Photo by Donna T. Ruhlman

Brine: A brine is salt in solution.  Brining is a powerful technique for seasoning meat and fish and can also cure it and introduce complementary flavors.  Fresh vegetables can be brined at room temperature for a natural pickle, one in which the acid is generated by bacteria.  Brine strength, the ratio of salt to water, can vary but a good working ratio is a cup of kosher salt (between 6 and 8 ounces) per gallon which, depending on the type of salt you use will result in a 5% to 6% brine.  For an exact brine, it’s easiest to use metric measurements—50 grams of salt per liter of water results in a 5% brine.  Always use kosher or sea salt, and it’s best to weigh the salt rather than measure it by volume.  A 5% brine is also an excellent liquid in which to cook green vegetables and the ideal strength for natural pickles.  A small amount of sugar is often added to a brine to counteract the harshness of salt.  Aromats can be added to the brine to complement the flavor of the meat or vegetables (tarragon and citrus for chicken for instance, garlic and sage for pork chops, garlic and chillis for pickled vegetables).  Aromats should be simmered in the brine while the salt dissolves to infuse the water.  Brines should be completely chilled before the meat or vegetable is added and should be discarded after they’ve been used (never reuse a brine).  The brined item should rest after being removed from the brine to allow the salt concentration to equalize within the meat.  A brined piece of meat, which has absorbed water, will result in a ten to fifteen percent greater yield and often juicier finished meat.

–from The Elements of Cooking: Translating the Chef’s Craft for Every Kitchen

The above image is from the corned beef soon to simmer in a spicy liquid.  I used a five percent brine along with chilli flakes, mustard seed, coriander, ginger, peppercorns, cinnamon, cloves, garlic and importantly, pink salt  (which gives the meat its distinctive piquant flavor and rosy color).  Home-cured beef is fantastic, easy, and enormously satisfying (there’s a complete recipe in Charcuterie).  I now find it difficult to enjoy a store-bought corned beef, not because there’s anything wrong really with buying a brisket  that’s been brined, only that having enjoyed so thoroughly curing my own I’m acutely conscious of the pleasure I’ve deprived myself of by not doing it myself.  And it doesn’t taste as good.
    One of the many extraordinary uses we can put a brine to.  If all you have available is crummy factory pork loin, second in it’s lack of taste only to the factory chicken breast, brining it is a good way to make it more moist and flavorful.  But again, I want to stress that a brine is a multi-faceted tool: it’s a perfect medium for cooking green vegetables, pickling vegetables (now, when it’s cool, is a good time to pickle vegetables—keep cut root vegetables and aromatics submerged in a 5% brine for a week and you’ll have a nice clean sour pickle), curing meat such as beef or pork loin (for Canadian bacon) or shoulder or leg (for ham), and enhancing the flavor and juiciness of meats we roast.


78 Wonderful responses to “Brine, an extraordinary tool”

  • Sharon

    Did you ever brine a brisket without the pink salt? I did because I didn’t have access to any and the flavor, texture and color were satisfying and really delicious. Better than store brined!

    The link you gave said the pink salt helped the meat to last longer but we don’t have that problem in this house… all leftovers are eaten on a sandwich the next day.

  • ruhlman

    i have brined beef without pink salt and you’re right, it works just fine. there is some flavor difference but the biggest difference is it looks like pot roast, not corned beef.

  • ntsc

    I haven’t used pink salt when brining brisket, although now that I have it I will.

    The meat, color aside, was superior to store purchased in both flavor and texture.

    However, this years St. Patricks day corned beef is purchased, as I was traveling last week. My wife is quite willing to eat and use my experiments in charcuterie (she likes the pancetta and dry cured ham a lot), but unwilling to participate in them.

    And to change the subject. I’ve four of your dry cured sausages hanging, some have developed spots of white mold, not fuzzy. As I recall it is the Tuscan and Hungarian salamis that had the mold last night. The Spanish chorizo didn’t and I’m not sure of the pepperone, which didn’t the first time I made it.

  • Kevin

    The home-brined beef, using your seasoning, is far better than the store-bought stuff. I’ve got a brisket brining right now that I’ll cook this afternoon.

