I do not brine my chicken or my pork.

Why? It makes the meat soggy. It ruins the texture and tone of a properly-raised, wicked expensive piece of swine or fowl. Screw f*ing Cook’s Illustrated and all the gastroporn publishing industry.

“But BLC! (Damn, what did she say her name was again?) How else will we ensure that our flesh of the animals will be tasty, that our victory over the food chain will be savory?”

Ladies and gentlemen (there’s at least 3 of you fellas out there that I know of, besides my husband), I introduce to you… Judy Rodgers, and The Zuni Cafe Cookbook. In this wise and wonderful book, this statement of the local, organic, real yet gourmet food aesthetic, Ms. Rodgers sets forth the technique of pre-salting the meat, from 2 hours to 24 before the actual cooking part. You mix in whatever other herbs and spices you’re going to use, rub it all over your dead beast, and then… wait. Right before cooking, you brush off the extra salt and herbs, and then cook away.

No mushiness! No wateriness! And… wait for it… drumroll, please… DRIPPINGS! And drippings means pan sauces, and gravy, and other delectable stuff to put on potatoes (or gnocchi, or rice, or noodles, but I am Irish and we are a potato house). Because friends, the problem with brining aside from the mushy texture is this– there are no drippings, because the meat sheds all sorts of salty water in the cooking process, rendering said drippings too watery to caramelise properly and too salty to be edible, if you try to boil them down. With Ms. Rodgers’ pre-salting technique, your poultry and pig are flavorful and gravy-licious, while still preserving all the tasty texture created during their free-ranging days. Good food is too precious to ruin with bad techniques.

Salt, used properly, is your friend. And it is definitely the friend of your meat– they want to do a little dance of deliciousness together on your tongue.

And also? It’s MEAT, not a marshmallow. It’s supposed to require some chewing.

(Prompted by the 9 millionth food blog I read today that was all “Oooh, I just discovered brining, and I can cut my pork chop with a spoon!” Gah!)

P.S. I follow Ms. Rodgers’ proportions religiously, so I don’t want to be accused of violating copyright by reproducing them here, much less be accused of trying to make money or something, when all I am trying to do is preach the Gospel of Judy. However, I will be glad to email you the proportions I use for whole chicken and pork roasts and my approximated proportions for chops and cuts if you’d like.

P.P.S.– I should also clarify, for those who might question my prior brining technique, that when it comes to biochemistry stuff like brining, I always follow the “experts'” recommendations– or at least what’s printed in the recipes as to temperature, proportions, storage, etc.  So yes, a brined turkey is better than an unbrined turkey.  But… a presalted turkey is ever so much better, in taste, in texture, and in gravy/dripping production.

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16 thoughts on “I do not brine my chicken or my pork.

  1. cathy

    I totally agree with you about brining. I just don’t get the appeal. Soggy flesh makes me gag, and the brining changes the natural sweetness and heartiness in the flavor.

    I think of like this: brining is to meat as Lipton Cup-o-Soup is to soup.

    The Zuni Cookbook is worth it just for her recipe for roast chicken. And it’s one of the best cookbooks for bedside reading because of the ways she explores technique and putting ingredients together.

    Reply
  2. magpie

    Anyway, who has time for brining? I’m all about flinging the chicken in a cast iron skillet and into the hot oven for an hour. Basting? Basta.

    Reply
  3. jess

    meat is NEVER meant to be eaten with a GD spoon! for THA LOVE!!

    i’ve never brined anything, mostly b/c it sounded ridiculous to me, but i’ve often thought about brining the thanksgiving turkey.

    you talked me out of it.

    Reply
  4. mike

    a few points about doing a good brine.

    a) soggy? that’s if you have left it in a solution that is way to warm. Always brine somewhere between 40f to 62f and then let it air dry in the fridge for at least 5 minutes before doing anything with it.

    b) brining is an art ( just as doing a great rub) takes time to learn it correctly, to your taste.

    c) brining the thanksgiving turkey ( then smoking it ), I do this every year. quick answer
    1) turkey completely thawed out 18 – 22lbs
    2) 5 gallons of brine ( I use a simple highly salted brine solution, white pepper corns and a few herbs )
    3) trash can lined with a large hefty garden garbage bag
    4) 5 – 7 bags of ice

    steps

    break open 2 bags of ice, pour into lined trash can
    add brine till the ice floats
    take the fully washed turkey, inset into center of trash can ( head or tail first )
    add ice and brine slowly and shake the bird till no more air comes out
    fill till you have run out of brine and the ice just barely floats
    grab the bag by the corners and pull up slightly, twist the top of the bag and get ALL the air out. tie a simple knot to close.
    cover with trash lid and make sure that it’s sealed tightly
    1/2 hour brine per pound on bird (6 at night, ready for smoking at 6 am )

    that’s is, take the bird, clean all the gook from it, prepare it as any other type of thanksgiving day bird. just understand it’s a bit more saltier.

    to practice : use a 8 lbs. fryer ( chicken )

    Reply
  5. Matthew Abel

    The times I’ve brined have not resulted in soggy mushy wet meat. It was mainly turkey and it was juicy and still firm. I don’t understand how it could really salt it up since the brine affects the interior by forcing flavorful liquid inside. The salt stays outside. You rinse it off. No salty drippings.

    It was definitely worth it.

    But: I sure would not do it for every piece of meat ever. It takes too much effort to do it right. I can’t believe people who would brine every chicken and piece of pork they eat.

    I guess I’ll just have to do a taste test. Oh no. A brined and unbrined regular chicken and a brined and unbrined free-range chicken. That’d be neat.

    Reply
  6. Barbara

    I brine mediocre roasting chickens to try to fix ’em up a little, and that seems to work just fine, but the drippings are way too salty for gravy. If the roaster is, as should be, good quality, I don’t brine.

    I’ve never brined anything else. Now I’m rethinking EVERYTHING (brine-related)!

    Reply
  7. Mary

    I have only brined our Thanksgiving Turkey. I let it “rest” in the fridge for 24 hours after brining. I love it! So do the 40 or so people it helps to feed.

    Other than Thanksgiving… no way.

    I’m now off to get The Zuni Cafe Cookbook.

    Thanks!

    Reply
  8. Camellia

    I brine turkey for me and the dogs, but I wonder if I am somewhat autistic as far as taste goes…sometimes it seems like I live my life in a bunting. I am going to try the Zuni salt process.

    Reply
  9. The Cheap Chick

    Yay! Finally a foodie who doesn’t brine!

    My brother is a brining addict, and I just don’t buy into the hype. I think it makes meat too juicy (yes, there is such a thing) and oddly textured.

    I don’t want to tell him that, because he works so hard at the food he feeds us. It’d be like kicking his puppy. If his puppy were a free-range, brined, 15 lbs. turkey.

    But honestly? My mom has never brined a day in her life, and every meat she has ever cooked has been flawless.

    Okay, now I’m hungry. Darn it!

    Reply
  10. Just Me

    I was up very late in the night reading blogs because I was sick and couldn’t sleep. I read this and then eventually did sleep. I wound up dreaming about brining meat and how disgusting it sounded to my upset stomach.

    We don’t do this in Appalachia and I’d honestly never even HEARD of it…Live and learn.

    Reply
  11. Angelina

    I very much enjoyed this post! It reminds me of how every cook book has you salting eggplant to “get rid of the bitter taste” and I rarely ever do it because eggplant never tastes bitter to me and it seems an unnecessary step.

    Reply

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