Brining meat seems to be a sort of "cooking secret" that many people still do not know anything about or use.
I started out brining turkeys way back and I have since tried about every meat imaginable. Some meats are affected little while others are affected alot. Regardless, it is a process that is extremely simple and can be implemented by anyone wishing to better their culinary skills.
As you know, I deal only with smoking meat but this process of brining meat can even make an oven baked turkey a little more juicy and delicious even if it isn't smoke flavored with real wood smoke.
What is Brining
Let me begin by explaining exactly what brining meat is and what it does then we will get into the how-to part of the equation.
Brining comes from the root word "brine" meaning salt. Basically when you put salt into a bucket of water and add a piece of meat…we'll say a turkey for instance, a scientific process called osmosis begins to take effect. This process seeks to equalize the amount of salt on the outside of the turkey with the amount on the inside.
As you very well know there is little if any salt inside the turkey therefore the salt and water is drawn deep into the meat fibers of the turkey creating the process we call meat brining. The really neat thing about this process is that you can add other spices, herbs, flavorings, etc. down into the bucket with the salt water solution and it will get drawn in as well and thereby flavor the meat.
I have tried various types of meat and plain and simple I just do not think it effects beef and pork all that much. Poultry on the other hand is a totally different story. The first time you carve that turkey after it has been brined and then smoked you will see how much juicier and tastier it is…. there is no comparison.
Brining Meat Ingredients and Process
The water to salt ratio is 1:16 or 1 cup of Kosher salt per gallon of non-chlorinated water. I usually require around 2 gallons of water to cover a 12 pound turkey and therefore I use 2 cups of kosher salt. Any seasonings you choose to add after the base solution should contain little or no salt else the brining meat you are using can become too salty. I use a brick inside a large zip-loc bag to keep the turkey submerged.
Here is a recipe I use occasionally:
2 Gal Water
2 Cups Kosher Salt
3 Cups Sugar
1/4 Cup Zatarains Liquid Crab Boil
4 TBS Black Pepper
1 TBS Dried Rosemary
1 TBS Thyme
1/4 Cup Molasses
1/4 Cup White Wine (not Cooking Wine)
1/4 Cup Worcestershire
Soak a 12 pound turkey in this mixture overnight or 10-12 hours in the fridge
Experiment with Your Favorite Brine Ingredients
You can get real creative with meat brining and add pinches and dashes of this and that until you find the right combination. On the recipe above you can leave out the crab boil for a less Louisiana flavor. Try a dash or two of cinnamon for a nice twist. Wanna spice things up a bit…add a few teaspoons of cayenne or run a couple of jalapenos through the food processor and pour the puree into the mix…oh yeah!
After the meat has brined for 10-12 hours take it out of the bucket, rinse the meat real well making sure there is no traces of salt left on the outside of the brining meat and discard the brine. Smoke (or bake if you must) as usual.
If any of you come up with some tasty concoctions please contact us and let us know… we may even post the recipe with your name by it.