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What Is Brine?
Brine is a solution of salt and water—usually featuring some form of fresh herbs, aromatics like garlic and ginger, citrus juices, sugar, and spices—used to prepare meat or vegetables prior to cooking. Bay leaves, black peppercorns, and rosemary sprigs are all common additions. From roast chicken to bite-size chicken wings, you can scale brines up or down depending on the size of the protein you want to cook.
What’s the Difference Between Dry Brining and Wet Brining?
There are two forms of brine: Dry and wet. The key difference is in the way the salt functions: in a wet brine, the salt is responsible for helping the meat hang on to all that extra moisture. In a dry brine, the salt first draws moisture out of the meat, and is re-absorbed with the juices in a concentrated natural brine. In both cases, salt affects the behavior of the muscle fibers. The flavors of dried and crushed spice blends will likely come through stronger with the dry brining approach, since the spices are applied directly to the surface of the meat and not diluted in water. Table salt is traditionally used to make dry brining solutions but kosher salt is slowly taking its place in many brine recipes because of its even distribution and easy adherence to the proteins.
What Is the Purpose of Brining?
Brining is a technique that involves submerging meat in a salt solution for a set period of time prior to roasting or grilling. The brining process adds an extra hit of flavorful moisture—always a plus when dry, tough meat is a risk—and the saltwater goes to work on the muscle fibers and proteins in the meat itself, separating them and creating more space to trap water.
When brining a relatively light protein like boneless, skinless chicken breasts, take care with timing: The meat should have time to soak up the flavors of the brine—this usually takes at least an hour—but shouldn’t be left too long, lest any acids in the brine, like citrus juice, begin to toughen up the muscle fibers.
Homemade Chicken Brine Recipe
Makes½ gallon of brine (enough for 1 whole chicken)
Prep Time5 min
Total Time5 min
- 8 cups warm water
- ½ cup soy sauce
- 4 tablespoons brown sugar
- ½ cup kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon yuzu kosho
- 6 garlic cloves, grated or minced
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Combine water, soy sauce, sugar, salt, yuzu kosho, garlic cloves, and red pepper flakes in a large mixing bowl. Whisk until sugar and salt have completely dissolved.
- Transfer brine to either a large resealable bag or a shallow baking dish; place chicken (whichever cuts you’ll be cooking) in the brine, submerging them as best as possible. (If using a baking dish, turn the cuts over at the halfway point.)
- Refrigerate for a minimum of two hours. Before cooking, discard the unused brine and lightly pat chicken dry with paper towels.
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