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Perhaps when you thinking about brining, only the Thanksgiving turkey comes to mind. However, there are many cuts of meat that can benefit from brining. Leaner and drier cuts have benefited from brining because they don’t have a lot of fat to account for flavor or moisture. Chicken breasts, pork chops, and veal chops are all meats that take well to brining.
First, you have to learn the brining basics. The basic ratio for a brining solution is 1 cup of salt to 1 gallon of water. Add in fresh herbs such as rosemary, thyme, smashed garlic, and peppercorns to infuse flavor into your salt water brine. Some brining solutions incorporate brewed coffee, tea, or beer into the brining solution for extra flavor, but this does not take place of the water in the ratio. The rule of thumb is one hour of brining is required for every pound of meat — a five pound pork shoulder should brine for five hours. Watch the clock carefully, if you leave your meat in the brine too long, it will turn to mush.
While most people are familiar with wet brines, you can also dry brine meat. Dry brines are essentially spice rubs. To dry brine a cut of meat, mix: ½ teaspoon of Kosher salt per pound of meat with dried spices and herbs, such as thyme or rosemary. Place the salty mixture on your meat and place in the fridge for up to 1 or 2 days before cooking.
There is no denying that Thanksgiving turkey is delicious when brined, but don’t utilize this technique only one day a year. Here are a few meats to brine other than turkey to get you started:
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Chicken breast is perfect for brining because it gets another layer of flavor that you wouldn’t get from seasoning. Brining the meat before-hand also allows the breast to stay moist as it cooks. The chicken gets brined in a mixture of Earl Grey tea, cinnamon, thyme, sugar, and water.
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After trying out the brine in this recipe, you’ll never skip soaking your wings again. The wings only get brined for two hours in this recipe, but it still manages to impart so much flavor. Make a brine with water, salt, chile flakes, and garlic — simple, but flavorful. We also loved the new approach it took with the sauce: mayonnaise. You’ll find it adds a creamy and flavorful texture to your regular wing sauce. — Tim Love