Brining for the BBQ

Last time I wrote, I posted about Tips about BBQing Chicken. Number 2 on that list was about brining. I received some questions after that post about brining, and I thought it would be worthwhile elaborating on it. So here goes..

First things first, a brine is essentially a salt bath. It marinates the meat far more efficiently than a typical marinade.

In case you are still curious about the process of brining, Wikipedia says:

Brining makes cooked meat moister by hydrating the cells of its muscle tissue before cooking, via the process of osmosis, and by allowing the cells to hold on to the water while they are cooked, via the process of denaturation.The brine surrounding the cells has a higher concentration of salt than the fluid within the cells, but the cell fluid has a higher concentration of other solutes. This leads salt ions to diffuse into the cell, whilst the solutes in the cells cannot diffuse through the cell membranes into the brine. The increased salinity of the cell fluid causes the cell to absorb water from the brine via osmosis. The salt introduced into the cell also denatures its proteins. The proteins coagulate, forming a matrix that traps water molecules and holds them during cooking. This prevents the meat from dehydrating.

Did you get all that? Basically brining allows you to quickly and efficiently add more moisture into your meat, and creates juicier, more delicious grilled meat.

Sounds great right? But too good to be true? Well no.. kind of. The only caveat is that you need to be really careful with cooking. Meat quickly overcooks, and I’ve found you really need to keep an eye on your thermometer for the first few times until you have more experience with the cooking. After a few times cooking brined meat though, you will quickly understand why brining has become one of my goto BBQ techniques. Really do give it a try.

Here is our basic brining recipe again:

Simple brine recipe:

  • 6 tablespoons of salt
  • 1 quart of cold water

Dissolve salt into water in a gallon zip-lock bag. Add chicken, remove air and seal.

Make sure to use a deep dish, as you want to make sure that the meat is completely submerged.

Typical Brining Times:

Food Brine Time
Shrimp 30 minutes
Whole Chicken (4 pounds) 8 to 12 hours
Chicken Parts 1 1/2 hours
Chicken Breasts 1 hour
Cornish Game Hens 2 hours
Whole Turkey 24 hours
Pork Chops 12 to 24 hours
Whole Pork Loins 2 to 4 days