Brining Meat to Keep it Juicy

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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.

Good Luck!

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Comments

    • Joe Peck says

      I have one and just love it! Mine is a MARIVAC and is easy to use. Probably get one on ebay for a good price. Got mine at a yard sale. For beef, I use 1/2 cup ALLEGRO original marinade and 1 cup burgandy wine. Great on steaks on the grill. Super tender and deep flavor. You can invent your own recipies. Saves a ton of time.

  1. Owen clements says

    Jeff I’ve got a leg of lamb I’m planning to smoke low and slow this sat.

    It’s 2.5 kilos should I brine ? Any suggestions on rub (was thinking oregano, cumin , rosemary)

    Thanks from the uk

  2. Marco says

    I coat baby back ribs with rub and use the 2 2 1 method on an offset smoker at 220 degree temp, mopping every half hour with a secret mop sauce that contains beer, cider vinegar, concentrated frozen apple juice and a few other ingredients. The ribs come out with a nice bark on the outside and pink and tender on the inside. I do 6 racks at a time and vacuum bag and freeze the extras without sauce.

  3. Rod Gossling says

    After brining a chicken, I've heard a second brine with buttermilk is really good. Any suggestions here? Straight buttermilk? For how long? Rinse afterward? 

    Thanks, Rod

    • says

      Why not do them both at the same time? Add 1 cup of kosher salt to 1/2 gallon of buttermilk and 1/2 gallon of water and put the chicken in that for about 4-6 hours. Buttermilk tends to tenderize the poultry as it brines.

      I use 1 cup of salt and 1 gallon of buttermilk (not diluted with water) on wild game to remove some of that “wild” flavor from it and tame it up a little bit. Everything from wild duck/turkey to frog legs to rabbit and it works great every time.

    • simplyput says

      There is a restaurant in North Charleston SC. Fatz by name where buttermilk chicken is a regular item. Regardless to who has an old family recipe, this chicken tenderized using buttermilk cannot be topped. As brining increases moisture to poultry and provides an opportunity to add additional flavor, the technique cannot be improved on. However, buttermilk marinated chicken will not require brining.
      The chicken once seasoned to taste, preferably under the skin if you don’t remove it, is the most excellent place to hide seasoning. Buttermilk soaking requires a minimum of 24 hours for optimal results. Frying is how I cook it afterwards. Remove from the buttermilk, batter and fry as usual. Careful your tongue will give your brain an injury! You will never go back you can dump KFC, Popeye’s and the rest. Trust me the tenderness meter and flavor will place your taste buds under arrest!

  4. Jim says

    I was wondering if anyone here has tried Dry Brinning. I recently used it on a Tri Tip and even thought it was a bit over cooked it was the mosted Tri Tip I have ever cooked.

  5. RGF says

    I made canadian bacon this weekend and it came out salty, The recipie that I followed called for 1 1/2 cups kosher salt to 1 gallon of water, plus pink salt, garlic, thyme, sage.  Then smoked it for 4 hours.  Next time can I cut the Kosher salt back down to 1 cup or do I reduce the brine time…  48 hours is what I brined it for.

    Thanks

    • Tre says

      Try soaking in an iced water bath for a couple hours. Change the water and ice every half haour. Same process as brining only in reverse (osmosis). This will get out a lot of the salf from the curing process.

  6. brock says

    just made this recipe tonight.  it was great.  brined the salmon in a simple water and salt brine for about 2 hours.  used the brie, walnut and crabmeat stuffing.  smoked at 220 on a brinkman electric smoker and the fish hit 145 after 40-45 minutes.  came out perfect.  used hickory and it was a pretty strong smoke flavor which i expected.  might try applewood next time so that the other flavors are quite so overpowered by the strong smoke.

  7. Jermel says

    @ Jeff…that was awesome bro. I could not agree more. Thanks for setting him straight. Cheers from me and my family!

    • Carleton Douglas says

      I have followed for 7 years and love your monthly letter and most times I print each month letter and I have the recipe for the future.  Your present news letter is not printable and I do not want to write it all down and I am very disapointed, because this months recipe sounds very good.

