Originally Posted by KYHeirloomer
Defrosting and brining are two totally unrelated processes, Siduri.
Brining is done to raw proteins, in an unfrozen state. Won't go into the theories as to why brining is a good thing, because I'm in a minority who doesn't buy into it. I've tried brining and the only change is that it makes the meat, poultry, and fish taste salty.
I'm SOO glad to hear someone say this about brining. It doesn;t make much sense to me logically, soaking something in salt, wouldn't that just draw all the liquids out? We soak swollen bruised limbs in salted water - saline solution is the physiological solution that draws liquids out, no? I have experimented by injecting salt water into the meat (roasting a turkey, for instance) but found that putting herb butter under the skin makes it much more moist than anything.
Before talking about defrosting we need to first discuss freezing. You will never achieve the same quality when home freezing as you get from commercial products. Reason: Commercial foods are flash frozen, using liquid nitrogen. The faster something freezes the smaller the individual ice crystals. Small crystals do little damage to cell walls.
Conversely, the slower you freeze something the larger the crystals will be. Every home freezer, even those that operate at zero degrees, is comparatively slow. This means you get large crstals, which pierce cell walls. This, in turn, leads to leakage of liquid protein and other fluids.
The slower you defrost, the less damage occurs from large ice crystals. In addition, internally, liquids have a chance to redistribute themselves (as they do when you rest cooked proteins). So, in general, slow defrosting, such as letting it thaw in the fridge, is best.
unfortunately for me, i never know what i want to cook until i'm home. It's the compensation for being the main cook - i get to eat what i feel like eating!
Defrosting in cold water thaws the food quickly, it's true. But it also flushes away all those liquids---along with the flavors and nutrients they carry. So there is a distinct loss of quality.
before having a microwave i used to put the food in a bag, pressing all the air out, and put the bag in running water. Now i have a very slow setting for defrosting and it asks the weight and the type - poultry, steak, hamburger, etc. Not bad.
Don't know this for sure, but it seems to me that defrosting in salt water would have no particular affect on the final outcome, except that salt, being a drawing medium, might hasten the loss of natural moisture.
Exactly what i thought - but it;s what i imagine would happen even with brining. salt water drawing out the liquid. True, unfrozen food has fewer damaged cell walls, but still, if the meat's been cut, there are some openings from which precious juices would leak out, no?
In all due respect to Alton Brown, anyone who draws conclusions about defrosting food from the rate at which ice melts (duck shaped or not) is just kidding himself---and a lot of viewers. Not a new thing with Brown, however, which is one of the reasons why he's not one of my favorites.
thanks for your, as usual, very complete answer.
As for "no excuse for not brining" - what did people do ten years ago? was all food lousy because it was not brined? And good for anyone who knows hours in advance what they;re going to cook tonight