  • Stephanie

    I totally just brined my own corned beef using the recipe from Charcuterie!! I’m very excited. It’s in the crock-pot as we speak. I had to cook it that way so I could eat dinner at a reasonable hour.

  • Jason

    Enjoying your blog for a while now.

    Canadian Bacon? I’ve got pork loin in the freezer. How do you create it, man? How? How?!?

  • Derrick Schneider

    You say never reuse a brine, but I have seen countless bits of advice from respected authors/cooks who say the opposite. I’m pretty sure Quick Pickles (Chris Schlesinger et al) recommends it (though my copy is still in some box), and I know I’ve seen it elsewhere. The use of pickling brines for skin care and so forth is long established in many cultures.

    (On a side note, one of the best foods I’ve ever eaten was a hard-boiled egg that had been brined in a leftover olive brine.)

    Doesn’t the salinity wipe out many of the bacteria in fresh water through osmotic pressure? Isn’t that why you store items in brine in the first place? Because pickling can happen when bad bacteria are kept away?

  • ruhlman

    Derrick, bacteria may have been introduced into the brine by the meat, and the brine may not kill all bacteria. But the main issue is the brine strength–after you’ve used it, it’s no longer the same. Brine is inexpensive and easy to make. There are no good reason to reuse brine.

    Jason, you can brine it like a corned beef but you really do need the pink salt, and after it’s brined Canadian bacon is smoked (which you can accomplish on a grill if you have one.

  • Scotty

    My Ruhlman/Polcyn brisket is cured and ready to go tonight, and I also have a rye sour brewing for bread because what I am really looking forward to is my first Reuben!

    (I also corn beef with a dry cure occasionally, and steam the beef rather than simmering it. It works even better for sandwiches that way.)

  • Doodad

    I got my brisket, got the spices, had Charcuterie on the stand and was ready to try. I can not find curing salt anywhere in this town. You would think in Atlanta someone would have it. I called everywhere.

  • ErikaK

    My order from Butcher-Packer came 2 days too late for home-cured corned beef 🙁
    But, all is not lost, I plan on thouroghly rinsing the store bought package, tossing their spices & braising in home made spices.
    Sandwiches on rye with home made cole slaw & Russian dressing, and Murphy’s stout for dessert
    Happy St Patty’s day

  • Kitt

    Well now I wish you’d posted this a few days ago so I could be enjoying a home-brined brisket for St. Patrick’s Day instead of store-bought.

    Bet it makes for great hash, too!

  • Claudia (cook eat FRET)

    placed my butcher-packer order and i anxiously await its arrival. corned beef and sausages are on the horizon. and i finally bought charcuterie!

    my 8 lb. pork belly is curing as we speak – alla dan barber’s recipe. i got it from niman ranch. finally found some at our international market but the potential source of origin freaked me out too much – so i shelled out the cash…

  • katy

    Hmmm — I always thought you needed vinegar to pickle vegetables, maybe that’s why I haven’t been happy with my home-pickled-onions yet. I’ll try it this way next and compare!

  • Sues is not Martha

    Brining is one of my favorite techniques. Now I’m mad I completely disregarded the fact that it’s St. Patrick’s Day and didn’t bother getting corned beef or anything remotely festive.


  • luis

    Grasshopper has much to learn….! On the bright side, if grasshopper wasn’t learning… grasshopper begone. True, some home kitchens might as well be restaurant kitchens were fires glow 24/7 and heat and cold and wash and rinse are just built in.
    Me, I am waiting on my Joyce Chen Cast iron wok with flat bottom to see if it makes up for the lack of heat in my electric cooktop.
    But the lessons here are very valuable. Brining is right out of the “elements of cooking playbook”. Alton Brown described it as some sort chemical process wereby the item being brined either absorbs or excretes salts and other chemicals in symphaty to the brining solution until some equilibrium was established across the fluid/food boundary. I can totally see how brining can impart certain flavors to the food. The question in my mind is, How is brining different from marination. Back to the ” elements o’ cooking” for that one.

