The Benefits of Brining

Brining improves food, full stop.  A wide range of foods benefit from brining; not just meats and fish, but even vegetables and tofu. The benefits of brining can (and will) be listed at length. It all but guarantees juicy and tender food, perfect results, and foolproof cooking. Also, it’s much quicker than you might think. However, the Cinder Grill shares many of the benefits of brining. Each can work alone, but they produce even better results when you use them together.

Why Brining Makes Food Juicy and Tender

So, what precisely is brining and what causes all its benefits? To brine food is to soak it in a water-based salt solution. In practice, this solution often also contains other ingredients. These include ugar, garlic, citrus, and other water-soluble flavors. Don’t confuse brines with marinades, which contain acid and often oil, and much less water content. Because of their thickness marinades don’t usually penetrate far below the surface. Also, they form a coating which stays on the food during cooking. In contrast, brines soak well in, often all the way through. However the surface of brined food is usually patted dry before cooking.

What do brines do when they get inside the food? Flavor it, of course, but brines do far more than that. Using salt, sugar, and other dissolved substances to bring water in, they raise the moisture content of the food. They also modify the protein structure inside the food to better hold onto moisture during cooking. Cooking pushes moisture out of food. However, brines counteract this process in two ways. They raise  both the total amount of moisture and the amount of moisture the food can hold onto. Therefore they result in juicy and tender food after foolproof cooking!

 

How to Brine for Perfect Results

The usual ingredients for a brine are:

  • Warm or hot water
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Garlic, citrus, fresh or dried herbs, and other seasonings
  • Ice

The salt and sugar are dissolved in the water and the seasonings steeped. Then ice is added to make the brine cold. This step is very important for food safety — warm brine on raw food could promote dangerous pathogens. Finally the food ts submerged in the brine for an appropriate time period.

However, this overview leaves out many particulars. How much salt, sugar, and flavorings? How long is an ‘appropriate’ time period? Those details depend on precisely what’s being prepared and how much time you have.  Shrimp, for instance, can brine in as quickly as fifteen minutes. In general a stronger brine produces results faster, but a less concentrated brine produces more even results. Also, a less concentrated brine runs less risk of overly salty food. Noted cooking authority Michael Ruhlman has written a useful master recipe which includes a discussion of brining time vs brine concentration. The precise proportions of ingredients and time are determined by what you’re preparing. Still, you can rest assured. Brined food resists overheating, leading to foolproof cooking and juicy and tender results.

 

The Cinder and Foolproof Cooking

Of course, using the Cinder Grill is another method to arrive at perfect results after foolproof cooking.  While brining helps food resist the toughening, drying effects of cooking too hot or too long, the Cinder Grill avoids these pitfalls by design. Using the sous vide method brings the food precisely to temperature. Furthermore by avoiding any temperature higher than the target, the Cinder avoids overheating, maintaining the maximum possible amount of moisture for juicy and tender results. Finally, the Cinder Grill senses and tracks the food’s temperature, ending cooking at exactly the right time. However, while not strictly necessary for cooking on the Cinder, brining still has some benefits to offer.

 

Brining: Optional but Beneficial

Brining enhances tenderness and flavor, even in food cooked under the best possible conditions, i.e., the Cinder Grill. Because it suffuses the food, every bite has the perfect amount of seasoning. Also, proteins modified by brining cook up more tender. So while the Cinder Grill makes brining no longer required for perfect results, teaming up with brining is still worth it. Enjoy foolproof cooking and the most juicy and tender food possible. Let brining work with the Cinder Grill for the most reliably delicious dishes!