive forces between them. A crucial factor in swelling is likely to be removal at a critical salt concentration of one or more transverse structural constraints in the myofybril. allowing the filament lattice to expand.

The attached cross-bridges together with the ZM-Z- lines resist swelling

The sort of salt concentration needed to see the dissociation effect biochemically is typically around 500mM salt concentration (150mM being roughly physiological). 150g salt in 1 gallon (3.78 L) is 680 mM. This converts to 5.3 oz salt /gallon of water.

It seems reasonable to suppose that water is held in meat by capillarity, the majority in the interfilament spaces within the myofibrils, but a substantial part in the extracellular space and the spaces between myofibrils.
Comparing Brining Solutions


When it comes to brining food it is best to start with lower concentrations and/or brining times.

To get a better perspective of salt brines keep in mind that the salinity of fish and meat is around 9g/L which converts to a 0.9% salt solution.

On average, seawater in the world’s oceans has a salinity of ~3.5%, or 35 parts per thousand. This means that every 1 kg of seawater has approximately 35 grams of dissolved salts (mostly, but not entirely, the ions of sodium chloride: Na+, Cl-). This approximates at 35 gm of salt/ 1 Liter of water.

The brine recommended by Cooks Illustrated contains 5 oz. of salt / quart of water:

5 oz. = 142 gms. / 0.909 L = 156.2 gm/L or a 15% brine solution.

Dr. Estes Reynolds, a brining expert at the University of Georgia. (see article by Shirley Corriher in links) suggests using around half the amount of salt as the Cooks Illustrated recipe or 9.6 ounces of salt (272 grams) for every gallon of water.1 US gallon = 3.78541178 liters
272 GMs/ 3.785 l = 72g/l >>> twice that of sea water…. or 7.2 % brine

Keep in mind that 4-6-5.8% sodium chloride gives maximum water uptake in muscle fiber. In addition many protein changes are also seen at these salt concentrations. As pointed about by McGee (On Food and Cooking) a 3 percent salt solution (2 tablespoons per quart/30 gm. per liter) dissolves parts of the protein structure that supports the contracting filaments themselves.


Loss of water during cooking

Even brining will not prevent water loss due to shrinkage during cooking, although since we are starting with more water –and the change in protein structure may make water expulsion more difficult — loss of water is inevitable when cooking occurs at high temperatures.

It’s been observed that the shrinkage rate was maximal at 60 °C and that a slow but significant shrinkage of the fibres occurred at 40°C. The melting temperature of fibrous collagen is substantially higher (about 60-65 °C)

When single myofibres are heated in an aqueous medium up to temperatures of 90°C at pH 5·5, they do not shorten but instead decrease in diameter. This decrease begins slowly at 40° and reaches a maximal rate and extent at 60°, when the myofibre volume has decreased to 50% of the initial volume and about 60% of the cell water has been expelled. Expulsion of water from the myofibre is slow and incomplete from 40 to 52.5 °, but accelerates markedly to maximal rate between 57.5 and 60 °. The only muscle protein component so far identified which would on denaturation and shrinkage demonstrate this is the Type IV/V collagen.

It is the high tension which this collagen develops during heat shrinkage which is the main cause of extrusion of fluid from the meat.


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Brining Strategies



Now that you understand how the brining process works and if you read the entire science of brining section, A+ for you, we can begin to discuss various approaches. Based on what you’ve just learned, there are three major strategies that can be used to apply salt to proteins in an effort to enhance their flavor, texture and ability to maintain moisture.



The first approach is Dry Rub “Brining.” Notice that the word “brining” is in quotes because it is being used rather loosely. Yet as we discussed in the previous section, the addition of salt alone will allow proteins to bind more readily to water during the cooking process, so in the simplified sense that brines improve texture, flavor and moisture retention, a salt heavy dry rub can be thought of as a “dry brine.”

When making a dry brine, salt is usually mixed with other dry seasonings such as herbs and spices and rubbed onto the surface of the protein. A good starting point for the amount of salt to use is around 1% based on the protein’s weight.

The salt rub is left on for a given period of time, (anywhere from 4-48 hours), and then cooked as is, usually without being rinsed. Although this method doesn’t introduce excess water to be absorbed, the salting does allow the protein to bind moisture more tightly, yielding a moister finished product, assuming of course that the protein is cooked properly.



Next, lets take a look at the traditional gradient method, which gets its name from the fact that a salt gradient is being used to brine the food, meaning the brine contains a much higher salt content than what you would want your finished food product to contain. When using this approach, a gradient brine will typically contain about 5-10% salt, based on the water’s weight. The food is then placed in the brine for as a little as 15 minutes and as long as a few days.

But just because you roast a piece of beef in a 500ºF/260ºC degree oven doesn’t mean that’s your desired finished temperature. Chances are you’ll be serving the beef at a much lower internal temperature or 135-160ºF/57-71ºC. Just like you’re using a temperature gradient to transfer heat to food when cooking in a high temp oven, with the gradient brining method, the same holds true with the salt content. This is why when the food product is removed from the brine, it is immediately rinsed or soaked in cold water to remove excess sodium from the surface.

This rinsing step is then followed by a resting period which allows the salt gradient to form an equilibrium as the sodium and chloride ions finish diffusion. When you pull a protein from a gradient style brine, the sodium and chloride ions will be diffused unevenly throughout the protein, with a higher concentration towards the exterior of the meat.

When the meat is rinsed and allowed to rest for a given period of time (usually a few hours to overnight), the remaining sodium and chloride ions will finish diffusing and more or less equilibrate. Interesting enough, this is the same reason why meat is rested after cooking, but again, because salt diffusion takes about 100-1,000 times longer than heat diffusion, you usually only need to rest meat for 5-30 minutes, where as a brined protein will need to rest anywhere from 2-24 hours, after being removed from the brine.



Just like cooking in a high temp oven requires timing and intuition, gradient brining is to high heat cooking as equilibrium is to the control and precision of sous vide. And just like cooking sous vide, the equilibrium method does take longer, but is also much more accurate, taking the cook’s “intuition” out of the equation. The amount of salt dissolved in the brine is only enough for the interior of the protein to reach the precise amount of salt desired, making it impossible to over brine.


