Brining is not just reserved for the Thanksgiving turkey. Brining , or submerging in a saltwater bath, allows any lean type of poultry or pork (like a whole chicken or pork chop) to absorb extra moisture while raw so it won’t dry out while cooking. Since the water is seasoned, it flavors the meat from the inside.
And in everyday language, it is basically a fat free marinade.
The basic rule of thumb is that the larger the piece of meat, the longer you brine. It’s not very complicated or all that time consuming and it’s definitely something everyone should get in the habit of doing. I have a tendency to brine everything overnight and if it’s something like a whole chicken or large roast, I will sometimes brine for 24+ hours. However, this is not necessary so below is a guide on brining times with different cuts of meat.
2 1-1/2 inch thick pork chops – 1 quart of water – 2 to 4 hours
chicken or turkey pieces – 2 quarts of water – 4 to 8 hours
1 whole chicken or pork roast – 2 quarts of water – 6 to 8 hours
whole small turkey or pork butt – 1 gallon of water – 12 to 24 hours
large 15+ pound turkey – 1 gallon water – 24 hours
* When roasting brined meat, be sure to rinse it with water to remove excess salt and then pat it dry fully before possibly coating in oil and cooking.
> BASIC BRINE
Bring 1 cup of water, 3 tablespoons kosher salt, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1/2 bay leaf, and 1/4 teaspoon peppercorns to a boil in a small saucepan. Add 3 cups cold water to cool. (Makes 1 quart. Multiply the recipe 2, 4, or 8 times as needed)
> EXTRA CREDIT
Citrus peel, fennel, chilies, fresh herbs, and spices (like cumin, coriander, star anise and cinnamon stick) subtly flavor the meat. Add one or two to the brine along with the bay leaf and the peppercorns.