Wednesday April 10, 2013 | 01:00 AM

Brining has become a big deal in culinary circles.  No chef worth his salt would think of not brining.

The reason we brine is that it adds moisture to the meat through the process of the high salt content  interacting with the cellular structure of the meat, helping to retain moisture and  tenderness.

For those following a low-salt diet, you can still brine your meats.  Just use less salt and keep it in the brining solution for less time.

The basic formula is 1 cup kosher salt to 1 gallon of water.  Do not use ordinary table salt. You can decrease the amount of salt by replacing some of it with sugar so that to a gallon of water add ¾ cup kosher salt and ¼ cup sugar.  Many chefs use equal parts sugar and salt. 

There are no hard and fast rules about brining.  But one fact remains: it greatly enhances the texture and taste of pork and chicken.  It’s especially useful for barbecued meats, which can tend to dry out on the grill

Many methods  use lemon, herbs and spices; others use cider, juices and the like, depending on what you are cooking. 

Two of my favorite brines are from Chef Thomas Keller, in his book Ad Hoc at Home. 
For other brines for barbecue season also refer to barbecue guru Adam Perry Lang’s Serious Barbecue.

This is  Keller's very aromatic brine for poultry, with all of the ingredients assembled in a stock pot

Here are Thomas Keller’s two basic brines for chicken and pork.  For a 4 to 6 pound chicken, 4 to 6 hours is plenty of time for brining; for a pork roast you can increase it to 6 to 8 hours, or for chops or chicken pieces several hours is plenty.

Remember, the brining solution must be cold; in fact prepare it the day before and  refrigerate.  After use, throw out the brine.

Chicken Brine
(Adapted from Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller)

Servings: 4 to 6 pound whole chicken

3 lemons, halved
10 bay leaves
½ bunch Italian parsley
6 sprigs thyme
¼ cup honey
2 tablespoons black pepper corns
½ head garlic, cut down the middle
1 cup kosher salt
1 gallon water

Combine all the ingredients in a large put (a stock pot is ideal), stirring to dissolve the salt, and bring to the boil.  Boil for 1 minute.  Remove from the heat.  Allow to cool completely; putting it outside, covered, in a cool place, if possible, is ideal. If you want to speed up the cooling process, put in a handful of ice cubes. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. The brine will last refrigerated for several days.

Pork Brine(Adapted from Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller)

Servings: enough for a 3 to 4 pound pork roast

1/3 cup honey
10 bay leaves
3 large rosemary sprigs
½ bunch thyme
½ bunch Italian parsley
½ cup garlic cloves, crushed, with skins left on
1 cup kosher salt
8 cups water

Combine all the ingredients in a large pot or stock pot.  Bring to the boil and boil for 1 minute.  Remove from the heat.  Allow to cool completely.  Then refrigerate until thoroughly chilled before using.  The brine will last several days refrigerated.


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John Golden has written about food, dining and lifestyle subjects for Downeast magazine, the Boston Globe, Cottages and Gardens magazine, Gourmet magazine, Cuisine magazine, the New York Times and the New York Post.

In his highly opinionated blog, John reports on his experiences dining out all over Maine and his visits with food personalities, farmers and farmers’ markets throughout the state.

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