  • Dick Black

    Mr Ruhlman,
    Would you be able to clearly define Canadian bacon? Always some discussion here as McDonald’s use “canadian” bacon on their egg mcmuffins while CDN’s would call this a cured ham product.

    Back Bacon which is another popular CDN pork product(usually center loin) is rolled in corn meal after brining and is often referred to as ‘peameal” bacon. Do you know how this would differ from Irish bacon ? During a past Iron Chef Battle Bacon, both Susur Lee and Bobby Flay used this Irish bacon. Is it CDN peameal bacon sans the corn meal ? Looked quite similar. Pretty confusing eh ?

  • Bob

    Ate the corned beef ala Charcuterie book last night with the family. Ma and Pa said it was the best ever. I used store bought pickling spice… but probably won’t next time around. I’ll want a bit more control over the spice amounts. Too much allspice seemed to make it into the mix. Anyhoo… It’s very interesting how the meat changes over 5 days… it goes from red to furry brown back to pink.

    I also hauled out about 2 pounds and made pastrami with it about 3 days in. That worked wonderfully.

    Gotta use the Guiness in the pot when you stew it tho… definitely makes it extra good. Also I recommend soaking the whole thing in clean water for a day after the brining… sucks out the excess salt….

  • Hank

    Ah, thanks for jogging my memory on natural pickles! I have zillions of little carrots in my garden now that will bolt in a few weeks unless I do something with them. I adore natural pickled cucumbers, but it is always too hot to do the natural pickle when they come ripe. But lacto-pickled carrots are a go!

  • sygyzy

    Great post, as always. The only comment I have is I don’t think brine is inexpensive (in both time and dollars) to make. Last time I made brine was for Bouchon roast chicken and it is such a hassle. It took a long time because you have to wait for it to boil and then completely cool. Also, it requires so many herbs that you don’t just have laying around (at least not in my kitchen), so that’s an addded expense.

  • Andrew

    FYI (to Claudia and others), if you live in an area with an Asian grocery market, you can often find pork belly at appropriate (i.e., super cheap, $2/lb) prices. I shop at our local Asian mart about once every two weeks now, mostly to stock up on pork belly for Ruhlman’s awesome pork belly confit recipe….

  • bob mcgee

    I work in a neighborhood grocery store, and every St. Patty’s day, there is this “friendly” competition between the meat department and my deli regarding corned beef. They do this 21 day brine that they swear by, I do a 5 day, neither one is allowed to use pink salt as per store policy. It’s just not the same to me without cure salt, but will play by the rules at work.
    syqyzy, if you decrease the water in the recipe by half(by weight) in a brine, you can boil the water faster, then pour it over the same amount of ice(by weight) and speed up the process significantly. I think it’s been discussed here before, but I don’t remember Michaels take on the subject.
    Another helpful hint is to be sure your water is rather cool when you add pink salt.

  • e. nassar

    Bouchon’s recipe is not a simple brine. It’s Keller’s brine!! We all know how finicky and exacting he is. Simple brine, like Ruhlman states is nothing more than a salt solution. Everything else is optional. So, if you add a few spices or some sugar. good. If not then it will still work, and it sure is inexpensive.

    I also buy bellies from Asian markets sometimes, but in all honesty they do not compare with the Neiman Ranch product, in taste, look or provenance (I do care a lot about where the pigs come from and how they were raised)

  • Lori

    How fantastic!
    And just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, too. Haven’t made a “corned beef” in years!

    I’ll give it a try today. Just thinking about the Reuben Sandwiches I can make from the leftovers is making my mouth water. Thanks for the inspiration.

  • silabag

    We have just started to brine Venison Hind quarters like Corned Beef and it is awesome the texture is tighter(due to the lack of fat) and the flavor is better than beef. So if happen to find a spare hind quarter laying around and are tires of the same ol’ Venison fare, give it a try.

  • Danelle (freshfoodfarmerNC)

    I love reubens and would have never dreamed of making my own corned beef. Now though I know I will have to try. Sounds delish!

