Brining improves flavor, reduces toughness, and adds moisture. Most meats benefit – but lean, tough meats (like game) benefit most of all.For wild birds brining opens up vast cooking options that otherwise may produce dry, tough meat.
It’s also excellent for domestic poultry and pork, but only those that have not already been “enhanced” by injection with salt water – as most are. Read the label.
Like many other brine recipes, this includes sugar. The primary impact is to improve surface browning (Maillard reaction) when cooked. It does not tend to sweeten the food.
Boil about 1/4 of the water.
stir remaining ingredients into hot water until dissolved.
Remove from heat and add remaining water, or water/ice mixture if you're in a hurry.
Refrigerate brine. Do not use until it is below 40°F.
Add meat to tub. If there is skin left you plan to remove before cooking, remove it first. Make sure the meat is all submerged. Weigh it down with a ceramic plate if needed.
Return to the fridge and let it soak. How long depends on the strength (saltiness) of the brine and the size of the pieces of meat. Too short and the brining doesn't get a chance to perform, way too long and the meat could be too salty. General rule of thumb for a medium strength brine (like this one)
Quail/Dove 1-2 hours
Chicken pieces 2-4 hours
Whole pheasant 5-10 hours
Whole chicken (4lb) 10-12 hours
Turkey breast/thigh 4-8 hours
Whole turkey 2-3 days
Rearrange the meat once or twice during the brining time.
Remove the meat, lightly rinse in cold water and pat dry. Discard the used brine.
Cook the meat according to your planned recipe.
Brining adds salt to the meat, so it is obviously not a suitable technique for those on a sodium-restricted diet.
The skin of brined poultry resists browning and becoming crisp. You can improve the situation by patting the meat dry, then storing it uncovered with skin exposed in the refrigerator overnight.
Some folks advocate injecting the brine instead of soaking in it, to leave the skin less affected. Others prefer "dry brining" which is like using a really salty rub. Both work, and are worth exploring.