Fuzzybear asked me to post my brine recipe for poultry, specifically for Cinnamon Spice Chicken
. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, this may be something to consider. I originally developed this brine for turkey and have brined over 50 turkeys with great success.
There are many theories and methods of brining. This is a method I like and it works well for me. It is not the only brine in the world. This is my method of brining. This is the way I brine and why but I am certainly not claiming it superior to others, just different. If you already have a brine and brining technique you like and do not want to be bothered with another technique or additional information, I invite you to disregard this post. This recipe is my opinion and should be considered as such.
The following is my flavor brine recipe which was developed over several years of experimenting. I slowly backed off of the traditional 1 cup kosher salt to one gallon of water and started brining longer. This left me with a large brining window of two to four days without error. The broth imparts a subtle and pleasant background flavor while leaving the poultry flavor intact and out front. Wild game benefits significantly in both taste and moisture. The meat texture does not change after such a long brine.
I roast about six turkeys a year (mostly store brand injected turkeys using Alton Brown’s method to 161 degrees middle breast) and have brined for many years using this method. Only one has been below my expectations and it was still better for the process. This Bird comes out moist. After the process, you can smoke, barbeque, grill, roast, braise, rotisserie or use any method desired. The poultry will be moist, tender, and flavorful.
I do not only use this brine on turkey. All poultry that has not been marinated in some other method is brined at my house (my family is spoiled, vocal and insistent). Split chicken breasts, chicken breast filets, whole chickens, pheasant, quail, dove, and wild turkey are all candidates. I generally brine smaller cuts for only one or two days but I have forgotten the brine before and brined split chicken breasts for four days without a texture change or salt problem. My brining refrigerator is set to 33 degrees which may make a difference.
Anyone who has read some of my previous posts knows that I enjoy the science behind the cooking. I believe this knowledge makes for a better chef. Over the years, I have studied the brining process extensively and have concluded that there is still a lot of mystery that surrounds this science. Disagreements and subtle arguments are not uncommon. Food-scientists give somewhat different explanations of why brined meat can be more moist but not too salty. They are mostly in agreement that brining involves intracellular and intercellular water and minerals naturally within the meat, protein structures, molecular diffusion and osmosis but then each adds their own theory and nuance to the process. In addition there is brine duration, the amount of salt in solution, the size, shape and density of the meat, cooking method, temperature and the target meat temperature. We do not have a definitive scientific answer as to the comings and goings at the cellular and molecular level.
I do not know why this low salt, long brine duration works or why it makes a significant difference to poultry much less to previously injected poultry. I do know it does produce a tender, moist and flavorful product and is very forgiving in the timing arena. I recognize that my taste buds enjoy this much more than a product which is not brined.
This is a two step brine. First vegetable broth is made. This can be strained and frozen for future use as both. This second step is to add brining solution to the vegetable broth. The brine is low salt brine. The standard brine normally calls for 1 cup kosher salt to 1 gallon of water. This brine calls for 6 oz. (about 5/8 cup) of kosher salt and course sea salt per gallon of water. Habanero Smoker has a recipe posted on the Bradley Recipe Site Low Salt Poultry Brine
. His recipe calls for 3.5 oz. Kosher Salt (about 3/8 cup) of salt per gallon of water so it is even lower salt. This recipe is good reading and will provide more information as well as other ingredients (like pickling spice which sounds good), thoughts and methods. I have not gone that low in salt content yet but intend to try it in stages. I have no doubt his recipe will work well. I do not remove the vegetables when brining. This may effectively lower the salt content because there is more volume in the container so this brine may be very close to Habanero’s salt content.
The benefit of low salt brine for me is that it is easy and more foolproof. The poultry can be brined for several days without imparting too much salt flavor. There seems to be a large window for perfect brining. Timing is not critical. The negative is the preparation takes place several days prior to the serving time.
The following is the broth recipe. It may seem arduous but rough cutting vegetables is easy and goes fast. Also, this is an ingredient list of possible ingredients. Not all of them are necessary and most of these should come from leftover frozen trimmings or vegetables that are a little beyond their time. Alternatives such as frozen vegetables are given. Try to use most of the following.