      Carleton, from Prescott, AZ

      • Scott Cragun says

        Carleton, It does look pretty good, good enough in fact I have 2 Sockeye Salmon fillets thawing as we speak so I can try it out tomorrow.

        As for the Brine, I smoke, BBQ, bake, broil and deep fry alot of salmon. In my opinion a simple water,salt and brown suger brine is the best way to go especially if you are smokin….

        Southern Smokin – Alaska Style…or is that Alaska Smokin – Southern Style

  8. carl says

    Just to say I have heard great ideas and I am a quality chef in many aspects and I agree with the last persons wheel comment there is only so much altering of a basic sauce you can do before you become repetitive sweet baby rays is a great sauce and the 321 method is great!

  9. Troy says

    One more question. Have you ever heard of making bacon out of venison? My neighbor asked me about it cuz he is a big deer hunter and I didnt know if you have ever done it.

    • walt says

      Ok first off I rub my ribs with vinegar let dry put rub on them SMOKE 2-2-1 I only use bbribs. I like Jack Daniels chips best after smoke I fire my grill med low then the sauce I use Pig Foots I can't see wasting time trying to reinvent the wheel I let the sauce glaze the ribs (mahogny brown color). I use to steam my ribs but smoking is the way to go JM2cents. One more thing I use Pig Foots or Plow Boys rub you could say I am a little lazy but it works for me. I was also looking for info on poultry brinning but go side tracked

  10. Frank says

    Geez you guys cooking ribs in store bought BBQ sauce is right up there with putting ketchup on steak. Its not real BBQ in any region. Rub, slow cook, and only then provide a finishing sauce when served.

    • says

      I am not sure who you are referring to.. around here, sauce is almost always served at the table for those who like to dip and it’s homemade of course. We do have a rule here though, that says, “There are NO rules with Barbecue”. It is a very diverse type of food and I am not going to be the one that says if you don’t do things the way that I like them then it’s wrong. You should make things according to what YOU and your family likes and if you adore ribs smothered in sauce then smother them!

      And of course, if you like ketchup on your steak, I might look at you funny but you go ahead and eat it the way you like it;-)

      Let’s try to be a little more accepting of ideas that are different than our own. We don’t have to embrace them at our house but we do have to understand that not everyone likes the same type of things that we do.

  11. cody says

    a good brine is great … I like to let the ribs soak a good 12 to 24 hrs…then slow smoke for about 3 hrs then turn temp to 225 for about an hr or untill you reach internal temp…then back to low smoke for about another hr…i also like to cover them in sweet baby rays from the begining and keep touching it up as you go…until you have about a nice quarter in. thick glaze…you can really taste the brine in the meat… if you do it right it makes for a great  combination of flavors…i think the brine makes the ribs a bit juicier as well…

  12. Pamela Starr says

    Yes, absolutly.  I parboil the ribs in brine, then slow cook in Sweet Baby Rays BBQ sause (I have celiacs disease but SBR BBQ is tremedous)!

    • says

      I know many folks who parboil ribs before they learn how great ribs can be with out making them all about the sauce. Ribs absolutely shine when they are given some time to spend in smoke, heat and lots of TLC. Sauce can be added but only as a compliment.. never as the main attraction.

       For many folks.. this is all that is known but I am just saying there is a better way. Read some of the information on smoking ribs here on the website and give it a try. I guarantee that you will change your mind about parboiling;-)

    • says

      I have brined them before and it’s ok but in my opinion, there’s no real need. to do this. There is plenty of fat within the meat and it tends to stay moist while it cooks if it is done correctly.

      Many of us use the 3-2-1 method which is 3 hours on the smoker grates, 2 hours wrapped in foil then an additional hour unwrapped and on the grate again. This method creates ribs that are beyond amazing. This is for spare ribs. If you want to get the same result for baby backs, use 2-2-1 instead.

      Instead of wrapping them, you can also just place them in a foil pan covered with foil and it works great and makes it really simple.

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