We’re All About That Brining

brined baked chicken,

If you haven’t jumped on the brining train yet, you might want to consider it, and as we’re right smack dab in the middle of the holidays, this is the perfect time to ride the rails!  Brining, or the soaking of a piece of meat in a salty-sugary solution, can make a world of difference to your chicken (or turkey, or pork chops, or shrimp, or duck, etc.) because by soaking the meat in this solution, you’re allowing it to absorb both water and seasoning prior to be cooked.  The result?  A moister, more flavorful meat.  Now who wouldn’t want that?

Here’s how it works: when your meat (let’s just make chicken the stand-in) is hanging out in a bucket or bin of water into which salt and sugar have been dissolved, it’s going to experience the effects of both osmosis and diffusion.  Ringing any ol’ biology bells?  The main principle is that molecules of water (in the case of osmosis) and salt/sugar (in the case of diffusion) will move between two touching areas in order to find equilibrium.  Your chicken has much less water and much less salt/sugar than what’s in the brine so the molecules in the brine will shimmy across into your relatively dry and flavorless chicken.  The salt in particular then goes to work, unraveling proteins in the chicken which, when enough are unraveled, will run into each other and form a kind of matrix, trapping the lovely moisture, salt, and sugar inside.  Even when the chicken is roasting away, that matrix is holding strong, keeping a lot of the flavorful juice from leaking out.

Considering all you’re doing is adding one extra step to your chicken-cooking process (or two if you choose to air-dry your bird overnight in the fridge- a step we highly recommend because it will lead to a drier, crisper skin), brining brings a whole lot of benefit for not a lot of extra work.  Plus, the vast majority of that work is being done not by you but by the mighty little water, salt, and sugar molecules!  You can just relax, kick your feet up, and watch the holiday scenery unfold (or, realistically, get to work one of your many other holiday projects).

All aboard the bringing train!