  • Weigh water and food together, subtracting any bone weight, since salt will not diffuse into bones.
  • Multiply the combined weight of the water and meat by the desired finished salinty you want your protein to contain at the end of the brining process (usually .5-1% by weight).
  • Dissolve the appropriate amount of salt into the water and place food in the brine.

Once a brine is constructed, whether you’re using the gradient or equilibrium method, any number of secondary ingredients can be added to improve the brine’s overall effect on flavor, texture and even moisture retention. These secondary ingredients are best understood when broken into their four individual categories; sweeteners, acids and bases, herbs and spices, other forms of salt.

The purpose of adding sweetness to a brine is to mask or balance the saltines while enhancing the brine’s overall flavor. Although anything that adds sweetness to a brine can be used, the most common ingredients are sugar (both white and brown), honey, corn syrup, cola and molasses. These sweeteners are usually added in a concentration of 1-5%, based upon the water’s weight. It is important to note that commonly, just enough sugar is added to balance the salt, but not enough to leave a perceptible sweetness when the brined product is consumed.

The purpose of using acids and bases in a give brine is to both enhance overall flavor and to change the protein’s texture. Common ingredients used for this purpose are vinegar, wine, citrus juice, citric acid, baking soda, lye and soda lime. Instead of a precise use percentage, enough acidic or base ingredients can added to a brine to drop the PH of the solution below 4.8, or raise it above 8.5. The acidic or base environments will break down some connective tissue and start unravel the protein strands, making the finished product more tender. When enough acid or base is added to a brine so that it effects a protein’s texture it is almost indistinguishable from a marinade. In fact, the more you dive into brines and marinades, the difference is usually based more on intent than ingredients. This is something that we will discuss in more depth at a later date.

Herbs and spices on the other hand are used specifically to add a secondary, complimentary flavor. This could really be any number of ingredients, but some common examples include thyme, cloves, cinnamon, pepper corns, bay leaf, mace, etc. You can also use aromatics such as onions, carrots, celery, peppers, etc.

Depending on the desired flavor profile and the pungency of the herb and spice, the use rate can range from half a percent to five percent by weight. For example, if using a really pungent herb like fresh rosemary, using more than half a percent by weight can could cause the rosemary flavor to become over bearing. However, the use percent given here should be used as a starting point, not an unbreakable law. Ultimately, you will have to base your use percentage on your personal preference and a little trial and error.

When using herbs and spices in a brine, the best way to incorporate their flavor is to first bring the water to a simmer, and then simmer or steep the herbs and spices like you’re making a tea or stock. Once the flavor is to you’re liking, pass the water through a strainer, add your salt and chill to below room temperature before using.



Since all herbs and produce can potentially have bacteria on their surface, placing them in simmering water, even for a few seconds, will essentially pasteurize them. If not pasteurized, the small amounts of bacteria could potentially turn your brine bad. This however is unlikely to occur when using a a traditional gradient brine since the salt content is high enough to kill most bacteria.

The surface of meat works much like a very fine filter or sieve. This means that only the flavor compounds dissolved in the water will actually be able to penetrate the proteins surface and effect its flavor. Using heat to infuse flavors into your brine first and then straining out the ingredients will ensure a more consistent result since some flavors will continue to diffuse into your brine over time.

The final category of secondary ingredients is other forms of salt. While most brine recipes call for sodium chloride (common table salt), other salts with more negatively charged ions can be used to aid in moisture retention while minimizing the familiar salty flavor of sodium chloride.

The most notable salts that can be used to enhance a brine are calcium chloride as well as two types of phosphate salts, Sodium Tripolyphosphate and Sodium Hexametaphosphate. Both phosphate salts and Calcium Chloride have more negatively charged ions then sodium chloride, which will increase water retention.

Anyone who has ever used calcium chloride in ionic spherification, (a modern technique used to make faux caviar), knows that it can have a bitter taste. However, when calcium chloride is added to a brine in small concentrations, (usually at or below 0.03% by weight), its bitter flavor is imperceptible, but it will still add enough negatively charged ions to the brine to positively effect moisture retention.

Sodium Tripolyphosphate and Sodium Hexametaphosphate are usually used in concentrations as low as .02% to .3% by weight. These salts don’t dissolve as easily as other forms of salts, so they must first be dissolved in a small amount of warm (not hot) water before they are added to your brine formula.



Once your brine is formulated, it does take time for your salt and other ingredients to diffuse into the product. There is, however, a few different methods you can use to speed up the brining process.

Jaccard (also commonly referred to as a needler), which tenderizes meat by shortening the muscles fibers, but also allows for brines and marinades to diffuse quickly throughout the protein.

A simple brine or marinade injector, which allows liquids to be injected directly into the interior of the flesh, speeding up diffusion.

A vacuum tumbler which, like its name suggests, tumbles proteins and liquids together under vacuum. The combination of low atmospheric pressure (caused by the vacuum) and the tumbling process can reduce brining durations from hours and days to mere minutes.


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Equilibrium Brining




The goal of brining is to apply enough salt to meat or seafood that the food retains more juices during cooking and that flavor is enhanced without curing the flesh in process. This challenge is analogous to cooking to a particular core temperature. You can cook at a temperature higher than the desired doneness and try to time the cooking just right. But if the center is perfectly done, the part near the surface will inevitably be overcooked. The alternative is to cook at the desired final core temperature and wait for the entire piece of food to reach equilibrium with the cooking temperature. This is the typical approach used when cooking sous vide. With brining, you have the same choice: brine the food in a very strong salt solution and then remove it before it is over-salted, or soak the food in a brine with just the right amount of salt. The latter is our preferred approach because it does away with all of the guesswork. We call it equilibrium brining.


Scale the Food and Water

Weigh the total amount of meat or seafood plus water. In general, use an amount of water equal to at least 50% of the weight of the meat. If you won’t be vacuum packing the meat with the brine, then use enough water to submerge the meat.

If the meat has a lot of bone, subtract the approximate weight of the bone.


Calculate and Add the Salt Required

Calculate how much salt you need to add by multiplying the total weight from step 1 with the desired final concentration of salt. Then dissolve all of this salt, plus any other seasonings, into the water for your brine.

