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Unread 05-18-2010, 04:47 PM   #1
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Default Brining ? What's the minimum amount of salt?

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.
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Unread 05-18-2010, 05:00 PM   #2
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I am going out on a limb here but we brined turkeys for the holidays and I think we used a cup per gallon of water.
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Unread 05-18-2010, 05:04 PM   #3
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All I've ever read is "until an egg floats" and that was for a trout recipe so I'll be interested in the replies. The trout turned out great.
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Unread 05-18-2010, 05:21 PM   #4
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I have used the egg float when brineing salmon before smoling and it always worked well.
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Unread 05-18-2010, 05:21 PM   #5
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whops I meen smoking
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Unread 05-18-2010, 05:33 PM   #6
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1/2 cup salt 1/2 cup sugar one gallon water standard brine
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Unread 05-18-2010, 05:50 PM   #7
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I respectfully disagree with Sledneck. (am I allowed to do that??)

The most often referenced composition, thus the standard, if you will, is 1 cup salt to 1 gallon water. The additional flavor and aromatic components, i.e. sugar, spices, garlic, syrup, etc. are added to that 1:1 base. It is the salt that works the magic and contributes a negligible amount of sodium to the finished product (if dietary concerns are an issue) if the technique is performed correctly, including rinsing the bird when the brining is complete.

But, if the end result of 1/2, 1/2 to gallon provides what you like, then that is good.
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Unread 05-18-2010, 05:56 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sledneck View Post
1/2 cup salt 1/2 cup sugar one gallon water standard brine
Cooks Illustrated is stronger but alot depends on what kind of salt--and brand! Diamond kosher measures different then Mortons kosher and table salt is different too. Was taught that 'standard' is 1C salt(diamond)/gal of liquid--length of time in brine is crucial for good results. We use an equal amount of sweetner too plus seasonings.
I like brining most lean cuts of meat(pork/chicken/turkey) shrimp are better(imo) after a 1/2hr brine too
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Unread 05-18-2010, 06:09 PM   #9
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I should have specified that I typically use Diamond Kosher salt (not that I wouldn't use something else) just so at least i have a base to go from.

I've always used a standard 1 cup salt to 1 gallon water to start and usually would add 1 cup sugar of some kind to that.

So what I'm hearing so far is that it's the salt that does the magic and maybe we shouldn't fuss too much about it and just stick to 1:1 base then add whatever flavors you want from there.

Could you add less salt and brine longer to achieve same results?
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Unread 05-18-2010, 06:14 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sfbbqguy View Post

Could you add less salt and brine longer to achieve same results?
short answer is yes--
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Unread 05-18-2010, 07:53 PM   #11
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Thanks 2Fat. Short answers are usually best.

Sounds like you could just stick with 1 cup salt : 1 gallon water and use shorter brine times. I don't see any reason to extend the brine period for no reason by reducing the salt if the end result is the same.

I haven't had a salty food problem just inquiring if the brine would penetrate with less salt. Yes, I'm a little concerned with sodium but still want food to taste good too.
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Unread 05-18-2010, 08:38 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sfbbqguy View Post
Thanks 2Fat. Short answers are usually best.

Sounds like you could just stick with 1 cup salt : 1 gallon water and use shorter brine times. I don't see any reason to extend the brine period for no reason by reducing the salt if the end result is the same.

I haven't had a salty food problem just inquiring if the brine would penetrate with less salt. Yes, I'm a little concerned with sodium but still want food to taste good too.
when you stick 'standard' quantities the times are usually standard too, I know that shrimp are good after about an 1/2 hr, pork chops about an hour or so, chicken parts 4hrs etc--when you change the concentration of the brine of course the soak times will have to change accordingly
good luck
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Unread 05-18-2010, 08:45 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sfbbqguy View Post
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
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Unread 05-18-2010, 09:03 PM   #14
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Interesting subject, I was just wondeering about this Friday night while preparing a pork loin.

Good info here, thanks to all who replied.....
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Unread 05-18-2010, 09:19 PM   #15
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Great info! Thanks. Trying to expand my knowledge on this brine/cure stuff. It's funny that you mention TQ because I've given serious consideration to including it in some recent brines but have not. It sits right next to the Kosher on the shelf and every time I mix up a brine I think about throwing some in.

I'm not learned enough to know what effect the TQ will have on the brine so I've never added it? (I'm asking)

I also like the designation of "flavor brine" vs "preservation brine". I would typically call a preservation brine a cure (for lack of knowing any better) and a flavor brine a "brine".
That being said I've never done a wet cure as I usually do a dry cure for stuff like salmon or the few pastrami I've done. If it's been wet it's been a brine rather than a cure. So to this point if I was brining/curing I'd always do a dry cure for preservation and wet for immediate consumption. (Although most of the time when I do a dry cure the product gets consumed pretty quick!)
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