Kitchen tip: brine – not just for olives

Just before Christmas, our resident food blogger mentioned that he had brined his turkey this year, a technique traditional in Scandinavia that has recently found popularity once again. The reason is obvious – you retain far more moisture when cooking up a large joint (or even a small, tricky thing like a pork chop).

So – how do you do it and why does it work?

Let’s answer question two first: it seems totally counter-intuitive to soak meat in salty water. Surely that would render the meat flabby, wet and overly salted and the liquid would leech out in cooking meaning we wouldn’t get any of those crusty, yummy, crunchy bits on the outside. You’d be forgiven for going at it quite apprehensively at first – after all, a decent chicken these days isn’t a cheap thing, but it’s probably your best place to start your foray into brining. Be confident – it’ll work fine.

And the reason is this: some of this salt transfers into the fibres of the meat and reacts with the proteins to create greater water holding capacity in the muscle cells. You can also flavour your brine with herbs or spices which will also transfer into the meat. While the meat cooks, it will leech out moisture, but you’re balancing this with the moisture you’ve put in.

Secondly – how do you do it?

It’s really simple – just dissolve 3-6% of salt in your water, allow the water to cool completely and cover your meat completely. Refrigerate for anything from several hours to up to 48. Drain, cook and be amazed – your chicken will have the crispiest skin and most moist flesh ever.