How Do Brines Work?

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by chefron, Nov 24, 2000.

  1. chefron

    chefron

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    Always interested in trying new techniques, I decided to follow the advise of a chef on the Food Channel by placing my family's Thansgiving Turkey in a brine solution 12 hours before cooking. I figured, what the heck? It was an approach that was alien to me and I figured it might be worth the attempt.

    The result was marvellous. I have never had a turkey breast come out so moist and flavorful. What happened? Can someone please explain the chemical or molecular factors that were at play? I am having a difficult time understanding the science of brines.

    Thank you,

    Ron
     
  2. wambly

    wambly

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    Brine is great stuff ...
    Try it on pork chops too.
     
  3. mezzaluna

    mezzaluna

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    What does brining do to the sodium content of the meat? How much salt is actually absorbed? I'm rather sensitive to salt, but am attracted to the flavor and tenderness brining promises.
     
  4. cape chef

    cape chef

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    Sounds like a successful T-day for you!
    I love to brine by ducks as well before i smoke them in my altoshame. The most basic of brining is as follows. It is a solution of water and salt (preferable soft water). Its main function is to draw the sugers and moisture out of the foods and form lactic acids which protect the food bacteria and spoilage. The srongest brine for foods is a %10 percent solution as you brine your food

    the brine will start to break down from the .liquides that are being drawn out, A rule of thumb I use to test my brines is if a egg floats on top of the solution,just breaks the surface you have a 10 percent brine. As previously stated you can add many different flavor coponents to your brine. Happy brining
    cc Mezzaluna,
    The salt really imparts very little flavor it is there to pull out the sugers and moistere so it is not absorbed by the food Like curing a salmon the salt firms the flesh and cures the fish and the suger helps keep the flesh tender and moist

    [This message has been edited by cape chef (edited 11-24-2000).]
     
  5. isa

    isa

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    In the book From Simple to Spectacular, the authors suggest putting the chicken in salt water with just a bit of sugar for two hours before cooking. I followed that direction. I had never heard of anything like that before and they didn't give any explanation as to why one should do that. In any case two hours later I roasted the chicken at 450°F. The chicken turned out great. The skin was crisp and golden in colour. The meat was wonderful, very moist. I thought it was because it cooked at a high temperature for just over a hour, thinking the meat didn't have to dry. I was glad to find this topic this morning. What a coincidence. Now I wonder if I should do the same with the Christmas turkey?


    Thank you Julie and Cape Chef for the explanation on brining.


    Sisi
     
  6. unichef

    unichef

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    Chef Ron-

    What kind of a brine did you use? To just soak a whole turkey for 12 hours is not enough to fully cure it. To give you some idea of the length of time it takes to cure something, an average size fresh ham would take 2-3 weeks to fully cure in the center if it was strickly soaked. The way they do it commercially is by pumping. They inject the brine directly into the muscle so it cures right away. As a matter of fact, this is how they do bacon. They run the pork bellies down a belt and a row of needles come down and pump the meat all in one shot.

    Back to the turkey- I have infused turkey breasts myself with a hypodermic needle with a solution of apple juice concentrate and bourbon then I smoke it- awesome!

    Commercial brines are made from a combination of sodium nitrite and a salt carrier. Also reffered to as Prauge Powder #1. (Prauge Powder #2 is sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate and is used for dry cured sausages and meat.)

    If your're interested in curing meats, sausage making, I highly suggest Great Sausage Recipes and Meat Curing by Rytek Kutas. He also has a mail order catalog for his Sausage Maker outfit in Buffalo and they have everything you could image for sausage making.
     
  7. chefron

    chefron

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    Chef Julie, Chrose and friends,

    Thank you so very much for your wonderful answers! I believe I better understand the principles of brining now, and intend to apply brines much more often in the future.

    However, this brings me to yet another matter of investigation which I would again value your comments on. In researching the subject of brines (on my own with search engines), I learned that one reason brines are becomming all the rage among many chefs is that our nation's pork and poultry supply is not what it used to be.

    It has been written that most growers are not as patient in raising and feeding poultry, and in an effort to get poultry to market sooner, the birds have much less body fat. I understand that much poultry is bred for maximum growth in limited periods of time.

    It would appear that the grower gains many benefits. He needs less feed, turns inventory more quickly, and can now raise his prices by proclaiming his product as "low fat". Wow! What a scam!

    Anyway, chefs understand that "low fat" often means "low flavor" and "low moisture". To compensate, brines appear to be offering a simple solution (no pun intended). I understand that many chefs prefer brining pork chops and poultry cuts before cooking because the added moisture grants a kind of buffer zone for cooking errors on the line. That is, if the cook leaves the chicken breast or pork chop in the skillet or on the char a minute too long, the result will be more forgiving.

    In any case, my question is this: is it correct, in your opinion, to say that today's growers are intentionally reducing growth time and resulting fat content? If so, how do they do this? That is, how does one go about expediting the growth of an animal?

