Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Improve Chicken Breasts by Factor of 5!!!

What's an extremely easy way to substantially improve chicken breasts? 7% salt, 5% sugar. It's simple. Simple math. Get a scale if you don't have one. And try it. Now.

I'm talking about a brine. I feel kinda bad that I haven't discussed this too much; that I haven't yet given the brine the blog space it truly deserves. True, I've mentioned it, but I've never really delved into its mystic powers. But don't get too excited. This post isn't for that. Someday in the near future I will write a comprehensive post about brining in general, my favorite brines, and my favorite foods to apply the brine to. But today's just a lil post on chicken and how to elevate their status in your home kitchen.

Brining is osmosis and diffusion at the same time. I think. Everyone else, as in food scientists who I probably shouldn't be contradicting, just mentions osmosis, but after water leaves the low concentration of water in the meats cells, and flows into the high concentration in the brine, salt, diffuses into the meat, dissolving some of the meat's fibers thus creating more space for water which flows back into the meat,  making it juicier.

But why not bring some more flavor to the party? Bring sugar! He's oh so sweet. And if you want to make it a real banger, why not add some thyme, and lemon and peppercorns (if the water is infused with flavor as it enters the meat, it will bring that with it into the meat), and maybe instead of sugar bring honey--better flavor. Steep everything together (I squirt some lemon juice in and then just throw in the segment that I squeezed in), let cool (or use 1/2 of the weight of the water as ice and cool it down real fast after it has steeped) then put your breasts in for an hour or two. Now that's a party I wanna be invited to ;)

If you're in a rush, just use cool water and dissolve sugar and salt into it. Also 7% means 70 grams of salt for every 1000 grams of water. You can use ml to measure water but grams is more precise. Your chicken will be noticeably moister than if you hadn't used a brine.

Ok, that's all for today.  I'm off to make my cottage cheese.


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Nice post.

Anonymous said...

I get don't want to be Ruhlman, you want to be Harold McGee. Good post! I usually avoid this popular DRY piece of pricey poultry.

Tags said...

If you can rescue just one person from the KFC double dork dip sandwich, it will be well worth it.

Jeremy Hulley said...

Nice post...and I love the underlying get a scale message.

I tend to the 5% brine.

Cory said...

I was a big fan of the brine too. Until I discovered Judy Rogers and Zuni Cafe in San Francisco. I urge you to read up on her (now more widely accepted) philosophy about pre-salting meats. You get much of the same benefits of a brine, but that flabby skin is banished and replaced by shatteringly crispy goodness.

You do a great job here!