All Purpose Brine
I've gotten into brining meat lately, due to some new entrees and appetizers we've been playing with at work. It seems to make grilled lean meats juicier and more flavorful and the creative combinations of herbs, spices and seasonings is ENDLESS!
Today, I'm brining some boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Later, I'll be stuffing them with some cheeses and jalapeno pepper slices, then wrapping them in bacon strips. Then I'll grill them - basting lightly with a BBQ sauce at the end (basting too early with bbq sauce makes for charring and scorching - ICK!)
Since I'm going to use a brown sugar BBQ sauce, I'm going to use brown sugar in my brine as well. I also added some whole garlic cloves, Chinese 5 spice powder, a sprinkle of cayenne, a sprig of rosemary and some thyme.
Here's my basic brine recipe -
1 quart plain water
3/4 to 1 cup coarse kosher salt
1 cup white granulated sugar (or 1.5 cups brown sugar)
Variety of herbs, spices, seasonings
You could use honey or fruit juices for some of the water and sugar, if you wish!
Put in a sauce pan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Add your flavorings (garlic, rosemary, onions, peppercorns, cayenne, thyme, lemongrass, whatever you want!). Boil 10 mins.
Now you need some ice!
Pour brine mixture over the ice to make 2 quarts liquid total. If it's not already cold, place in fridge or freezer until liquid reaches 40ºF or colder.
Use about 1 quart of the brine solution per pound of meat (poultry, seafood, beef, pork!) and let soak in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, preferably an hour or longer (depending on type of food - see chart!).
Here's my handy-dandy little chart of generalities:
Seafood: 30 minutes
Whole Chicken (up to 4 pounds): 8-12 hours
Chicken Parts: 1 to 1.5 hours
Rock Hens, Cornish Game Hens: 2 hours
Turkey (12-14 pounds): 24 hours
Pork Chops (1.25 to 1.5 inch thick): 1 to 2 days
Whole Beef Tenderloin: 12 hours
Whole Pork Loin: 4 hours
After the allotted time, if you aren't ready to cook your food, remove it from the brine solution and keep the meat refrigerated.
Now, you can either rinse off the brine before cooking, or you can leave it on. I rinse it off since I don't need all the sodium in my diet LOL At work, we leave it on, but we use a slightly weaker brining solution ratio of salt to water as we soak the meats longer.