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Soak in a Brine Solution for Juicy and Tender Meat

Soaking in a brine solution makes meat tender and juicy.

Pounded and Brined Baked Chicken Breast Quarters

Brining is the process of soaking meat in a solution of salt water. Meat that has been brined retains more moisture during cooking. In addition, the brine solution has a denaturing effect on the protein in the meat, tenderizing as it plumps.

How Does Brining Work?

As the meat soaks in the salt water, chemical processes cause the salty fluid to move through the tisues of the meat. The salt reacts with the protein in the tissues causing them to break down, or denature. The denatured proteins have a greater capacity to absorb water. The result is meat more tender and juicy after cooking.

How to Make a Brine Solution

A basic ratio for a brine solution is 1 gallon of water, 1 cup of salt and 1/2 cup of sugar. Adjust accordingly for larger or smalller cuts of meat.

The sugar is added to reduce the saltiness of the meat after cooking. Other ingredients can be added to the brine solution to bring flavor to your meat. Fresh or dried herbs, onion, garlic and peppercorns are some suggestions for enhancing your brine solution.

Heat half the water to boiling while stirring in salt and sugar until completely dissolved. Add desired herbs and flavorings, cover and allow to cool to room temperature. Add remaining water and place in refrigerator. Allow to cool 30 minutes before adding meat.

The meat should be completely submerged in the brining solution. For small cuts of meat, zip-lock bags work well.

How Long Does Brining Take?

The length of time to soak meat in a brine solution depends both on the size of the cut and the type of meat. Larger cuts require more time for the chemical processes to take place, porous meats can be come too salty.
  • Shrimp or Fish: 30 minutes
  • Chicken Pieces: 1 - 2 hours
  • Cornish Game Hens: 1 - 2 hours
  • Pork Chops: 2 - 4 hours
  • Pork Tenderloin: 2 - 6 hours
  • Steak: 2 - 8 hours
  • Whole Chicken: 3 - 8 hours
  • Turkey Breast: 4 - 8 hours
  • Whole Turkey: 12 - 48 hours
  • Roast Beef: 24 - 48 hours
  • Whole Pork Loin 24 - 72 hours
Do not reuse a brine solution. Meat that has been brined requires less cooking time. Brined meats are perfect for grilling or roasting.

Our editor, Jean Fisher, is a former elementary teacher. She offers "What's For Dinner?" as a free service for busy families.One delicious meal is suggested for each day of the week, plus an organized grocery shopping list that can be customized to include all your shopping needs.You will also find two stimulating table topics and one educational after-dinner activity for each day.

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