Have you ever tried
brining meat? If you’re cooking with real chickens from your
homestead, deer from the woods, or other meats that tend toward a tough
texture, brining may give you startling results.
Brining simply involves
mixing salt with water and soaking meat in the liquid for anywhere from
30 minutes to 24 hours. The idea is that the salty water diffuses
into the meat, pumping it full of moisture so it stays juicy when
cooked. At the same time, the salt denatures proteins in the meat
that makes the food stringy and tough, so brined meat tends to be more
tender. The photo above shows some homegrown chicken legs I brined
overnight, then baked in a teriyaki marinade — delicious!
This photo shows some
venison steaks being brined before cooking. Thin cuts of meat like
this should sit in the brine for only about 30 minutes to an hour, but
huge turkeys would need to brine for 24 hours. No matter how long
you’re brining, be sure to completely submerge the meat and store it in
the fridge during the waiting period. If you want a crispy skin
after brining, remove the meat from the brine a few hours before cooking
and allow it to dry off in the fridge for another 6 to 12 hours.
What does the brine
mixture consist of? Experts recommend one cup of salt per gallon
of water, which happens to be enough salt to make a raw egg float in the
brining liquid. If you want, you can also add sugar, spices,
herbs, vinegar, lemon juice, or other seasonings to your brine (although
you’ll have to toss the brine when you’re done, so this can get a bit
wasteful). The salt will help these other seasonings permeate your
Looking for other delicious ways to cook tough chickens? Try our quartered creamy chicken, or these classic tips for using up stewing hens. Or comment with your own advice — we’re always looking for new recipes for homegrown birds.