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The brining controversy  

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
Hi, Harold! Nice to have the opportunity to learn even more from you.

Okay, we've discussed this before, but let's have another whack at it. I was told by several people at my other food forum (MouthfulsFood.com) that I must have done something wrong if I didn't like brined turkey. You know there is a huge brining bandwagon, and one year, to see what all the fuss was about, I jumped on. I used the recipe that the San Francisco Chronicle swears up and down is perfection itself.

This recipe: Best Way Brined Turkey.

Well, I hated it. The drippings were useless: nothing in the world could correct their oversaltiness.

Now in my Bouchon cookbook, I see that Thomas Keller himself brines. :eek:

I've heard you say that you are not a brining fan: that you're replacing the bird's natural flavor and juices with salty water.

What do you think now? I took a lot of flak for being so outspoken against brining, and I wonder if you have any new ammunition for me in my battle. ;)

(For the record, for everyone else who doesn't know me, I've made this recipe for turkey with an herb rub and shiitake-sherry gravy every year but one since it came out in Bon Appetit in 1994. I have never once had a single bit of meat turn out overcooked or dried out. It's just a failproof recipe, and delicious.)

Thanks, Harold, and I hope to see you soon...so you can sign your book for my girl's Christmas present! :)
post #2 of 6
Hi Tana, good to hear from you. It’s still true that despite the fact that brining will give you moister, tenderer meats, I’m not a big fan of it, because it essentially means you’re plumping up your meat with saltwater—which essentially means diluting the meat’s own juices and flavor. I’m happy to trade salty juiciness for more concentrated meat flavor.

Harold
post #3 of 6

sweet brines

what about sweeter brines. honey, suger etc. just like with dry cure.
Keep the balance of flavor and sweetes and spices(vanilla, star anise) the less flavorsome meats, like pork chops and porks loins.

Also wouldn't sweet brines give better carmalization on ducks and such?
post #4 of 6
I agree with you.

The thing that I don't understand about the whole thing is that some of proponents of brining suggest it for poultry that has already been injected with saline water, but not for natural poultry. What's the logic here? (rhetorical question).
www.bookofrai.com multi-author food blog
www.chefzadi.com all about Algerian cuisine
www.bookofrai.com multi-author food blog
www.chefzadi.com all about Algerian cuisine
post #5 of 6
I have always heard conflicting views on brining, so I tried it. In fact, I tried multiple recipes because each time I tried it, I thought the product (turkey, chicken or pork) always tasted like salt and I was just using a bad recipe. As a result, I started playing with recipes and came up with one I actually love.

Instead of using an outrageous amount of salt, I use 2 cups of brown sugar and 1/4 cup salt to my brining liquid (which includes spices). My thinking was that if sugar and salt work well together as a curing agent, why not change the ratio for brining to a more palatable ratio? Osmosis can occur with sugar as it does with salt (although not equally). Does your book cover topics such as this?

Much of what I come up with in terms of recipes is through trial and error. Your book sounds as though it might improve my cooking by leaps and bounds!

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and time with us!
Pam Gram
The Pit Stop BBQ
"Catering to Your Needs!"
Pam Gram
The Pit Stop BBQ
"Catering to Your Needs!"
post #6 of 6
It’s true that sugar can help balance and to some extent replace salt in a brine, and it does add its own flavor and can enhance browning (though glucose or honey do better at this than table sugar). However, sugar doesn’t penetrate meat as easily or quickly as salt, and it doesn’t have the fiber-disorganizing, tenderizing effect that salt does.

Harold
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