When Brining Goes Bad

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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:

  1. 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”.
  2. NEVER brine a kosher chicken.  Kosher chickens are already salty, the result would be like my dinner tonight.
  3. NEVER salt a meat that has been brined (for obvious reasons).
  4. 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.
  5. 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.


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