Taking the time to brine your meat is one of the easiest ways to improve your cooking. This is a basic brine recipe that uses water, kosher salt and brown sugar.
Let’s take a look at how to make and use this simple brine.
Make the Brine
This recipe is extremely easy to remember when you keep the following ratio in mind, 1:1:1. This ratio means:
- 1 gallon of water
- 1 cup of kosher salt
- 1 cup of brown sugar
Mix the ingredients together in whatever container is needed for the amount of meat you have. You can use a turkey bag, stock pot, bowl – whatever is around and needed. Just make sure that the container is small enough to fit inside your refrigerator.
Use the Brine
You want the brine to fully penetrate the meat so the tenderizing and flavor enhancing capability of the brine is fully realized. The amount of time required will vary based upon the type of meat you are working with.
Brining times for common cuts are given below:
- Fish/Shrimp: 30 minutes
- Chicken Pieces: 4 hours
- Pork Loins: 12 hours
As you can see, smaller cuts need a short soak time while larger cuts should be brined overnight.
The meat MUST be refrigerated as it brines.
When you remove your meat from the brine, rinse thoroughly with cool water. Pat dry and your meat is ready for spices/rubs and off you go!
Recipe Adjustments and Substitutions
Below are some of the most common substitutions and adjustments people make to the basic brine recipe.
Type of Salt
If you are out of kosher salt then you can use coarse sea salt as a straight 1:1 substitution.
If you want to use iodized table salt then only use 3/4 cup instead of a full cup.
Amount of Salt
There are times when I want to start brining chicken pieces tonight so they are ready to grill for lunch tomorrow. If you use the standard brine recipe on small pieces overnight then they can come out too salty.
In these cases where I want to brine small cuts for extended periods of time I will cut the salt in half and use 1/2 cup salt per gallon of water.
There are also times, like at a barbecue competition, where you will want the meat to brine fast. In these cases I will double the salt concentration as you can see in this brine for chicken thighs.
Type of Sugar
The brown sugar in this recipe helps counteract the salt flavor of the brine. I like brown sugar the most for this recipe but it can easily be substituted on a 1:1 basis for white sugar, turbinado sugar, honey or even maple syrup.
Addition of Aromatics
You can dress up the brine by throwing in your favorite aromatics. People routinely add ingredients such as:
- Onion slices
- Crushed garlic cloves
- Celery stalks
- Black peppercorns
- Rosemary sprigs
There is no set amount or limit of aromatics you can add. Use whatever you have on hand and enjoy.
To get the most flavor from the aromatic brine the mixture should be brought to a boil and simmered for a few minutes. Place the warm brine in the refrigerator and make sure that it has completely cooled before use.
Simple Basic Brown Sugar Brine Recipe
- 1 gallon water
- 1 cup kosher salt
- 1 cup brown sugar
- Mix all of the ingredients together in whatever container is needed for the amount of meat you have.
- Add your meat and don’t forget it MUST be refrigerated. Small cuts should be brined for four hours while larger cuts can be brined overnight.
- When you remove your meat from the brine, thoroughly rinse with cool water. Pat dry and your meat is ready for spices/rubs and off you go!