Originally Posted by sfbbqguy
I usually brine all my chicken and most pork loins I've been doing of late. Been lucky enough to find a lot of great brine recipes here and a lot of great brine advice.
However I can't seem to come across a ratio that can give a minimum amount of salt that can be used and still achieve a good osmosis.
Would love to get some feedback on what you believe is the minimum amount of salt a brine can contain and still be effective.
There is a broad agreement in the concentration of salt in a brine (brine strength), but the terms I like are "hard cure" which is more of a "preservation brine", and "flavor brine" which is a "soft cure". A flavor brine is a lower concentration than a preservation brine. Most of the time, I'm like you, brining chicken breasts, pork chops etc., so I use a flavor brine.... adding sugar and other seasonings. My crossover ingredient is Tenderquick. It is common in some preservation brines, but I add some in most of my flavor brines. One exception would be my shrimp brine, it gets no Tenderquick.
I weigh all my salt, so even when changing brands or grain size, my solution can stay consistent. A very standard brine is 8 ounces of salt to one gallon of water. I use 6 ounces of salt per gallon of water. Obviously once the concentration of a brine is too low, the osmosis exchange will be affected. I have heard that less than 1/2 cup (which should be 3 to 4 ounces) is not strong enough to do much good.
The other variable is brine time. I like to keep my brine strength consistent, so all I need to do is adjust the brine time based on thickness or type of meat. Shrimp may only need 10 minutes, and whole turkeys might need 48 hours.
For reference, some of the older curing folks keep track of their brine strength by percent as determined by a salinometer, and they may make different batches for different jobs. Here is how those numbers stack up.
3.6 ounces of salt per gallon = a 10% solution
11.2 ounces of salt per gallon = a 30% solution
19.8 ounces of salt per gallon = a 50% solution