Strange brining results--advice?

arley_gwJune 15, 2012

I cooked a couple of chickens on the rotisserie last night. They were nice fat ones--6 to 7 pounds.

I had brined them using the recipe in Ruhlman's 'Charcuterie'--basically, 1 cup of salt per gallon, plus whatever herbs & spices I wanted. The recipe called for 1/2 cup of sugar, but I didn't have any so I didn't use it.

Brined them for about 8 hours, then rinsed them off. Put them back in the fridge, in the now-empty brining pot, oriented vertically--tail up, neck cavity down--for about another 10 hours until it was time to cook them.

Trussed them, then covered the breasts with foil at the beginning of the rotisserizing, removed the foil after about 45 minutes. Took about another 45 minutes for the breast meat to get to 165 degrees.

They came out picture perfect beautiful, golden brown. The breast meat came out exquisite: juicy, flavorful, perfectly seasoned, not at all dry. The dark meat came out excessively salty. Not so salty that it was inedible, but far saltier than I would have preferred.

My question is this: does dark meat have a special affinity for salt compared with white meat? I'm curious as to why one came out perfect, and the other didn't.

Next time I'll halve the salt, use the sugar it called for, and lessen the time in the brine to 4 or 6 hours.

(By the way, this reminds me of a Churchill story. Winston was at a Georgetown dinner party at which chicken was served. He asked the hostess for some more breast, and the blushing hostess informed him that here in the US we used the term 'white meat'. The next day Winston sent her a corsage along with a note that read, 'I would be most obliged if you would pin this on your white meat.')

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Arley, your story made me laugh!

I'm going with Lars/Annie's discussion on his smoking vegetables. He posited that when he added fat, they more readily "absorbed" (is that right?) smoke. So, the fattier something is (and dark meat is fattier than white (breast) meat), the easier it absorbs ______________. Maybe he's on to something. I've dry brined, but not soak brined, so I can't say for certain.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2012 at 10:52AM
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Arley, I always brine chickens using 1 cup kosher salt (not table) and 1 cup sugar per gallon of water. Brining time for a big chicken, like your 6-7 pounders, is a couple of hours. I've never brined a chicken for 8. Cook's Illustrated gives brining times of about an hour for an average (3-4 lb) chicken. My chickens end up juicy but not salty, at least no-one has ever said so.

I would guess that your brining time of 8 hours is too long. And if you used table salt rather than kosher, it was too much. My preferred kosher salt is Diamond, but I've also used Mortons and generic. Rough conversion is 1 cup coarse kosher salt = 1/2 cup table salt.


    Bookmark   June 15, 2012 at 11:49AM
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Cheryl, thanks for the info. Last weekend I made a brine of 1 cup Diamond Crystal (which as you pointed out, by weight is about the same as 1/2 cup table salt), and 1/2 cup sugar per gallon. Brined the 6 pound chickens for about 2.5 hours.

They came out perfectly, except the wings got a little too browned. Dunno whether or not it was the amount of sugar or the fact that they came a little closer to the rotisserie element. Next time I'll protect them with a little foil.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2012 at 4:31PM
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Congratulations! So glad to hear of your success. I'm a definite brining convert. I do all chickens, turkeys and even pork (after reading that David Chang does his pork this way). No dry meat for me.


    Bookmark   June 21, 2012 at 5:15PM
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arley, we just processed 30 broiler chickens, between 5 and 8 pounds dressed, and I'm brining one overnight tomorrow for the rotisserie on Saturday.

I'll sure watch the salt content, I know I'm out of kosher, so maybe half as much. Or maybe I need to go to the store tomorrow for kosher salt....


    Bookmark   June 21, 2012 at 9:56PM
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IIRC, Diamond Crystal kosher salt is around 5 ounces by weight per cup, Morton's kosher salt is around 7 or 8 ounces, and regular table salt is around 10 ounces. I did find that using a cup of Diamond Crystal per gallon was just about right.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2012 at 8:31AM
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