For most meats and seafood, the final concentration of salt in the flesh should be between 0.25% and 2%. A higher salt concentration will help retain more juices during cooking and yield a firmer textured flesh.

For delicate seafood we suggest 0.5–1%, for white meats 1.5–1.75%. Most tender cuts of red meat do best without brining, or very low concentrations where the brined texture goes unnoticed.

This approach can also be used for wet-curing. Simply increase the salt concentration to between 2–4%.



Brining and curing are diffusion processes, just like heating, that scale roughly with the square of the thickness: a piece of meat or seafood twice as thick will take four times as long for the brine or cure to penetrate. A thin cut can take a day or so, but a large roast can take weeks.

Equilibrium brining is at least 20–30% slower than brining with a high concentration brine, for the same reason that cooking sous vide to equilibrium temperature is slower than traditional cooking techniques. But, just like sous vide cooking, the approach avoids the need to time things just right.

Unlike cooking with heat, however, it’s usually no big deal if a food is under-brined, whereas over-brined from too much salt is a much bigger deal than overcooked. Over-salted food is simply inedible, a pitfall of conventional brining that this strategy entirely avoids.


The Effects of Brining

Charged chloride ions from the dissolved salt in a brine will repel, destabilize, and unravel various proteins within the muscle fibers of meats and seafood. This is not altogether different than what cooking with heat also does to these proteins.

The combination of dissolved salt and heat combine to increase the juiciness of flesh by drawing water in during brining and squeezing less of it out during cooking.

Brined foods that are cooked have a telltale texture because the combination of salt and heat creates a firmer, more elastic gel than heating does alone. But avoid overdoing it, otherwise the flesh can become too firm and chewy, as well as too salty.



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Brining Tips & Tricks


Here are a few tips and tricks that apply to either both the cold and boiled brining methods:


  • Before you begin brining you need to figure out how much liquid you will need to fully submerge the protein. This will allow you to calculate the amount of salt and sugar needed. To do this, simply place the protein into the container and, using a measuring cup, calculate the amount of liquid it takes to completely submerge your protein. Now that you have that info, you can figure the proper salt and sugar ratios.


  • Once you add the protein to the brine, if the protein starts to rise and float on the surface of the liquid, place a plate or something similar on top to weigh it down.


  • If you are using pieces of protein, the average weight of the pieces (not the total weight) is used to calculate the brining time. Example: 3 one-pound pieces of protein = 1 hour of brining (not 3 hours). The exception to this rule is pieces weighing 8 ounces or less; those should brine for no more than 30 minutes.


  • Whether you use the cold or boiled method for brining, you will need to thoroughly rinse and pat the protein dry after you are finished brining. If crispy skin is desired, let the protein air dry in the refrigerator, uncovered, for about an hour


  • A cold brine is the simplest way to brine. However, with this method, you are limited to salt, sugar, and liquids as your flavoring options.
    • Mix together liquid, salt, and sugar (if using) until salt and sugar are fully dissolved.
    • Add the protein to the brine, making sure that it is fully submerged.
    • Leave the protein in the brine for an hour per pound. Store in the refrigerator, as the brine must be kept cold at all times during the process.


  • A boiled brine requires a little more work is well worth it to infuse the protein with additional flavors. Spices—whether they’re whole, ground, or dried herbs, they need the heat from the boiled liquid to release their flavor and truly impact the tastiness of the cooked protein. You’ll need about 1 tablespoon of seasoning per quart of brining liquid.
    • In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, dissolve the salt and sugar (if using) into 1½ cups of the liquid. When dissolved, add the spices and/or flavorings and bring to a full boil for 1 to 2 minutes. Tip: There is no need to boil all the brine liquid because you can fully dissolve the salt and sugar and extract the flavor out of any seasonings in 1½ cups of liquid.
    • Allow boiled brine to cool completely to room temperature. Tip: You can speed up the cooling process by adding ice cubes or the rest of your liquid (chilled) to the boiled brine.
    • Add cooled, seasoned bring liquid to the remaining brine liquid you measured out. Add the protein, making sure that it is fully submerged. Leave the protein in the brine for about 1 hour per pound. Store in the refrigerator, as the brine must be kept cold at all times during the process.
    • Remove protein from brine, discard brining liquid, and prepare for whatever cooking method you plan to use.


  • Think of brining like a blank canvas—the possibilities are endless in terms of the flavor combinations. Any and all spices and seasonings are in play, but whole spices (like seeds, chiles, cinnamon chips or sticks, peppercorns, etc.) work best. You can all use spices that feature aromatic garlic and bay leaves, the citrus flavors of coriander, lemon, orange, and lemon verbena, as well as sweet allspice and sharp peppercorns. If you want to branch out a bit, you could use flavor profiles of fresh aromatic ingredients, like shallots, onions, garlic, and herbs. When it comes to liquids, apple or citrus juices, beer or wine, and even vinegars can be particularly impactful.


  • Because water is a heat conductor you will typically find that a brined item will cook faster than an non-brined item


  • If you want your poultry to have a golden and crispy skin it needs to sit in the refrigerator for several hours after you remove it from the brine so that the meat can absorb the moisture from the skin. Whole poultry is the exception however. To get a crispy, brown skin whole birds should be removed from the brine, wrapped in foil or plastic and put in the refrigerator overnight or for at least 12 hours.


  • The saltier the brine, the shorter time is required. And the brine will penetrate a chicken breast or pork chop much faster than a large thick muscle like a whole pork loin or turkey.


  • Water is optional. Any liquid will do for brining. You can substitute some or all of the water with whatever you heart desires. Wine, beer, fruit juices (especially good is apple), or vinegars all make a good liquid base for your brine. Just be aware of making the brine to acidic. If you add more acid to your mixture, you should decrease the brining time.


  • Any herb, spice, sweetener, fruit, vegetable will work; let your imaginations run wild. Think of a brine as a soup, there can be a lot of complexity in soup or just simple ones.


  • You need enough brine to completely submerge the meat without any part being out of the liquid. Some items might need to be weighted down to stay under.


