Guide to Dry Brining Meat

Jason Webster
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What is dry brining?

Dry brining is when you rub salt over the surface of the meat and leave it for some time to absorb the salt. It is the first step before you start to add flavor the food. In meat, the natural juices are replaced with a salt solution. This serves to both season and preserve the meat, by drawing water out of the muscle as it cooks. Normally, a turkey brine is done in liquid, however it is just as effective to dry brine.

When dry brining, you tend to need less salt than a wet brine, as the salt goes down into the muscle on its own. It depends on the size of the meat and the thickness, but approximately ¼ to 1/3 cup of kosher salt should be sufficient.

As with a wet brine, you will need a container large enough to hold the meat and the dry rub will need to be kept moist to. A plastic bin will need to be filled about half way, so the meat will sit in a shallow pool of the salt solution. A thick, plastic bag will need to be filled with ice and the meat laid over that. To prevent contamination, make sure that a clean plastic bag is used.

Make sure that the area is properly cleaned to avoid cross transferring bacteria. Dry brining is best done when the outside temperature is above 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 Celsius) to prevent bacterial growth and to allow the salt to fully penetrate the meat.

Benefits of Dry Brining

Dry brining(rolling) meat is one of the easiest ways to make sure your meat will be moist and delicious even if you have no time to tenderize it. The process involves working some salt into your chicken, turkey, pork, or beef before cooking.

It is done by sprinkling the desired amount of salt on the meat, massage the salt into the meat, and letting it rest at room temperature for a certain amount of time (usually overnight).

Preparing a dry brine with kosher salt works exceptionally well for poultry. The high surface area of the flakes allows more salt to adhere to the meat while it is being rubbed and the thicker texture of kosher salt means that it won’t dissolve during the brining time.

Using a dry brine allows you to keep the flavor of your meat free from the addition of any other flavors.

As a matter of fact, brining an entire bird will allow you to use less herbs and spices on it as you get more flavor from the brine.

What types of meat should you dry brine?

Dry brining is an age old method used to make meat juicier. This method works by initiating a process called osmosis.

Osmosis involves the flow of liquid from an area of lesser concentrations of solutes to one where the concentrations are higher.

In meat, when salt is added, it draws out the moisture, from within the cells of the meat. The salt is then soaked up by the less-dense muscle tissue.

This creates a a semi-uniform distribution of salt throughout the meat. And hence, the name dry brining (inspired from brining, the process of marinating meat)

A lack of moisture in meat leads to meat becoming dry and tough. This also leads to the loss of the meat’s natural flavors.

When salt is added to meat, it will remove the moisture from the cells of the meat. In turn, the salt will get drawn into the cell’s place and leave the meat relatively dry, but much tastier and juicer.

Dry brining is best applied to meats that are cured for long periods of time including bacon, ham, pastrami, corned beef, beef jerky, and smoked sausages.

Step by step instructions for dry brining a chicken or turkey

At some point in my life I used to avoid any meal that involved chicken or turkey. I thought the dry (not juicy) or the non-traditional (turkey bacon) kind of chicken or turkey were like the bastard step child of poultry.

However, those days are gone and I wouldn’t say that I am a big fan, but now will eat chicken or turkey regularly.

What changed? I try to read my food’s label more and thus learned that most chicken and turkey labeled “100% natural, no additive” are injected with a brine solution to keep their meat juicy.

Curious, I had to see what was in the brine solution and how this process works. Voila! I found the solution that the injection of salt and water provides.

And after reading about the health benefits of salt (e.g. it regulates blood pressure, regulates water balance in the body, prevents muscle cramps and fatigue, etc.), I decided to do my own research on the topic of dry brining (also called dry salting or dry curing).

Skip to section 2 if you don’t like to read on the benefits of salt.

Pat the bird dry

After removing the giblets from the cavity, pat your turkey dry with paper towels.

The drier your bird is, the better the brine will adhere to it.

2) Salt the Bird

Add plenty of kosher salt and fresh pepper to the surfaces of your turkeys, chuck, or pork shoulder. Now rub that bird down with plenty of oil.

If you are cooking a bird, get as much skin and fat in contact with the salt and pepper as you can. This will add flavor to those parts of the bird, making it taste far better after the salt penetrates those areas.

When cooking larger cuts, you want to get as much of the meat in contact with the salt as you can. This is easier to do if you pound it out a little first.

You can also include fresh herbs, such as rosemary or sage, and even peppercorns, with your salt mix.

Next, wrap it up, put it in a heavy plastic or sealable container, and refrigerate it until it’s time to cook.

3) Pop it in the Fridge

It’s a common misconception that brined meat needs to swim in a bag of salt water. You can skip the mess and just place the meat in a sealed container in the fridge for the designated amount of time (with some salt added, of course!).

This is the dry brining method that I use. It’s simple, doesn’t require any specialty equipment, and the best part is that I can do it while I’m at home.

