Basic Brine for Poultry

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A brine is a fool proof (famous last words?) way to ensure you get moist, juicy chicken or turkey every time. It actually doesn’t have to be poultry, that’s just what we use it for the most. Any dry meat is fair game. Simply soak the bird in the brine (time depends on the size of the meat), rinse thoroughly and then use in the recipe of your choice.

Bringing works in a couple of ways:

  1. Moisture enters the flesh, so the meat is juicier before cooking, thus the typical fluid loss during cooking does not dry it out to the same level as non-brined meats. This happens in two parts – firstly, the water leaves the chicken’s cells to create an isotonic solution with the brine; once equilibrium has been reached, the water flows in and out of the meat, carrying with it the dissolved salt and flavourings that you added, trapping them within the flesh.
  2. The dissolved salt also acts directly on the proteins, causing the peptides to swell and then unwind. Water then flows within the protein and is trapped there when heat denatures them and causes the protein chains to bind together once more.

Brine

Enough for one 2.5-3.0 kg (5.5-6.0 lb) chook/other bird.

  • 2.5 litres of water
  • 0.5 litres of FF stock (or water)
  • 1/3 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup ground black pepper
  • Aromatic vegetables – such as celery, green leek tips and carrots (optional, performs the same role as the FF stock, if you have none)

Place all the ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Watch it closely, as it will boil very quickly with all the salt in there. Let it gently boil for 5 minutes, then take it off the heat and allow it to come to room temperature. Do not strain it.

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Once the brine is at room temperature, submerge the (cleaned) bird and weight it down, if necessary, to ensure that the entire bird gets the brine treatment. Leave a chicken in the brine for 3-4 hours and a turkey for at least 6 hours. Place the saucepan with the brine and chook inside in the fridge to keep cool while the process takes place. If your pot won’t fit in the fridge, put the lid on and submerge it in icy water. The ice will need to be replaced regularly to maintain a cold temperature, so you’ll need to stick around to keep an eye on it. An Eski (cooler) also works to keep the temperature at or below 38 F/3 C.

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Once the brine is complete, remove the bird just before cooking and rinse thoroughly to get rid of excess salt etc. Use it in the recipe of your choice, such as this spatchcocked turkey for Thanksgiving or BBQ smoked rosemary chicken.

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7 thoughts on “Basic Brine for Poultry

  1. I notice you give the link to make FF strock for brining, however, when i go to that page it is not clear how you go from taking a raw chicken and cooking it to get the chicken and bones you use to make the stock. I am looking to follow a low FODMAP diet when making the stock AND the whole chicken. Thanks for any help!

    • Hi DN, I typically start with raw bones, though I admit the photos in the blog post don’t make this clear. You can use cooked bones if you like – just keep the scraps (bones/skin) from a low FODMAP roasted chook and use them instead.

      If you are in a hurry you can just fry the bones and veggies you are using until a fond has formed in the pot, then add your water and other herbs etc.

      Alternatively, and this creates a richer flavour, you can roast the raw carcass/bones with the veggies for an hour (in the pot you plan to use, at 180 C/350 F) and then pour in boiling water and add the herbs etc, then bring to the boil –> reduce heat –> simmer for as long as you can.

      Good luck!

      • At the end you mentioned roasting the raw carcass and bones with the veggies, do you use a whole raw chicken to do this?
        Thank-you so much for your time& help.

        • Sorry by “carcass” I mean the bones with sometimes a little flesh left but they can be clean. I typically cook the meat separately for soup/curry/risotto and use the bones (carcass) to make stock.

          And no worries. 🙂

          • I just want to clarify (I have this ‘thing’ about working with raw meat since I do all my own catheter care).
            So, cook the chicken whole 1st. Separate the meat from bones. Then use the bones to make the FF stock and the meat for basically anything else. Is this correct? If so, what low FODMAP recipe do you use to cook the whole chicken? If not, please let me know where I’m confused lol.
            I used this brine to make a roasted chicken and it turned out PERFECT! Following this FODMAP diet has made a huge positive impact in my digestive symptoms (I have Short Bowel/Gut Syndrome). I can’t express how grateful I am for your blog & for leading the way!

            • No worries. 🙂

              So, as I said, we normally start with a raw carcass but you can definitely roast the chook first, it doesn’t have to be done in any particular way. I like to spatchcock (butterfly) the chicken before roasting, as it cooks more evenly. I then rub it with olive oil/salt/herbs like rosemary and thyme before baking.

              If you want to minimise your handling of raw meat, you could use food handling gloves. You also don’t even need to use a whole chook, really, you can use chicken maryland/drumsticks/wings and simply pan fry them if you wish, or pan fry to get a crust and then bake until done.

              As long as you end up with about one chook’s worth of bones to use in the stock, it doesn’t really matter which bones go in.

              Also, sorry for not mentioning this earlier but I also have a vegan bouillon powder recipe that would work well in place of the stock, keeps in the freezer (to retain freshness) for ages and is an all around star for upping the flavour of meals in place of typical, high FODMAP stock powders.

              https://notfromapacketmix.com/2016/02/05/vegetable-bouillon-powder-low-fodmap-gluten-free-vegan/

            • I’m so glad you’ve found a diet than helps reduce your symptoms, too – and thanks for the kind words, this brine really is an awesome cheat to having moist chicken every time. 🙂

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