  • How much liquid will you need? Take the meat you plan to brine and place it in the container. Cover with liquid. Measure the amount and you’ll know how much brine to make. Almost any container will work as long as it’s non-reactive to salt.


  • You don’t want the brine cooking the meat, always add your meat to a cold brine, not a hot one.


  • You don’t need to boil the entire gallon of liquid to create your brine. Start with a quart, add your salts and sugars and create a super saturated solution. After boiling, mix your remaining liquid, thoroughly; this way you don’t have to use a really big pot to boil with. If you need to cool this super solution down quickly, mix with ice water.


  • Lighter more tender meats needs less brining time.


  • Denser meats like pork, need longer times.


  • Remember that the longer you brine the stronger the flavor will be.


  • You do not need to rinse unless you were using a high salt concentration in the brine.


  • Want to preserve the color of the meat? Add 1 tablespoon of Cure (Saltpeter, Tenderquick, Prague Powder) per gallon of liquid This will help. Another trick used by chefs is to add 1 tablespoon of Saltpeter per gallon of liquid. If the color is important to you, consider the cure.


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Basic Brine Table



BASIC1 Quart1/2 cup1/2 cup1 quart per pound1 hr per pound
Diamond Kosherno more thannot less than 3 hrs
2 gallons of brineor more than 8 hrs
1/4 cup +
 2 Tbs Morton Kosher
1/4 cup table salt
Any by Weight
= 5 oz. of salt
HIGH HEAT1 Quart1/4 cup2 Tbs1 quart per pound1 hour per pound
ROASTINGDiamond Kosherno more thannot less than 30min
OR GRILLING2 gallons of brineno more than 8 hrs
3 Tbs
Morton Kosher
2 Tbs table salt



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Common Questions

& Answers



To brine or not to brine?

It might be easier to mention the items that don’t benefit from brining than to list all of the proteins that do. Fattier meats like beef and lamb are usually cooked to lower finished temperatures, keeping them juicy and tender. Gamey birds, like duck, squab, and goose, also contain more fat so they don’t really benefit from brining. Just about all other proteins can benefit from brining, including some shellfish and even tofu. Brining vegetables is even an option for adding flavor throughout.


Does brining replace marinating?

On the surface, the answer is no. Marinating tenderizes and adds flavor to the surface of the protein (not to the interior like brining does). And marinating really doesn’t do anything to increase the protein’s juiciness.

If you brine first you can significantly decrease your marinating time or even eliminate it altogether and use a dry rub to flavor the exterior of the protein. For example, when making chicken typically marinate it for 6 to 8 hours. But when you brine the chicken first, you can then marinate for just 1 to 2 hours and achieve juicier results than marinating alone. If you use chicken pieces rather than a whole bird, the brining only takes 30 minutes. So you can brine for 30, marinate for 60, and cook in 30. This approach produces a better, more flavorful and juicy chicken in a quarter of the recommended marinating time! So while brining doesn’t replace marinating, using a combination of techniques can actually be even faster.


What’s the difference between brining and marinating?

Brining involves salt and osmosis to exchange the fluid in the brine with the water inside the meat. Marinating used acidity to break down the texture of the meat. You can actually do both if your marinate has salt in it.


Can I adjust the amount of salt in the brine without affecting the brining process?

Yes. As long as you follow the basic and have a salty solution, Osmosis will have the desired effect. Although if you adjust it below 1 cup or 3/4 cup, you’re just “soaking” in salt water, not brining. Just because a brine has salt in it, however, doesn’t mean you’re going to get a salty end product. Try two things.

  1. Rinse the meat really well to get the salt off the outside (remember, Osmosis puts the salt solution inside so you’re not washing off the flavors).
  2. Add a sugar (white, turbinado, brown) to your solution to cut the salt, try for example 2/3 cup of Kosher salt and 2/3 cup of white sugar to a gallon of water.

Try starting with a recipe and it’s amount of salt, and these two tricks and see if that gives you the desire effect. Remember, brining requires a specific concentration of salt to water. Don’t cut back too far.


The end product, after smoking, tastes over-seasoned and looks “mushy.” Why?

See above about the affect of acidity on a brine solution. Also, anything left in a brine too long will taste over-seasoned. Keep good logs and what you brined, how long it was brined and the results. Next time you’ll know how long is “too long.”


My brine doesn’t have sugar in it and sometimes the chicken comes out so off, uh, gray looking.

Add some sugar to your brine. The same reason that you use sugar for carmelization in regular cooking will work here. But be careful, if you add too much sugar to a brine and use it on pork – you’ll get a hammy taste. A sugar brine is what is used by many companies to create their hams. 


Can you change flavors with brine? Can you add additional flavors to the brine easily (herbs, spices, etc.)?

Once you’ve tried a brine, experiment. Just like any recipe, feel free to modify the other flavorings and spices, but the salt/water mixture/ratio shouldn’t be modified significantly.


If you can keep your brined fowl down below 38ºF the entire time, and are always cooking to an internal of 160ºF+, is TenderQuick necessary?

Possibly. The purpose of TenderQuick is food safety. If you keep your brine below 40ºF, you’re not in the Food Safety DANGER ZONE of 40ºF to 140ºF.


Why do I have to let the solution cool before I add the meat?

See answer above about temperature. Remember, remember, remember the DANGER ZONE for 40ºF to 140ºF. Avoid at all cost! If you add a hot solution and create a brine that’s in this range (mix a hot solution and cold water and it WILL be in this range) you’re asking for trouble. And, NO, you can’t add it to a really hot brine – then you’re cooking!


Why Kosher Salt? Can’t I use table or regular sea salt?

There are some very significant differences in the amount of salt, by weight in kosher salt vs. regular salt. You can’t substitute them one for one. I suggest the larger, coarser Kosher so that you get a more consistent brine. If you MUST use regular salt, decrease by ½ the amount to start with.


I can’t find Tenderquick or Kosher Salt at the local grocery store’s. I found some Morton’s Pickling & Canning Salt, Will this work? What does TenderQuick do, are there replaceable products? Do I need a “cure” in there or just use salt?

