This is a quick post to share with you my brine recipe and talk real quick about brines vs marinades vs dry rubs; when to use what where, and why.
Do you even brine, bro?
On the heals of the Harissa Yogurt post I thought I would follow up with a basic brine recipe. But first, let's talk about marinades, rubs & cures, brines and salt.
We all know why we do it. To impart flavor. Whether we are using just simple garlic-rosemary or something more in depth, the idea is the same. We are looking to impart flavor. But there's something else going on at the cellular level. Osmosis. Salt goes in, water goes out. Let's break this all down a little further, topic to topic.
Marinades: in general I would classify a marinade as wet, but not so wet that the item being marinated is fully submerged. Marinade is usually applied to all areas of the item being marinated but rarely penetrates all the way to the center of the meat. They are great for creating a flavor crust on chicken, beef, pork & lamb as well as some seafoods. Marinades need their own post. I'll give you a few examples though.
Yogurt Chicken: 24-48 hours
Tri Tip: 1-3 days
Grilling Steak: 12-24 hours
Shrimp: 12-24 hours
Teri Chicken: 24 hours
Rubs & Cures: rubs and cures for the most part are dry. Or at least, they start out that way. What happens though is that the salt in the rub will start to draw water out of what ever it is that you are dry rubbing or curing. As this happens that extracted moisture creates a paste with the spices and it kind of turns into a marinade in a way. In the case of curing salmon so much water is pulled out it almost makes a brine!! Some dry rubs can be the base for a sauce (Jerk Spice is the base for Jerk Sauce, Cajun Spice as the base for BBQ Sauce and so on) or salad dressing (vinaigrette flavorings) or a marinade (just add citrus juice, oil, water, beer or wine). Appropriate applications for Rubs and Cures is literally unlimited and they need their own post. But here's some examples.
Jerked Chicken: 12-24 hours
Baby Back Ribs: 12-24 hours
Dry Aged Beef: 7 - 120 days
Proscuitto: 4-18 months
Gravlax: 7-10 days
Pastrami: 7-10 days
Cajun Spiced Tempeh: 1-2 days
Brine: brine is always wet. Brine always infers submersion of the item being brined. Brining is the BEST way to get flavor all the way to the center of the item being brined. But brining should really only be used for Chicken (and select other birds such as quail, game hen & pheasant) & Pork (Chops, Tenderloins, Ribs, Shanks, Hams). I almost never brine red meat (this includes duck, pork butt, lamb, wild boar... anything where the blood and fat flavor will be compromised because of the water) and I almost never brine seafood unless I plan to smoke that piece of seafood.
Here's some examples...
Chicken: 24-48 hours
Turkey: 2-3 Days
Quail: 24 hours
Pork Tenderloin : 24 hours
Center Cut Pork Roast : 24-48 hours
Baby Back Ribs: 24 - 36 hours (then dry rub for another 12)
Ham Leg: 3 weeks on brine
Corned Beef: 5-8 days (also one of the only examples I can think of where you would brine beef)
SALT: I use Mortons Kosher exclusively. Now lets just talk about salt and what's happening on that cellular level. I said earlier and you know already, osmosis. But what this exchange does is concentrate flavor. By removing water you inherently increase flavor. This is why we reduce sauces and stocks. But you are also changing texture. When the water and the salt move in and out of the cells that "water activity" creates a slight bit of friction and this "cooks" the cell in a way. Dry curing salmon or salami are the best examples of this. In salami you take raw, ground meat and season it and slam it together in casings and over the course of 6-8 weeks that water activity and curing process creates a piece of meat that can be sliced and held up for examination. Where as weeks before it was several thousand individual pieces of meat. In the salmon fillet you get gravlax. You can cure anything too. You can take an egg yolk and cure it on salt and sugar and it will get hard enough to grate on a microplane. Or you can cure whole muscles such as Proscuitto, Coppa, Bresoala, BACON!! and so much more. Salt has so many applications beyond the shaker on the table.
Here's a link to the 4Qt Plastic Cambro container as seen in the photo. These things come with lids, fit in the fridge and are great for things like this, batches of soup or stock or as dry goods storage bins. Easy to clean and good for life!!
Basic Brine Recipe
3 Liters Water
115g (1/2 C) Salt
115g (1/2 C) Sugar
Happy Cooking! And don't forget, WASH YOUR HANDS!