View Full Version : Brining 101 & 202

10-30-2009, 08:13 AM
Hello all.

A number of years back I authored Brining 101 and it's really been a help to a lot of folks by putting Brining information in one place.

With Thanksgiving approaching I wanted to post a link to it:


I'm also working on some updates to it, since it's pretty old, and one of the most common questions I get is whether to Brine "Enhanced Birds".

There has been a lot of discussion over the years about right/wrong and like so many things, people will have their personal preference.
Here's my take. Sorry it's long, just trying to talk a little food science and educate.

It will work, but....

Keep in mind, what makes brining work is Osmosis.

Osmosis is the passage of salt water from a region of high water concentration through a semi-permeable membrane to a region of low water concentration
Because whatever we're brining has a low water concentration (meat) that is what drives brining to do as well. One factor that affects it's efficiency appears to be the salinity.

The salinity inside will be XX% and the brine will be XX% (numbers will vary) thus determining which region has higher water concentration. Osmosis means as long as the % inside is lower than the outside, then the brine (outside) will exchange with the solution inside. You can't just soak an item in a tub of water and it takes on the water, because the salinity/solution inside the bird has to be less than the salinity/solution outside the bird (brine).
So, with that logic, if the enhanced bird is already saturated, it CAN'T take on anything from the brine because it won't accept something from the lower percentage of the brine.

If the enhanced bird has a lower percentage and the brine has a higher, then the brine will work. But if it's concentration is high, then likely the brine won't really have an effect at all, as the bird is already saturated (especially on the highly enhanced birds).

The only thing I've not been able to determine is the % of salinity in the brine and the bird, and the true impact, but talking with food scientists, they tell me the above two cases are "supposed" to work. So I have't come up with an exact point where you should/shouldn't brine an enhanced bird.

For me.

I've experimented a lot and if it's 15% or less, I'll brine it normal. Same time, same solution, same flavors. Family and friends haven't found any issue with normal brine times, affects on texture or taste.

Over 15% I'd say don't by the bird at all and don't brine, you're paying for a LOT of liquid. You may think it's cheaper, but look at the real costs. Now, what I'd really like to find out is if you can decrease the salinity of an enhanced bird (say a 25%) by soaking it in water and drawing out some, but that's a test for another day.

What I usually recommend is to practice. I've tried to research, test, talk, as much as I can about brining and create a spot with as much info and then let you decide. Personally, a lot of people talk bad about brining but don't understand the science part of it but they're 100% correct, if it doesn't work for them, that's okay.

NEVER wait until the big day to do your first bird. Get one, try it and see how it works for you. The prices are relatively cheap. Shoot, I'm doing one this weekend for practice/testing.

Question: Have any of you brined an enhanced bird, what was your take?

11-08-2009, 10:28 PM
Brined a turkey for the first time last Thanksgiving, it was far and away the juiciest bird we have ever had. I attribute that to a. the Brine and B. not letting my dear mother over cook it!

I just used the recipe/procedure from Alton Brown. It is the top rated recipe on the entire food network website.


11-09-2009, 08:17 AM
I smoked a turkey yesterday. :shrug: I do not know the % of enhancment but I brine it for 2 days and it turned out somewhat salty. :shrug: The turkey was very moist, the most moisture I have ever seen in a bird but this was my first smoked turkey so have nothing to copare to. My wife has always put bird in low temp oven the night before (10:30 or so) and first on up to go checks on it and if colapsed and all flat, then turn off oven. They are moist as well. I did read your Brining 101 several weeks ago and followed the basic brining recipe.

Probably the 48 hour brine was my problem???

11-10-2009, 10:36 AM
....and it turned out somewhat salty. :shrug:

Most people who use the Brining 101 recipes and do for 48 hours don't mention it being salty. the basic ration is one cup salt to one gallon.

You also didn't say how big the bird was.

But salty is a VERY subjective taste. If it's salty to you, then it's salty; the problem is we have to determine the source (bird, brine or duration).

