My good buddy and favorite Cajun, Coshon DeLusher from Drunken Turkey.com, is Guest Blogging here with this great article on Brining Your Birds. If you truly want a moist bird, whether you bake it, smoke it or grill it, you've got to brine it.
Coshon explains all about brining the Coshon way.
What is Brining?
First things first. Let me bore you with the technical definition of brining. Brining is a process similar to marination in which meat is soaked in brine before cooking. Brining makes cooked meat moister by hydrating the cells of its muscle tissue before cooking, via the process of osmosis, and by allowing the cells to hold on to the water while they are cooked, via the process of denaturation. The brine surrounding the cells has a higher concentration of salt than the fluid within the cells, but the cell fluid has a higher concentration of other solutes. This leads salt ions to diffuse into the cell, whilst the solutes in the cells cannot diffuse through the cell membranes into the brine. The increased salinity of the cell fluid causes the cell to absorb water from the brine via osmosis. The salt introduced into the cell also denatures its protiens. The proteins coagulate, forming a matrix that traps water molecules and holds them during cooking. This prevents the meat from dehydrating.
The first step in brining is to get a container to hold chicken or turkey totally submerged. It can be a large plastic bag, tupperware or even an ice chest. Whatever you choose, make sure that it will hold all of your brine solution overnight so that the mixture will have time to soak into the meat. If you chose to use an ice chest be sure that the ice does not mix with the brining solution as this will water it down as the ice melts. Also make sure that the container is large enough to totally surround your bird. I've found the easiest and cleanest container to use is an ice chest. I use ziplock bags filled with ice to keep the container cold. The bags serve as a divide preventing the ice from melting into your solution.
A basic brining solution consists of salt and water, but you can opt to add chopped onions, parsley, thyme, and even lemons. The typical brine consists of one cup of salt for each gallon of water. I prefer using Kosher Salt over your typical table salt because it has a cleaner taste and contains no iodine like table salt. Start by determining the amount of liquid you are going to need. To do this take the turkey or chicken and place it in the container you are going to use. Once you know how much liquid is needed start by boiling two cups of water for each cup of salt you will need. Once it boils add the salt and stir until dissolved. Add other spices and herbs and then combine it with the remaining liquid. The brine should always be cold before you add the meat so you should refrigerate it before you add the meat. You don't want the brine cooking the meat. It is important that no part of the meat be exposed to the air. Saltwater brine will kill bacteria and keep the meat from spoiling but it doesn’t work if part of the meat is sticking out.
A basic equation for how long to let your bird brine is one hour per pound. It s mportant that the whole thing be kept cold. The specific amount of time will vary of course. Remember that the longer you brine the stronger the flavor will be. If you over brine you could end up with some very salt and strong meat. I usually start brining before I go to sleep and night and take it out when I wake up. I typically never let my meat brine for more than ten hours. There is an extra step after removing the bird from your refrigerator that you may want to try. Brining makes the meat moist therefore the skin stays moist also. Some people like there turkey crispy on the outside. If you prefer this then you need to remove the bird from the container and wrap it in foil. Place the meat back in the fridge and let sit for at least another 8 hours. This allows the skin to dry resulting crispier skin.
Brining has come a long way. It seems like more and more people everyday are taking the traditional salt solution and spicing it up! After all it just makes sense. If your going to treat your poultry so that it turns out juicy, why not have it soak up a little flavor too! For your next beer can bird try and incorperate the flavors into the brine. Stay consistant with your flavors. From the brining process all the way to when you pull it off the grill, your ingredients should be an integral part of every step. Add beer to your brine! The beer you use to get your bird drunk should be present in the brine also. Beer adds flavor and actually tenderizes the meat. Hell we've even heard of using the left over water from a crawfish boil as a brining soloution. Below are some brining solutions that may give you some ideas on how to prepare your next drunken bird.
Coshon's Lemon Pepper Brine
Coshon's Lemon Pepper Brine
1 gallon of water
4 teaspoons kosher salt 6 bay leaves
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
3 large rosemary sprigs
1 small bunch of thyme
1 small bunch of parsley
Finely grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
Add all the ingredients to a large pot and bring to a boil for 5 mins. Let cool then add your chicken. Refrigerate overnight.
Thanks for all that showing and explaining Coshon. And for all you folks out there don't forget to visit Coshon's Drunken Turkey website at...http://drunkenturkey.com/index.html.
Until next time....