If only Shakespeare had a wood pellet grill I guarantee his writing wouldn't be half as sombre....
So what the bloody hell is brining I hear you ask and why invest in the bother? Brining is one of those things that takes us back to the Olden Days where the process of submersing meat in salt and water was used for preservation whilst transporting foods across the country. Nowadays it's an extremely useful technique for adding flavour and moisture to your grilled meats.
Well students, let me get all science teacher on you and explain what happens during a brining process.
When you cook any type of muscle fibre, moisture loss is inevitable. The heat from your grill causes the fibres to unwind known as denature. After this they join together which is why your meat shrinks and looses moisture.
It's estimated that by brining your meat first you can reduce this moisture loss down to 15%, which is awesome if like me you've ever had dry old chicken which tastes like leather boot and not a particular fan... this will become a thing of the past.
By brining your meat before you grill it the fibres in those beautiful meaty muscles absorb the liquid, so there's more in there to start you'll end up with more retention at the end of the cook. Adding salt to the brine causes some of the proteins in these muscles to unwind and swell allowing the bonds that had held the protein unit together to break. The water binds directly to the proteins and gets trapped when the meat is sizzling and the proteins bind together.
Basically as long as you don’t commit the cardinal sin of overcooking the meat, all of those natural juices will be retained. Nom nom.
Don't believe me? Case and point these Woolly Mammouth sized Turkey legs... do they look dry to you?
Chicken and turkey are perfect meats for brining as they are so prone to drying out on the grill. I've added The Basic Brine recipe to the BBQ BOSS page to get you going but bearing in mind that the meat will incorporate any flavour which you add to your brine liquid you could consider adding anything which gets your tastebuds dancing, for example,
- Herbs & Spices like cumin or chili powder for a Mexican spice, herb de provence, or basil for something French or Italiany.
- Aromatics, generally vegetables like onions, garlic, carrots but also ginger, fennel, lemon grass, peppers. You can either add these raw to the brine or sauté them to further develop their flavour.
- Liquids like mustard, soy sauce or fruit juices. Anything you like the taste of really!!
Brining takes a little bit of extra effort and preparation but definitely delivers on taste. In fact we've already planned our Christmas Day menu to include a brined Traeger smoked turkey to be the star of the show. Buy me a present and you might just get an invite....