You didn't know but you SHOULD check whether the bird is solution enhanced. You could very easily have done a 25% enhanced bird.

Find a bird that is water/stock enhanced, less than 10% or even better one that isn't.

Go buy one, do a test. I wouldn't change the salt, if you're really worried, do it for 24 to 36.


11-10-2009, 03:53 PM
I have brined birds before with good results. I don't brine overly enhanced birds as I don't see the need for it. I use the one hour per pound method with one cup per gallon of water. I have never had a bird turn out too salty.

That's my take on the subject, but I'm probably not the one to ask about poultry since I'm not a real fan.

01-18-2010, 11:38 PM
I always add herbs and sweetners (1 cup per gallon, maple syrup, dark corn syrup, molases or white corn syrup) to my brines. I use dry herbs: thyme, oregano, nutmeg &/or pumpkin spices. If you are looking to just add moister to the bird, then your basic brine is just fine. I am not a big fan of the turkey so I kick up the flavor enhancement quite a bit.

I bring the brine to a boil (non reactive pot) and then place it in an Orange Home Depot bucket (i recommend using a new one that has been thoroughly cleaned, Duh!) and chill it down in a refrigerator until it is below 40 degress.

In preparing the turkey I cut wings off at the shoulder joint (leaving the drummy intact) as well as the tail thingy. Put them in a zip lock bag with the neck bone for the stock and keep in the fridge.

Before submerging the bird in the bucket I inject it with the brine. I use the stainless steel Morton meat pump/injector. Figure on injecting about 3-4 ounces in each breast and about the same in the dark meat quarters. When depressing on the injector plunger, slowly pull the needled out of the muscle, leaving a stream of brine in the channel that the needle just created. This will 'brine' the bird from both the inside/out and outside/in.

Before lighting the fire, I like to bench the bird for a few hours, this develops the pelicle (you will see the natural oils come to the surface of the skin).

If anyone is interested in how to make a stock from the wing, tail and neck bones. Just let me know. I will add the recipe to this thread along with my recipe for my SAUCE CHACUTERIER.

11-07-2010, 06:04 AM
Hi.I tried the Simple Brine II on a bone-in turkey breast then smoked it without any rub , or seasoning, and was very pleased with the result. We used it as a coldcut for sandwiches,much better than store bought Thanks

11-07-2010, 11:03 AM
Better abd cheap too. Can't beat that!

12-23-2013, 11:47 AM
I have done the Alton brown turkey brine as well and smoked it of course. It's as close to a perfect turkey as you can get.

For the upcoming UFC fights, I'm gonna brine whole chickens. Wanna fire them up, gonna add jalapeņos and habaneros to the brine. Maybe a can of crushed pineapple too. I'll log everything I do and if they turn out goo, I'll post it.

12-23-2013, 12:14 PM
Even if they don't turn out ... post em

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12-30-2013, 11:27 AM
Even if they don't turn out ... post em

This message will self destruct in 5 seconds

Ok, I suppose. First off, I love love love Alton browns turkey brine. But every time I try a chicken brine it's too salty for my personal pallet (green olives are too salty to me).

That being said, maybe I am using too much salt or not enough sweetener. The father in law told me to use enough salt to. Make an egg float to the top. So that's what I did. Here's the brine I threw together:

1 gallon distilled water
1.5 cups kosher coarse salt (I assumed 1 cup was enough, but again I did the egg method)
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
2 T. Honey
4 habaneros halved with seeds
4 jalapeņos halved with seeds
4 cloves mashed garlic
Small red onion quartered
2 T. Whole peppercorns

Because life is sometimes hectic, I brined the chicken 60 hours (was only planing on 48)

Had good flavor other than the salt. Also the heat wasn't nearly enough, just a smooth hint of hot pepper.

12-30-2013, 11:47 AM
Remember if you suspect a project to have brined too long and are afraid of the saltiness you can soak in water to pull the salt back out.

Here's to the New Year and yet another chance to get it right. Cheers!

12-30-2013, 11:54 AM
Good call, thanks.