Jun 18, 2014

Brining Meat, Poultry, and Fish

Brining Small Cuts
Brining meats and poultry has been a tradition for game meat, which improves the flavor and texture and has been used in human history as a means of preservation. This includes fish. Game meat is far more lean than meat and poultry from domesticated animals.
The standard salt to water ratio for brine is 4 tablespoons of sea salt or kosher per 1 quart (4 cups) of water. It is preferable to use distilled/purified water rather than tap water whether you have well or city water. Large sections of game meat or poultry like turkey require a container large enough to submerge and be done overnight (up to 12 hours, not less than 4 hours). Small cuts like pork chops or chicken breasts or Cornish hens, 30 minutes to 2 hours in the brine. You can infuse extra flavor by adding spices and aromatics like a few slivers of ginger for pork chops or a lemon rind and sprigs of rosemary and/or thyme for roasted chicken. Brining is essential before roasting or grilling meats and fish.
Some people add crystal sugar (three parts salt, one part sugar); but I do not like sweet meat like found in Asian recipes. Sometimes a teaspoon of vinegar is added or sugar substituted with honey. These mixtures must first be boiled and allowed to cool before adding meat to the spiced brine mixture. Do not leave poultry in brine for too long or the meat will break down, like stew meat in a crock pot.
Salmon in Brine
As far removing gamey flavor from wild animal meat, there are different steps:
  1. Remove excess blood from the meat, which further reduces the “gamey” flavor.
  2. Place meat in ice cold water and let it sit for 2 to 10 minutes, drain and then cover in warm water for 1 to 2 minutes, This can be repeated 3 or 4 times, which draws out the excess blood.
  3. An old-time method, especially for farmers is soaking the meat in buttermilk or water with a bit of apple cider vinegar.
  4. Remove silver skin and fat from the meat which holds game flavor; completely remove from meat before cooking
Brining large cuts in bag
Brining is different than the pickling process, the later for preserving foods for canning/storage. Pickling goes back 4,000 years in India. Brining or using salt to preserve and hydrate meats goes farther back in time than that.
Most important: meat, poultry, fish must be completely submerged in brine whether using a container or large plastic bag.
The rule of thumb for brining fish:
Steaks or fillets - up to 1-inch thick ... 5 tablespoons sea salt dissolved in 2 quarts of water, submerge for 15 minutes. This works for all species of fish, tuna, salmon, trout, swordfish, perch, or halibut; for example. It improves texture without overseasoning (too salty). Make sure you pat dry with paper towels meat, poultry and fish before cooking. Brining works faster on fish than meat/poultry. Wet brine hinders browning and makes it too salty.

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