  • luis

    googled “brining” and found a wonderful
    “How to” article from Derrick Riches in “about.com” It discusses the technique and includes links to several brining recipes he recommends.
    After reading the article and the recipes the first thing that popped in my mind is that “Seviche” is an extreme type of brine that not only imparts flavor but also cooks the fish. The light went on upstairs and this is something I am doing. Already have a pork tenderloin defrosting. Will use Derrick’s pork tenderloin brine recipe. Derrick also suggests that brining imparts flavor better than rubs. He suggests we take the rubs and put them in the brine for better flavoring throught the meats.
    Still can not get over how much better my morning coffee is, using the percolator. If brining is half as good as the percolator tip was, my cooking skills will get a serious boost.

  • Andrew

    e.nassar —

    I’ll have to give the Niman Ranch stuff a try sometime, but it’s hard for me to imagine anything tasting better than the cheap stuff, quick cured in salt and five-spice, then slow cooked at 175 for two days in its own fat.

    In a play on the “pork belly caesar” Ruhlman posted a few months ago, I’ve taken to refrigerating the belly, cutting into crouton-shaped cubes, breading and deep frying the cubes for a deliciously unexpected porky crouton in your salad….

  • Andrew

    And, in an effort to stay on topic on this thread:

    I love brining chicken; it’s the second-best way I know to keep the meat moist during cooking (the best way being sous vide). But lately my brined chickens have all come out a lot saltier than I would like. Any ideas how to control the too-salty taste? Let me add that I am not one of these folks who are super-sensitive to salt; I like a lot of salt on my food. But this has been a bit too much lately.


  • Egaeus

    This has been bugging me since I read it in the book, so the geek in me has to say something. The brine formula is close, but not correct. To get a 5% (by weight) solution, you need 950 ml of water and 50 g salt for 1000 total grams, 5% of which is salt. For 1 liter of water, you would need 1000/19 (~52.6) g salt. Yay pedantry!

    Now back to your regularly scheduled food blogging.

  • Rory

    i’ve been curious about reusing brine ever since first reading Fergus Henderson’s “Nose to Tail” and “Beyond Nose to Tail” cookbooks. In them he talks about “your brine bucket” as if it’s a permanent fixture in the fridge. For example, he says that if you can’t get enough pig ears all at once for a particular recipe, just throw them in the brine bucket until you’ve got enough. Or he’ll talk about throwing different meats for multiple recipes in at the same time. I don’t have the books in front of me for precise examples, but is he just completely ignoring food safety? Or is there something special about his brine that makes it safe?

  • CG

    Great post in time for St. Paddy’s. We got ‘into the brine’ after reading the Kurlansky Salt book. The Thanksgiving Turkey, goose, barbied-shrimps, asparagus, all benefit from some time in the brine. IMO it is a cheap and easy way to push your dish toward the next level.


  • luis

    Andrew, from the primer I posted previously from about.com and from what ruhlman himself posted it seems the amount of salt to water if you are using water is pretty much universal and well understood.
    So your other variable is brining time. Also I am not clear if after the brining when you actually do the recipe you season the meat or poultry or you consider that step done and just cook it. One thing Derrick points out for poultry is that there is an extra step after brining the bird. It needs to rest for some specified amount of time to absorb the water or something off its skin.

  • Connor

    Over the weekend, I brined and smoked two chickens. Even with the smoke, you could still taste the herbs (tarragon and parsley) and acid (grapefruit juice) from the brine…and the meat was incredibly juicy. I almost always brine chicken because the extra step is so worth it. They’re perfectly seasoned every time (granted that you don’t leave the chickens in the brine too long) and it’s kind of extra insurance policy if you happen to overcook them a few degrees.

  • Kaizen

    Brine…and brine boldly!

    Sygyzy, to cool your brine more quickly, try making the salt solution with less water first so it cools faster. For example, take a gallon of water and use say six cups to your one cup of kosher salt. Heat to dissolve the salt. Use another portion of the gallon of water to heat the other brining ingredients to release their flavors. Combine the two (which is still hot) and then add the remaining water, which is cool. I then fill my sink with cold water and submerge the pot of brine in the cold water to cool it down more quickly.

