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Brining Meat

By Cook's Illustrated Published November 2010

Brining adds moisture, making it the best choice for lean proteins.

Salt in the brine not only seasons the meat, but also promotes a change in its protein structure, reducing its overall toughness and creating gaps that fill up with water and keep the meat juicy and flavorful.

Preferred salt: Table salt

Benefits over salting: Works faster than salting; can make lean cuts such as chicken breast or pork tenderloin juicier than salting since it adds, versus merely retains, moisture.

Cons: Can inhibit browning on skin or meat exterior; requires fitting a brining container in fridge.

MEAT TIME COLD WATER TABLE SALT
CHICKEN
1 whole chicken (3 1/2 to 4 pounds) 1/2 to 1 hour 2 quarts 1/2 cup
2 whole chickens (3 1/2 to 4 pounds each) 1/2 to 1 hour 3 quarts 3/4 cup
4 pounds bone-in chicken pieces (whole breasts, split breasts, whole legs, thighs, and/or drumsticks) 1/2 to 1 hour 2 quarts 1/2 cup
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts 1/2 to 1 hour 2 quarts 1/4 cup
TURKEY
1 turkey (12 to 17 pounds) 6 to 12 hours 2 gallons 1 cup
1 turkey (18 to 24 pounds) 6 to 12 hours 3 gallons 1 1/2 cups
1 bone-in turkey breast (6 to 8 pounds) 3 to 6 hours 1 gallon 1/2 cup
PORK
4 bone-in rib loin pork chops (12 ounces each), 1 1/2 inches thick 1 hour 1 1/2 quarts 3 tablespoons
1 pork roast (3 to 6 pounds) 1 1/2 to 2 hours 2 quarts 1/4 cup