Cures are NOT required in brines. A Cure is typically used in places where you’re worried about the Food Safety DANGER ZONE of 40°F to 140°F. You don’t have to have the cure if you’re sure of your temperatures. Keep it below 40°F. Pickling Salt will work. Don’t use other salts than Kosher.


Does the strength of the brine matter (dilution factor)?

Yes, if you don’t have a high enough solution of salt to liquid, you’re just soaking. The minimum is usually see is 3/4 cup of Kosher salt to 1 gal or water. 


Can you brine a frozen bird?

No. The brine and osmosis won’t be able to work on a frozen product and if you let the bird since in a salty solution longer than recommended, you’ll have a less than good quality bird – mushy and over-seasoned.


Should I use a rub if I brined my bird?

You don’t have too. It will depend on the flavorings of the brine. But you may want to so the outside gets a nice flavor from the rub and the insides gets more flavors from the brine.


Can you brine and inject?

You don’t need to, if you’re going to inject the brine. Osmosis works for you – so you don’t have to. Now, if you want to inject your own flavorings after the brine, great.


Should you pay attention to lowering the salt in your rub, if you use a traditional salt brine?

If you’re worried about being too “salty”, cut back the salt somewhere. You can add salt as needed.


Food nutritionists say honey breaks down at 160ºF,so should you wait till after you boil the brine and it cools some to add the honey?

Sure why not, if you want, wait until your solution cools below 160ºF before adding your honey.


Can the brine be used for a second time for the same food type?

Don’t every reuse a brine once it’s had food in it.


Instead of water, can I use something else, like Coca-Cola, Orange Juice, Apple Juice, Beer, Etc?

Yes you can substitute other liquids for the water that is the base for a brine but, don’t make the solution acidic. Remember that a brine uses osmosis and marinades use acid. If you make your solution acidic (like using a orange/citrus juice) you’ll actually get a mushy exterior on the meat. The reason is the length of time your brine works vs. the length of time for a marinade. You can use a little acid, but if you add too much, watch out for the effect that acid has on your meat. If you do add acid, reduce your brining time accordingly.


My refrigerator isn’t big enough to hold the brine in a big bucket, what do I do?

Be creative, but remember two things: temperature and air are your enemies. Keep the temperature below 40Fº and the meat completely covered by brine. Once the solution is made, you can break it up into smaller quantities. For example, take a zip lock back, put 4 to 6 chicken breast in there and add brine to cover, close it after squeezing out the air and you’ll do fine. For turkey, I have used a brand new bucket from home depot or a pickle bucket from Firehouse subs, add the brine and lots of ice, weighted the bird down and covered the bucket and put it on the porch if it was cool outside.  Just remember to keep the bird under below 40Fº ! 


Can I brine pork?

Since the worm that causes Trichinosis is no longer present in American pork, it is now safe enough that it doesn’t have to be cooked well done. However, Jim McKinney, chef-owner of Club Grotto in Louisville, KY, couldn’t convince his customers of that. “If they see pink in a pork chop, they think they’re going to get sick,” he says. By brining his 12-ounce pork chop for 24 hours in a mixture of kosher salt, brown sugar, fresh rosemary and juniper berries, some of the blood is drawn out and McKinney can cook it to just 140ºF degrees without hearing any complaints. “And the flavor it packs is incredible,” he says. His brine is 28 percent salt and 10 percent brown sugar.


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The Basics of Brining

How salt, sugar, and water can improve texture and flavor in lean meats, poultry,
and seafood. BY JULIA COLLIN


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Glossary of Terms



Osmosis — Osmosis is the diffusion of water through a cell wall or membrane or any partially-permeable barrier from a solution of low solute concentration to a solution with high solute concentration, up a solute concentration gradient. It is a physical process in which a solvent moves, without input of energy, across a semi-permeable membrane (permeable to the solvent, but not the solute) separating two solutions of different concentrations.[1] Osmosis releases energy, and can be made to do work, as when a growing tree-root splits a stone. Shot of a computer simulation of the process of osmosisNet movement of solvent is from the less-concentrated (hypotonic) to the more-concentrated (hypertonic) solution, which tends to reduce the difference in concentrations.


Diffusion — Diffusion is the movement of particles from an area of high concentration to an area of low concentration in a given volume of fluid (either liquid or gas) down the concentration gradient. For example, diffusing molecules will move randomly between areas of high and low concentration but because there are more molecules in the high concentration region, more molecules will leave the high concentration region than the low concentration one.
Capillary Action Capillary action, capillarity, capillary motion, or wicking is the ability of a substance to draw another substance into it. The standard reference is to a tube in plants but can be seen readily with porous paper. It occurs when the adhesive intermolecular forces between the liquid and a substance are stronger than the cohesive intermolecular forces inside the liquid.


Denaturation – Denaturation is a major change in protein or nucleic acid structure by application of some external stress or compound for example, treatment of proteins with strong acids or bases, high concentrations of inorganic salts, organic solvents (e.g., alcohol or chloroform), or heat.
Depolymerization – - to decompose (macromolecules) into simpler compounds (as monomers)



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Brine Recipes


Brining = Juicy and Tender Protein



As with most things, there is more than one way to create a brine. In fact, with the involvement of spices and various liquid options, the possibilities are pretty much endless. That said, there are two basic types of brines you can create: cold brine or boiled brine. I prefer the boiled because it can involve the use of spices. But, first things first, let’s deal with what you are going to need whether you use the cold or boiling method.

If you’re new to brining, read all the information in the Q&A section above for some of the common mistakes and concerns.

To prepare your solution, there are two methods. Remember that whatever your mixing needs to be thoroughly into solution before using.

Method 1: Cold. Dissolve salt in a cold or room temperature water, add other ingredients and mix thoroughly. All solution to set overnight. Then use.

Method 2: Heated. Mix salt, sugar and water in a pot and bring to a low/rolling boil. Take off the heat and add other flavorings. Let cool.

When brining, always use stainless steel, glass or food-grade plastic containers.

Totally submerge in solution and store in a refrigerator for the recommended time.
As a general starting point, take one gallon of water and add 3/4 cup (preferable – but you can use up to a cup) of salt (Kosher is best), 1/2 cup of sugar and then the rest is up to you. Sliced onions are nice, a few cloves of crushed garlic add a nice flavor and then there’s the spices and herbs.