    Andrew, see Ruhlman’s suggested brine times in his (and Polcyn’s)book “Charcuterie.” A 3-4 lb. chicken should brine 8-12 hours. Err on less time.

    The above, I have found through trial and error.

  • ErikaK

    I did the brined pork chops with garlic & sage from Charcuterie last week, they were fabulous!!
    Unfortunately, my Butcher-Packer order came 2 days too late to get home corned beef ready. So I bought the store bought stuff but cooked it in the home-made pickling spices. Still good, can’t wait to make my own.

  • Skawt


    Who are you calling an extraordinary tool? Don’t make me get Cosentino and his cauliflower in here.

  • Mike

    After many tasty Pastrami’s made with Beef Plate, we recently used Plate to make a Corned Beef. It was the absolute best I’ve ever tasted. Thank you Mike R.!

    Currently clearing out the freezer for a Berkshire hog, & extra pork bellies & beef plate.

  • luis

    Kaisen, you posted…”Andrew, see Ruhlman’s suggested brine times in his (and Polcyn’s)book “Charcuterie.” A 3-4 lb. chicken should brine 8-12 hours. Err on less time.”

    This appears not cast in stone. I see this as the variable in the equation. Derrick suggests in his primer that a 4-5 lb chicken should brine for 4-5 hrs… One hr per lb is his thing.

    on another thing.. I feel fine about the brine I made this am for the tenderloin I will cook tomorrow. I put my hand in it and it came out very pleasantly flavored and perfumed. Mostly salt, sugar, sage, peppercorns, hint o’garlic and a helping of allspice. Love my herbs..the ones I am actually able to grow. Well tomorrow I will cook the tenderloin so I have lots of research to do tonite.

    On another thought I read Ruhlmans opinions on how chefs should cook green veggies and again the importance of shocking them. Plus I also read the link on Heat.
    It is becoming pretty obvious that to really cook you do need the warm up oven and the ice machines and the heating and the shocking… It makes sense. In sports is the same thing. The difference between a tournament player and a weekend warrior is an ocean apart in the amount of effort dedicated to producing a stroke. In it for a penny in it for a lb. Lesson taught lesson learned.

    Read the link in heat alone. It is so reminiscent of the effort producing a stroke that the coach would admire, to something he would just pull down his cap over his face and pretend you were some one elses rookie that it’s not funny.

    Greatness requires an all out effort and then some.

    Funny thing is that by reading up on brining and the process.. I am tempted if I ever find a reliable rock solid source of fresh shrimp..to takle shrimp seviche again. Time run down to the river a check out the outlets for the shrimping fleet. I mean forget buying anything off the Publix or any other supermarket… pheeeewwwwww!!!!!!

  • luis

    Found Brined Pork Roast recipe in Sparks book.
    The brine she recommends is strikingly similar to the one I am using from Derricks.
    The thing she stresses in the recipe is that you season the pork with the olive oil and aromatics etc.. but you do not add salt to it. The brine already did that. Let’s do it…

  • luis

    Done deal, roast and veggies are out and the brine did its thing. My next brine for pork will be done inside of 12 hrs not 24. Also I will have more appropiate amounts of spices and herbs in it. This is were the food service quantities and the Costco thing can help. On the real positive side the meat is tender not dry and juicy. I may start the next brine for pork at 8 or 10 hrs and go up or down from there. Still I know this is heresy to mention but there is an advantage to doing this all in one step in the slow cooker and done deal. Brown the meat in the pan and presto brine and cook baby in one big unsupervised step. Just if you want veggies then that’s a separate veggie roast in the oven. My next brine will definitelly be a chicken that I will butterfly and roast in the oven.

  • Sarah


    I brined my brisket for 10 days and it made a terrific corned beef. However, it had quite a strong vinegar taste. Any commentary on what may have caused it?

  • luis

    Oh, The other important thing I need to do is get a scale. volumetric vs weight COULD MAKE a huge difference in the outcome of the concentration of salt in the brine. The thing that clues me into this is that both Sparks and Derrick melted their salt in two cups of boiling water……I went volumetric and needed much more water to get the salt and sugar into solution. I think this is were my proportions went astray. If so then I will reconsider the brining time experiment and just make sure I have the right proportions next time…..