4) Cook the bird

Normally and when the time is up, pull it out of the oven and place it on the rack for a while so that the juices flow back into the meat.

Dry Brining FAQ’s

A dry brine is a process that allows you to inject salt directly into meat on the pallet. As much as I love doing this, sometimes I find it hard to believe that people are actually amazed by the fact that you can do that in the first place.

Doesn’t dry brining make your meat too salty?

Dry brining does not make your meat too salty.

If the thought of upping the salt content of your thigh from 2% to 3% seems daunting, imagine using the same logic on the 20% meat content! The reason the salt content of meat doesn’t skyrocket during the brining process is because the water from your wet brine solution evaporates at roughly 212 degrees Fahrenheit, not the room temperature you’re cooking at. So it’s a very gradual process.

Here’s what we do at the Salt Lick. When you buy fresh pork from us, we take the shoulder and hang it in a closet and spray (not soak) it for just a few hours. The dry brine actually makes your meat juicier because it breaks down some of the muscle fibers that were holding the moisture in. The meat will feel slightly tacky, but it’s not bad, and it will be fine when you cook it.

As far as the health department is concerned, dry brining is kosher because there is no food-borne bacteria problem from the pork staying out for a day or two.

What kind of salt should I use?

Sea salt is best. It doesn’t have any additives and it’s pure, natural sodium chloride.

This will be the most important ingredient for dry brining. You will need about 1 cup of salt per 5 pounds of meat.

To get the crystals to dissolve, you’ll need warm water, like the stuff you find in your hot water tap. It’s preferable to dry brine in a non-reactive container.

How much salt should I use?

For dry brining a chicken wing or a drumstick, the amount of salt to use depends on how large the meat piece is.

If it’s a small chicken wing or drumstick, the amount of salt in this case would be minimal.

So, for a 5 -inch chicken wing, I use just a pinch of salt for a 4-pound chicken. If it’s a 12-inch chicken breast, I use 1 teaspoon of salt, but 8-inch breast requires about 2 teaspoons.

For a 2- pound turkey breast, I use about a teaspoon and a half of salt and for a 7 pound turkey, I use 6 tablespoons.

A general rule of thumb is to add half a teaspoon of salt for each pound of meat that you’re brining.

How long should you dry brine for (and can you dry brine for too long)?

Dry brining is a technique that coats the surface of meat with salt before grilling or roasting. The salt penetrates into the meat up to 1/4 inch, which is deeper than the salt can be rubbed into the surface.

It draws moisture from the inside of the meat and dissolves the muscle proteins, lightening and softening the texture of the meat.

The salt also changes the color of the meat a little bit, but not so much that you’ll notice it.

Dry brining works similar to wet brining, but the salt is applied to the surface of the meat instead of being absorbed. When the meat is grilled or roasted, the salt seasons the meat surface.

There are no added fluids, so the meat tastes less salty. It also means that you can dry brine meat for a long time before it’s too salty.

The longer the meat is dry brined, the more salt will be forced into the meat.

So, you could dry brine for 24 to 48 hours if you want the maximum amount of salt that can be absorbed.

I recommend that you start off with 3 to 4 hours of dry brining and see how the meat comes out.

If it needs more salt, you can dry brine for a longer time, but you balance out the extra salt with sugar.

Do you need to rinse after dry brining?

Most dry brines do not call for rinsing the meat off afterwards. Any excess dry rub will be rinsed away if the chicken or pork is cooked in a liquid.

If you prefer to rinse out the excess salt, the best way to do this is with a vinegar solution.

Pour your favorite vinegar in a saucepan, mix €œ 1 part vinegar and €œ 2 parts water, and add the chicken. Transfer the saucepan to your stovetop and simmer the chicken for 4 to 6 minutes to impart great flavor while reducing much of the saltiness.

This same method can be used with meats that have marinated in a vinegar solution before grilling or roasting. The vinegar solution will taste good in salads, soups, as a marinade for grilled vegetables or potatoes, and as the base recipe for barbecue sauce.

Build the Best Burgers: A Guide to the Best Meat for Burger Patties

When you want a juicy, tender, and truly flavorful patty, you can’t just pick up an industrially packed meat and call it a day. You need to treat it like you’re a samurai preparing for battle, with one crucial extra step – dry brining.

If you want to be a burger samurai, then you have to understand how to dry brine your meat.

What is Dry Brining?

Dry brining is a way to add flavor to a piece of meat before cooking it.

You pour a mixture of salt and brown sugar all over your meat, let it sit in the fridge for a period of time to let the salt and sugar dissolve into the meat, and then cook your burger patty the same way you usually do.

What’s Special About Dry Brining?

Dry brining basically marinates your meat – without using a marinade. It works because whatever salt and sugar remain on the surface of the meat after they dissolve will keep on dissolving as the meat cooks. There’s no moisture to slow down this process, unlike when you dissolve salt in water and then cook your meat.

This means a higher concentration of salt and sugar in your meat. A higher concentration of salt and sugar means more flavor.