(Diffusion + Osmosis) + Capillary Action + Heat = Juicy Protein




Turkey Brine #1


Note this brine recipe uses half the amount of salt than that called for in most standard brines,


3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp kosher salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 carrot peeled and diced
1 large onion peeled and diced
1 leek, cleaned and sliced
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp black peppercorns
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp fennel seeds
2 star anise
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme



In a large stockpot (16 quart or more) bring 2 gallons of water to a boil.
Add salt and sugar and stir until dissolved.Turn off heat and add veggies, then herbs and spices. Refrigerate till cold. Remove giblets from turkey. Add turkey to stock pot. Weigh down with a plate if neccessary to keep turkey below the brine’s surface. Refrigerate 72 hours, then remove from brine and allow turkey to come to foom temperature. The recipe calls for 12-14 lb turkey




Simple Brine #1



½ cup Kosher salt
½ cup sugar
1 gallon water




Simple Brine #2



3/4 cup Kosher salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 gallon water
1/4 cup coarse black pepper




Smokin’ Okie’s Holiday Turkey Brine



1 gallon water
1 cup coarse Kosher salt
3/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
4 tablespoons black pepper
3 – 4 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 teaspoon Allspice
1 oz. Morton’s Tenderquick (optional)


Measurements “How much is an Ounce?”

2 tablespoons = ounce
6 teaspoons = ounce



Heat water/salt/sugars to rolling boil. Take off burner, add other ingredients. Allow mixture to cool before placing meat into solution.

Place 10 – 12 lb. turkey in non-reactive container and cover with brine. Refrigerate for minimum of 24 hours, preferably 48 hours.

Load smoker’s wood box with 4 oz. hickory wood.

Remove turkey from the refrigerator and discard brine. Rinse turkey three times, pat dry and lightly rub skin with mayonnaise. Apply light coating of Cookshack Spicy Chicken Rub. Place turkey in smoker and smoke cook at 200ºF for one hour per lb. I like cherry or apple wood for my turkey. Smoke until internal temperature of breast reaches 160ºF to 165ºF. Remove from smoker and allow to sit for 30 minutes before slicing.

Note: About the “optional” Tenderquick. If you smoke a turkey at temperatures of 180º to 225º F., you might want to consider using the Tenderquick. The turkey will be spending a lot of time in the DANGER ZONE of 40ºF to 140ºF, so just be aware of this. If in doubt, use the Tenderquick.




Shake’s Honey Brine & Fried turkey



1/2 gallon will do 2 turkeys; 2 oz each leg, 2 oz each thigh, 4 oz each breast.

1 gallon water
1 cup pickling salt
1 oz tender quick (2 tbsp)
1 cup honey
3 bay leaves
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp pickle spice
Smokin Okie’s Original Brine
1 gallon water
1 cup kosher salt
1 ounce Tenderquick
1 cup honey
3 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon pickling spices





Simple Brine #3



1 cup Kosher salt
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup cracked black pepper
1/4 cup crushed red peppers
2 tablespoons minced garlic
Simple Pork Brine:
1 gallon Water
1/2 cup coarse kosher salt
1/2 cup white sugar
3 bay leaves
1 whole onion, cut-up
3 tablespoons garlic
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
3 tablespoon whole peppercorns

Try this with pork chops. Brine for eight hours, using the largest pork chops you can find (reduce for smaller pork chops). After brining, sprinkle the pork chops with the rub and let sit for one hour. Smoke or grill to an internal temperature of 130ºF to 135ºF.

Option 1:

Use a piece of flattened out tenderloin (or even chicken tenderloin). Since you’re using a smaller piece of meat, brine for 2 hours. Bread and cook as you would a normal tenderloin –delicious.

Option 2:

Add ¼ of Bourbon to your brine.




Honey Brine for Poultry



1 gallon water
1 cup salt ( sea or kosher)
1 oz tender quick (2 tbsp)
1 cup honey
3 bay leaves
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp pickle spice

Mix ingredients and bring to boil, allow to to cool to room temp and brine recommended times above




Turkey Brine #2



1 gallon water
3/4 cup salt( sea or kosher)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup molasses
2 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp thyme
1 tbsp oregano
bring mix to boil and allow to cool to room temp.

You can do your own other ingredients like maple syrup, garlic, onion, allspice,ginger, or spices you like can be used.




BigWheel’s Prize Winning Brine

for Chicken



1 gallon water
1 cup kosher salt
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup pure maple syrup or molasses
2 T. black pepper
1 T. mustard seeds
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup chopped garlic (from the jar) (or 2 Tablespoons granulated garlic)
1 T. Tarragon
1 T. Oregeno



Split the chickens down the middle and rinse.

12 hrs. is about right on time … a few hours either way wont hurt a thing.
Make sure the brine is “cold” before you place the birds in it or they will absorb too much salt.
Make sure you use glass, ceramics, plastic or stainless steel for brining cause it is highly reactive.
I usually make this up in half gallon batches which fit nicely into empty half-gallon bottles of Ezra Brooks (Wife drinks the stuff … I’m a teetoaler myself)

I then get the bottles of brine cold in the icebox.

Put 2 chicken halves in each bag and dump a half gallon of cold brine on top of each.

Then stick the whole mess into an ice chest with ice.

Massage about once an hour or so … (nothing critical … just give them a shake now and then) while you help empty more bottles for future brining episodes.





Joe Simone’s Brine-Cured

Roast Chicken



2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon whole fennel seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
12 black peppercorns
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 cups boiling water
4 cups ice water
1 whole chicken (about 3 1/2 pounds) – cut into 6
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 fresh lemon – cut in half



In addition to roasting, Joe Simone of Tosca in Hingham often grills these brine-cured chicken pieces (8 to 10 minutes on each side). The delicate flavor of the brine allows the natural taste of the chicken to shine through.

Combine the salt, sugars, fennel and coriander seeds, peppercorns,
thyme and rosemary in a large nonreactive container.

Whisk in the boiling water nad continue whisking until the sugars and salt are dissolved.

Whisk in the ice water and let the brine cool.

