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Unread 08-12-2012, 10:03 PM   #1
Boshizzle
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Default Chicken Brine Experiment #1

After a recent discussion here in Qtalk, I decided to do some trials to determine just exactly whether or not brining BBQ chicken makes a significant difference in the moisture of the resulting product.

Now, please keep in mind, the brine I used was a simple brine of water, salt, and sugar. It's not a professionally made brine like what might be sold by some of the brethren. The assessments of those brines will have to wait for another round of experiments. This is an assessment of a simple, home made brine, not the well made, professionally made brines that you can get from some of the brethren.

For this experiment, I made a simple brine of water, salt, and sugar. I used about 6 TBS of salt, 2 TBS of sugar with about 24 ounces of water. The brine was made by boiling the salt and sugar in about 1 cup of water, then adding another cup of water with some ice to cool it down.

I wanted to use 6 chicken thighs in the experiment. I ended up using 4 and one of those was lost (see below). I also removed the skin because brining can cause the skin to become tough. I cooked these competition style, so I didn't worry about crisping up the skin before serving.

I seasoned one thigh with rub only, brined two thighs, and soaked one thigh in plain water. This part of the process took 2 hours.



I put the thighs in my smoker running at 300* F indirect.



Here is a pic about 1/2 way through the cook -



I lost one of the thighs because I am clumsy. Fortunately, it was one of the brined thighs. I had two of those and only one of the dry and water soaked ones. So, I still had a brined thigh to assess.



Here are the three thighs. I used the exact same seasoning recipe and cook time on all three. The only difference was that one was brined, one was soaked in water only, and one was seasoned with rub only. All three had bite through skin, BTW.



Here are the results after one bite of each.

The non-brined thigh -



The water soaked thigh -



The brined thigh -



I weighed each thigh before cooking them. Here are the weights.

Dry rubbed only - 7.25 ounces.

Water soaked only - 7.125 ounces.

Brined (the one that wasn't lost) - 6.75 ounces.

After cooking them and before glazing them, the weight of each thigh was:

Dry rubbed - 4.875 ounces.

Water soaked - 4 ounces.

Brined - 5.125 ounces.

The dry rubbed thigh had a weight loss of 33%. The water soaked thigh had a weight loss of 44% and the brined thigh had a weight loss of 24%. The assumption is that the weight loss was due to water loss.

With all that said, the brined thigh lost the least amount of weight from moisture loss. What's interesting is the fact that the water soaked thigh lost the most water which may explain why crock pot pot roast can be so dry.

I had my CBJ wife score each of the thighs on a KCBS scale. This is how she scored each one on taste and tenderness.

Dry rubbed only - taste - 8 - tenderness - 9. It got an 8 for taste because I over seasoned it and it was slightly salty.

Water soaked - taste - 9 - tenderness - 9.

Brined - taste - 9 - tenderness - 8.

I agreed with her assessment. The difference was tenderness. The brined thigh was most certainly more "chewy" than the other two.

What this suggests to me is that brining does infuse water into the meat. But, that water also contributes to evaporative cooling which slows down the cooking process. Otherwise, all three would have reached the same level of tenderness.

From experience I know that the tenderness of chicken thighs varies greatly depending on cook time and temp. That's what makes me think that the water in the chicken from being brined really does act like a heat sink (evaporative cooling at work) unlike the dry rubbed only thigh. The water soaked thigh experiment will require a little experimentation to figure out what's going on. I suspect that it is some kind of wash out effect of water removing things like fat and other influences on flavor.

The next experiment calls for cooking the brined thigh until it reaches the same tenderness as the non-brined thigh and then I might get a better idea of what's going on.

What think ye, brethren?
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Last edited by BobBrisket; 08-12-2012 at 11:49 PM..
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Unread 08-12-2012, 10:18 PM   #2
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Interesting results. Question on the brined one did you rinse it, or did you pull it out and throw it on w/rub? I am a newbie on brineing so forgive me on the question
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Unread 08-12-2012, 10:20 PM   #3
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When I removed the water soaked and brined thighs from the liquids, I just dried off the outside with a paper towel and then applied rub. Then, I put the skin back on the thighs and seasoned the skin.
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Unread 08-12-2012, 10:29 PM   #4
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Thanks for doing that!

All the thighs were cooked to the same temp, yes?

I've been brining a lot over the past year or so and loving it. When I went to NC and did those pit cooks I posted about a few weeks ago I didn't brine at all - just marinated, and I gotta say at no point while eating did I think "this would be better if brined". But - that said - brining is a great way to get flavor down in there - that KC Game Changer stuff is crazy good! Right now I just brine when I can, and don't get bent if I don't have time - I'll just cook the stuff & it'll be fine.
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Unread 08-12-2012, 10:33 PM   #5
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I cooked them all the same time. I didn't measure temps. That's going to have to be part of experiment #2. But, I am suspicious that the brined thighs will take a little longer to reach the same internal temp as non-brined thighs because of the water acting as a heat sink.
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Unread 08-12-2012, 10:43 PM   #6
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Great post, thanks for taking the time to do this and help some of us noob's out... Excited for the next class!
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Unread 08-12-2012, 10:46 PM   #7
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Interesting thread, I would be curious to see how a phosphate chicken thigh would perform under the same circumstances.

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Unread 08-12-2012, 10:52 PM   #8
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Great experiment. I love the data and analysis.
However, IMO, you really need a larger sample of each to reduce the possibility of the meat itself being the problem. I have made chicken thighs side by side that were totally different in texture.

Personally, I love chicken thighs. A real treat and inexpensive. Pretty regularly we can find them around here about 89-99 cents a pound.

Great post. Thanks!
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Unread 08-12-2012, 10:58 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mjl View Post
Interesting thread, I would be curious to see how a phosphate chicken thigh would perform under the same circumstances.

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Unread 08-12-2012, 11:00 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by martyleach View Post
Great experiment. I love the data and analysis.
However, IMO, you really need a larger sample of each to reduce the possibility of the meat itself being the problem. I have made chicken thighs side by side that were totally different in texture.

Personally, I love chicken thighs. A real treat and inexpensive. Pretty regularly we can find them around here about 89-99 cents a pound.

Great post. Thanks!
Yep, more work is needed. But, this experiment opens up some possible aveneues that haven't been explored, I think.
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Unread 08-13-2012, 12:24 AM   #11
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great post!

next time, weigh the thighs before brining and soaking. this will provide data that represents how much water was lost. it may support your theory of evaporative cooling
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Unread 08-13-2012, 12:26 AM   #12
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actually, the dry and water soaked thighs both lost more water
that means that any evaporative cooling going on would have cooled those 2 more than the brined - making those two cook slower than the brined.
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Unread 08-13-2012, 02:35 AM   #13
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Another great experiment, Joe! Very interesting results. I'll be watching to see how you tweak this one in the future. Thanks, as always, for taking the time.
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Unread 08-13-2012, 03:21 AM   #14
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Great stuff Joe! Lots of very useful info and this will definitely lead me to do my own experiments!

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Unread 08-13-2012, 04:39 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by troytime View Post
actually, the dry and water soaked thighs both lost more water
that means that any evaporative cooling going on would have cooled those 2 more than the brined - making those two cook slower than the brined.
Right!
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