    Thank you,

    -Ron
     
  8. mezzaluna

    mezzaluna

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    I think so, Sisi. In some parts of the U.S. and elsewhere, the beef is grass-fed. It pales in comparison to grain-fed Midwestern beef, IMHO. But I also feel modern beef is too lean and brought to market too young to have really good flavor.
     
  9. unichef

    unichef

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    I never did understand the "free range" thing. It seems to me that an animal that runs around and gets more excercise is leaner and the end result is tougher meat.

    That's why I love those calves they leave all tied up in the dark.....yum!
     
  10. isa

    isa

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    How do you accelerate growth? Hormones.


    I have a feeling free range and grain fed chicken will get more and more popular. Don't know about beef though, could there be such a thing as free range beef?
     
  11. isa

    isa

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    Free range chicken might have tougher meat but isn't that why you would brine one? In any case, I am sure the meat would be of better quality then the chicken we find in supermarket these days. Surely the best chicken would be a grain fed free range one. If one could ever find it…

    MaryeO you right about the apple situation and the sad thing is that it does applies to every fruits and vegetables we grow. Things are not grown for optimum taste but for optimum profit. Of course this would eliminate half the varieties. Thankfully there are now many organisations that specialise in heirloom seeds.

    There seem to be more of a interest into developing local produces, acquiring a "terroir" as the French would say. More and more we see artisan cheese makers, brewery and fresh produce growers that specialised in "exotic" vegetables and fruits. There is a bigger demand for such things, the consumers are getting more demanding and are acquiring a taste for quality products


    Sisi
     
  12. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    I figure I'd dig up an old thread. This is before my time even!
     
  13. ozarkrose

    ozarkrose

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    Fell for it!
    I would like to suggest that if any Chef is reading any of this and its news to them, they check out joining Chefs Collaborative. This organization has been doing wonders to teach "City Born" (ha!) chefs what the food they are preparing is all about.
    I read an interesting thread on "Blue Legged" Chickens grown in Canada as an answer to Poulet de Bresse (at egullet.com). I had never know that chickens could be aged as well. I'm going to try it with my next group of Ameraucana roosters. I have tried every way imaginable to eat these things, and nothing has worked yet!
     
  14. shahar

    shahar

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    Just wanted to remind you guys, that all the techniques we whine about. The ones that lower variety and taste and prolonged shelf life etc. weren't just done in order to maliciously make more money.
    Those methods raised the productivity there by making sure more people are able to get more food more fresh.
    Yes we do need to also work on flavor. Yes we do need to reduce methods that might harm our health or pose environmental hazards.
    But organic food for all it's hype isn't the best solution to a growing population.
     
  15. mezzaluna

    mezzaluna

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    I'm going to bring my turkey for the first time. I don't have lots of refrigerator space and don't fancy using a cooler (a la Alton Brown) to brine it overnight.

    Can the bird benefit from a 4-5 hour soak? My bird will be about 15 pounds.
     
  16. markv

    markv

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    Why don't you fancy using a cooler? You can but a cheap styrofoam one for a couple of bucks. It'll so be worth it. Turkey desperrately needs all the moisture it can get.

    Mark
     
  17. pete

    pete Moderator Staff Member

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    There are other ways if you don't want to go the cooler route (but why not a cooler?). You could do it in a trash bag or very large stock pot or bucket, or really any large container that will allow the bird to sit in there, covered by the brine. As for storage, by T-Day, nights should be cold enough that you can just place it in an unheated garage or shed. Don't worry it won't freeze. As far as time goes, I have seen recipes that range from 8-24 hours for a 20 pound bird. I would say that for a 15 pound bird 8 would be the bare minimum, though I would shoot for 10-12 hours.
     
  18. chefmikesworld

    chefmikesworld

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    There are a lot of Chef's that will tell you their preferred method....

    I use one cup od Sea Salt to every gallon of water, 15 mins per pound of protein...

    What is brine and does it work?

    The combination of salt and water (saline) breaks down the cell walls of the protein and allows the saline to add moisture into your protein...

    Depending on the protien is what I base the strength of my saline...for example I would not use such a strong solution for salmon when preparing to smoke, but I would use this solution when brining a turkey, or some other fowl...

    Cheffy's Two Cents
     
  19. mezzaluna

    mezzaluna

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    My cooler problem is that the only one I have that's large enough has a crack in it, but I'll work something out. Pete, you're right about the outside temperature around here! We're supposed to have snow showers on Wednesday. Luckily, I'll be flying out to Houston where it'll be in the low '70s. :D
     
  20. kitcook

    kitcook

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    We went from brine to cure then to free range and hormones.. wow.

    Why brines work or how isnt much of a mystery, its what it looks like, the water adds moisture, the salt is chemically breaking down the tissue and adding flavour and the sugar is making it sweeter in contrast to salt. As for the floating egg, cool idea, just like the simple syrup trick.

    Free range is a joke of a description and i believe its to late to eliminate hormones, I think we are stuck with them.