Add the chicken to the brine, making sure all the pieces are submerged.

Cover the conatiner with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 24 hours, but no more than 36 hours.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Remove the chicken from the brine and lightly pat dry.

Rub with the oil and shower with lemon juice. Season with several pinches of salt and place in a roasting pan.

Roast for 25 minutes, or until the chicken is just cooked through.




Andy Husbands’s Brine-Cured Tuna



For the tuna:
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup kosher salt
2 cups boiling water
1 dried chipotle chile – coarsely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds – toasted
1 pound fresh tuna – Approx 1 inch thick
Canola oil – For brushing tuna

For the salad:
1 clove garlic – minced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme – chopped
6 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
2/3 cup canola oil
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper – to taste
2 small heads frisee (or other delicate salad green) – rinse and pat dry



At Tremont 647, Andy Husbands smokes the tuna after soaking it in a stronger version of this brine.

Since the tuna in this recipe is going to be fully cooked, the brine contains less salt and sugar.

For the tuna: Combine the sugar, salt, and boiling water in a large nonreactive container.

Stir to dissolve the sugar and salt.

Add the ice water, chipotle, and cumin seeds, and let the brine cool.

Add the tuna to the brine, making sure it is submerged.

Cover the container with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 6 hours.

For the salad: Place the garlic, thyme, and vinegar in a small bowl.

Slowly whisk in the oil to emulsify the dressing.

Whisk in the sugar and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Place the frisee in a salad bowl and toss with half of the dressing.

Transfer the dressed frisee to 6 salad plates.

Prepare a grill or broiler.

Remove the tuna from the brine and gently pat dry.

Lightly brush with the oil.

Grill or broil to desired doneness (approximately 6 minutes per side for 1-inch-thick tuna rare in the center).

Cut the tuna into thin slices and arrange over the salads.

Drizzle the remaining dressing over each salad.




Maple and Dill Brined Salmon



1 quart cold water
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons real maple syrup
1 large bunch dill – coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic – smashed
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 salmon fillet – About 2 pounds
1 tablespoon olive oil



this delicate brine performs magic on a sparkling-fresh fillet of salmon. It plumps the fish with moisture and produces the most tender, succulent salmon I have ever eaten.

Combine the water, salt, and maple syrup in a large nonreactive container.

Stir to dissolve the salt.

Blend in the dill, garlic, and pepper.

Place the salmon, skin side up, in the brine, making sure it is submerged.

Cover the conatiner with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 6 hours.

Turn on the broiler.

Remove the salmon from the brine and lightly pat dry with a paper towel.

Place on a foil-lined baking sheet, skin side down, and coat with the oil.

Broil for 15 minutes, or until just cooked through.




George Germon and Johanne Killeen’s

Brine-Cured Pork Chops



1 cup fresh herbs (rosemary, oregano, thyme,
and – coarsely chopped
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup kosher salt
2 tablespoons fennel seed
10 coriander seeds
10 black peppercorns
5 juniper berries
5 bay leaves
1 quart hot water
3 quarts ice water
12 pork chops – 1 inch thick
2 tablespoons olive oil



Since brining partially cooks the pork, the finished chops will be rosy inside and very tender.

George Germon and Johanne Killeen often serve these pork chops with pickled pears. Caramelized onions or any kind of sweet-and-sour chutney would also make a nice accompaniment.

Combine the fresh herbs, sugar, and salt, fennel and coriander seeds, peppercorns, juniper berries, and bay leaves in a large nonreactive container.

Add the hot water and stir to dissolve the sugar and salt.

Stir in the ice water.

Add the porck chops to the brine, making sure they are submerged.

Cover the container with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 18 to 24 hours.

Prepare a grill or broiler.

Remove the pork chops from the brine and pat dry.

Lightly brush with the oil and grill or broil for about 8 mnutes on each side.

Place on a platter and let rest 5 minutes.




Benjamin Nathan’s

Brine-Roasted Duck



3 quarts ice water
3 cups soy sauce
1 1/2 cups mirin
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 1/2 unpeeled oranges – slice into half moon
1 1/2 peeled onions – slice into half moon
6 whole garlic cloves
1/3 cup fresh peeled ginger root – chopped
1/4 cup garlic chili paste
3 dried Thai chiles
1 1/2 tablespoons whole Szechuan peppercorns
1 1/2 tablespoons coriander seeds
3 tablespoons kosher salt
1 5 pound duck



This brine infuses the duck meat with a delicate, savory flavor and makes it velvety and moist. It’s good warm from the oven or cold the next day. Note that the duck must soak in the brine for 3 days – prepare it on a Wednesday night for a dinner party Saturday night.

Combine the ice water, soy sauce, and mirin in a large nonreactive container.

Put the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.

When hot, add the orange slices, onions, garlic and ginger.
Saute until browned, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the garlic chili paste and saute for 2 minutes more.
Transfer to the soy mixture and stir to combine.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Place the duck on the rack in a roasting pan.
Roast for 20 minutes and then reduce the heat to 275 degrees.
Roast the duck for 1 hour more, occasionally pouring off the fat as it accumulates in the bottom of the roasting pan.

Transfer the duck to a platter and let cool slightly before slicing.




Honey and Apple Smoked Turkey



You don’t have to brine a turkey before smoking it, but it does provide you with a moist, succulent bird. I prepared four turkeys before getting this recipe right and it is quite delicious. It turns out slightly sweet and salty, nicely smoky and is one of those mahogany visions that would be the envy of any every gourmet magazine food stylist. You could probably use maple syrup for this instead of honey. I also tried a glaze of brown sugar and water, applied every hour or so, during smoking and got great results.



1 turkey (10 to 12 lbs.)


16 cups of water – approximately
4 cups hot water
3 cups pickling salt
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons pickling spice
1 teaspoon saltpetre (optional)


2 tablespoons paprika
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
4 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup maple syrup
2 apples, quartered



Pre-soaked apple and/or maple chunks
apples, about 3 medium, quartered

24 hours ahead: brine turkey. Fill a large, non reactive container such as a large stock pot with 16 cups of water. In another bowl, stir the four cups of hot water with the salt, sugar, onion powder, garlic powder, pickling spice and saltpetre (if desired). Stir into cold water in stock pot to dissolve salt and sugar.

