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Brine and the Science Behind Brining

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Brine and the Science Behind Brining

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Brine isn’t just for Thanksgiving turkey, it can be a useful tool for anyone cooking up some poultry or pork! In this recipe, we’ll give you the recipe for a brine with Dantastic flavor, and teach you how brine works. If you do happen to be using this around the Holidays, then remember that to figure out your brine for turkey you must do the following:

  • Place the turkey (still in the bag) inside the brine container and fill with water until the turkey is submerged.
  • Remove the turkey and this is your water you’ll need to turn into your brine.

The Science of Brining

In the past we’ve talked about marination, but today we’re going to talk about brining. It’s similar in the sense that we’re soaking the meat before cooking, but brine stands out as a salt solution. Brining makes cooked meat juicier by hydrating the muscle tissue before we cook thus allowing the meat to hold on to water when cooked. You see, muscles are made up of long, bundled up fibers. They’re kinda like an ethernet cord, a lot of wires in a sleeve. Now normally when we cook meat, these fibers contract and wring out the moisture inside. Where brining comes into play is the salt. The salt in the brine relaxes the bundled muscle fibers, which creates gaps where water can flow in.

Since this is happening, the protein contracts less during cooking thus leading to less moisture being lost! Now many people will say that brining works due to osmosis, but this isn’t exactly true. If osmosis was doing the work then just soaking the meat in pure water would be equally beneficial as a brine solution. J. Kenji López-Alt at the Food Lab, a culinary consultant with an expertise in Food science, tested the osmosis theory. He discovered that a brine with 6% salt concentration worked just as well as one with 35% concentration, which debunks the osmosis method completely. His research was further backed up by food scientists at the University of Kentucky (Go Cats!). That being because if osmosis was happening, it would be much harder to get water into the meat in the stronger brine solution because water would flow in the opposite direction.

Ingredients

  • 2 heads of garlic
  • Handful of peppercorn
  • Sage
  • 3-4 sprigs of rosemary
  • 2-3 sprigs of thyme
  • 64 oz apple cider vinegar
  • 64 oz water
  • Handful of whole cranberries
  • Handful of juniper berries
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • Zest and juice of two oranges and two lemons
  • Dan-O’s Original Seasoning

Preparation Instructions

  1. In a skillet add garlic, peppercorn, sage, rosemary, and thyme and dry roast for 5 minutes to open up the flavors.
  2. In a large pot add the spices and equal parts apple cider vinegar and water.
  3. Add cranberries, juniper berries, salt, orange and lemon, and Dan-O’s Seasoning.
  4. Bring to a boil.
  5. Remove from heat and add the brine mixture to a bucket or large stock pot.
  6. Fill with a bag of ice and more water until you reach the previously determined water line.
  7. Remove turkey from bag and submerge into the brine.
  8. Refrigerate overnight.

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