When Brining Goes Bad
Posted on August 18, 2009
I am sitting here 3 hours after dinner and I still can’t get enough to drink. I have already had 4 glasses of water and a diet Sunkist (so delicious, you can’t tell it’s diet!) and I still can’t quench my thirst. Why, you ask? Because I just choked down a turkey breast that I couldn’t bring myself to admit was too salty, after smoking it for a few hours tonight. You see, I made a mistake and brined a boneless, skinless turkey breast for entirely too long. I brined this poor bird for 24 hours in a solution consisting of 6 cups of water, 1/2 cup of salt and some various other ingredients. The solution wasn’t the problem, I just wasn’t thinking about how thin the meat was and should have only brined for about 10 hours at the most. I still ate the turkey, trying to convince myself and my family that it’s not too bad, as long as you eat the middle parts…
Since I screwed up dinner tonight, I wanted to do a little public service announcement about brining. Here are some pointers so you don’t repeat my mistake:
- NEVER attempt to brine a meat that has been “enhanced”. Enhanced meats (some turkey breasts) have been soaked in a saline solution. Check out the sodium content on the package, elevated sodium is a good indicator that the meat has been “enhanced”.
- NEVER brine a kosher chicken. Kosher chickens are already salty, the result would be like my dinner tonight.
- NEVER salt a meat that has been brined (for obvious reasons).
- Add brown sugar to the brine solution to counter-act the saltiness. Note, I did that tonight, but leaving the meat in the brine too long counter-acts the counter-acting brown sugar, apparently.
- Keep the meat’s thickness and density in mind when determining how long you are brining your meat. A thick/dense meat like pork loin roast can take a longer brine. Thin cuts of chicken and turkey, not so much. Whole chickens and turkeys, on the other hand, can tolerate brining for up to 24 hours. I always brine my Thanksgiving turkey for 24 hours.
So there’s just a few pointers to keep in mind. Just remember, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. I need to go get another glass of water now, and some aspirin for my wife.