Immerse turkey in salted, spiced water and weigh down to keep submerged. (I used a brick wrapped in a ziplock bag). Refrigerate overnight or at least 4-6 hours. Once in awhile, swish turkey around (this is called “overhauling’).

Meanwhile, soak about 12-20 medium large chunks of maple and apple hardwood in water overnight (or at least a couple of hours).

Next day, remove turkey from brine. Dry very well. Mix dry rub seasonings together: paprika, Old Bay, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Pat all over turkey.

Fill turkey cavity with a couple of quartered apple sections.

Prepare smoker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Add apple pieces to water tray.

Once briquettes are hot, place 4-6 wet wood chunks on top.

Place turkey on cooking grate and close lid. Baste with maple syrup during the last three hours (every 45 minutes or so).

Smoke cook, about 4 1/2 – 6 1/2 hours, until turkey temperature reads 160-165 F. Technically, turkey is thoroughly done when a meat thermometer inserted into the thigh reads l80 F. However, I found if you actually keep it on the grill until that point it will dry out. At 160-165 F., the temperature continues to climb rather quickly – even as you remove the turkey. Taking it off at l60 F. ensures it will not be overdone and dry.

The first three turkeys I smoked were taken off between 170 and 180 F. They were flavorful but rather dry. The last one, removed at 160 F., was perfect.

Remove turkey from smoker, drain inside cavity. Cool to warm before placing in fridge to “mature”. (24 hours is best. Overnight is okay).




Apple Cider Brined Turkey



4 gal. Apple cider
4 oz. Kosher Salt
1 ea. Onion (diced)
2 ea. Heads Garlic split
4 oz. fresh ginger, chopped
3 pcs. Star Anise
4 bay leaves
4 ea. Oranges quartered



(In a large stock pot):

Sautee the onion, garlic, ginger, and anise together in a little canola oil, until lightly browned. Add the bay leaves and the oranges. Sautee another 2-3 min. Add the cider and the Kosher salt. Bring to a simmer for 1 minute. Remove from heat, transfer to another container and chill completly (use an Ice bath if possible).

Rinse and dry bird. Place bird in a large vessel to marinate in. Pour the well chilled brine over the bird and turn to coat well. Place a weighted plate or something of the sort over the bird to keep it immersed. Cover and refrigerate while marinating. Turn the bird daily. Marinate a minimum of 48 hours. Reserve some of the brine to baste with if you like.

Proceed with roasting as usual ( I like to start with the breast side down).
I made this much brine to marinate (2) 14# birds.

I highly reccomend this brine and recieved rave reviews with it last year. I will do it again this year. Please let me know how it turned out for you !




Zippy Smoked Chicken



Chicken Brine

5 gal water
4 cups salt
4 heaping tsp garlic powder
4 heaping tsp onion powder
3/4 bottle liquid smoke (just do it)
1 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 tbl oregano
4 heaping tsp black pepper
1 tsp caynenne
1/2 cup olive oil
5 bay leaves
4 heaping tbl pickling spice
1/2 26oz can whole jalepeno plus juice
(snaped jalepenos in half)
3 tsp celery salt


Put all the dry spices in warm water for half hour or so. Then place chicken in brine for appropriate time.

Wash chicken thoroughly afterwards


Smoked at 230 for 3 1/2 hr

Brined the chickens 14 hrs.




Duck Pastrami



1 tablespoon black peppercorns
3 teaspoons dried thyme
3 bay leaves – crushed
1 teaspoon whole cloves
2 tablespoons garlic – minced
1 teaspoon whole juniper berries
1/3 cup crushed juniper berries
4 cups water
1/2 cup light brown sugar – packed
1/2 cup kosher salt
1 duck breast, boneless, split ~2.25 lbs
1/4 cup coarsely ground pepper



In a small mixing bowl, combine the peppercorns, thyme, bay leaves, cloves, garlic, and whole juniper berries. In a saucepan, over medium heat, combine the water, brown sugar and salt. Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve the sugar and salt. Remove from the heat and add dry spice mixture and steep for 1 hour. Place the duck breast in a glass or plastic container. Pour the seasoned brine to cover the breasts completely. Cover and refrigerate for 48 hours, turning the breasts a couple of times. Remove the duck breasts from the brine and rinse thoroughly with cool water. Pat dry with a towel. Preheat the oven (smoker) to 250 degrees. Combine the crushed juniper berries and ground black pepper in a small bowl. Using the palm and heel of your hands, press 2/3 of the berry and pepper mixture into the underside of the breasts. Press the remaining mixture onto the skin side. Place the breasts, skin side down, on a rack in a roasting pan in smoker) and roast for 1 hour. Remove and let cool for 30 minutes. Wrap the breasts tightly in plastic wrap and place in an airtight container. Store in the refrigerator for at least 1 week before using. To serve, remove the meat and slice thin.

He serves this on french bread with provolone, mustard and onion marmalade.




Dan’s Chicken Marinade



ginger ale
garlic powder
hot sauce
cayenne powder
Old Bay seasoning

For chicken, I use a marinade and mop based on ginger ale and vinegar with ginger, garlic powder, salt, tumeric, hot sauce, cayenne powder, and Old Bay for flavor. These are my standard and favorite spices but I also look through the cabinet to see if anything else sounds good at the time. No measurements – I just pour in what I think is right for the amount of chicken. When the mixture passes the smell and taste test, I dump in the chicken. After the chicken has marinated, I boil the liguid (for safety) and use it as a mop.


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Links – Brining Meat brining – equilibrium brining – the science behind brining

Basics of Brining by Cooks Illustrated

McGee, Harold, On Food and Cooking

Wolke, Robert, What Einstein Told his Cook

Preparation of Salt Brines for the Fishing Industry

To Brine or not to Brine Part I –Craig Shelton

To Brine or not to Brine Part II –Craig Shelton

Why Brining Keeps Meat So Moist –Shirley Corriher – brining-101 – Smokin-Okies Brining-101


Shake’s Honey Brine – Fact Sheets – brining


video: How does a brine work?


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