  • NYCook

    Ruhlman. I was reading the latest food arts and was curious about your pork belly confit. Did you confit it and then lay it on the griddle to crisp? Also were you using a flat top or a tilt skillet.

  • robin

    may be off target, but every year we brine out thanksgiving turkey. I t is actually Alton’s recipe. You can not make gravey from it though because the drippings are very salty, but the turkey is wonderful…

  • luis

    Been trying to make sense of by volume vs by weight… nobody knows the diff. Unless there is a really big diff.. then brining and microwaving live in the same chaotic world…and seviche too…
    Very finicky techniques. Definitelly not the blunt instrument that makes money.

    In brining the issue is managing the saltiness of the outcome and in seviche the issue is the managing the acidity lemony taste of the seviche.

    Still I feel the technique is powerful because it infuses flavors and moistness into the meats even saltiness if you will.. it’s powerful.

    Again if volume vs weight is no issue the recipes I have seen from everyone are all wrong.Don’t even try them they don’t work.

    One gal is 128 fl oz… so basically 8 fl oz is roughly 6%. Marinate that for 24 hrs and it comes out too salty. Doesn’t work. It doesn’t disolve in two cups of water and it sure as hell doesn’t work.

    A 2% Solution would come to 2.5 fl oz… that’s probably on the high side too. I mean its great to have a tasty moisterfumed/ flavored piece of meat or poultry to roast…. but next time I will have a 1% solution. That comes to ~1.3 fl oz of salt. And I will throw a pinch salt on the meat or bird for good measure. As for seviche… that is way off on the backburner for now.

  • luis

    Well, got a scale and guess what? by weight by volume kosher salt and water is no diff…no diff. So this is exactly like microwaving were you need to take into account the weight and surface of the meat or poultry and the power of the microwave/brine solution vs the UNSPECIFIED brining/waving time. Totally chaotic unless you have all the variables well controlled I can not see the recipes out there working out for you.
    I suggest to take out the brining time we stretch it to infinity meaning 24hrs for meat which is recommended by some and I can live with one hr/lb for poultry. But the percentage of the salt in the solution will definitelly need to be RADICALLY cut. My starting point all spices and herbs being equal and not introducing even more salt into the mix.. is 1.3 fluid oz for a ~1% salt solution BASELINE. Just to see what that tastes like, and adjusted up or down from there. True, I am NOT a big salt person and you don’t see me doing the Emeril thing piling handfulls of salt on everything. I am the first one to admit that I am at the low end of the big salt scale.
    Still the question is, how do so many experts have so wrong?. Unfrieking believable… I mean out of the gate the 8oz of salt and sugar do not go into solution in two cups of boiling water…and at the end there is just to much salt in the meat.

  • luis

    Check this one out…”All about salt

    Kamal Lodaya, The Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai
    Salt and proportion
    Food dishes are all about ratio and proportion. A well-made fruit salad with 1 apple, 2 bananas and 6 grapes is delicious. One made of 2 apples, 6 bananas and 1 grape is sure to upset your stomach. A khichdi has roughly equal amounts of dal and rice. Increasing either the dal or the rice too much will give you a different dish. And everyone knows how an accidental double helping of salt can make a dish taste too strong.
    Our bodies are excellent regulators of proportion. For example, your body will have about 100 grams of salt for every 40 kilos of weight. So when you grow from 40 kilos to 50 kilos, the salt in your body goes up from 100 to 125 grams.
    What if you eat salted chips which increase the salt concentration in your body? The extra salt is passed out in the urine and 1:400 concentration is maintained.””

    100 grams of salt to 40,000 grams of salt. 1:400 folks. That means the brining fluid is sitting at .05~.06% CONCENTRATION while your meat is barely sitting at 0.003% concentration. check this out brine = 6/100 and meat = 3/1000 do you see how this can NOT work properly over a long period of time. Do you see why the 5~6% recipe can NOT work?

    (This is a perfect lead in to the rumored new book Ruhlman may be hatching….some noise about it from Cosentino’s blogs. It’s all about proportions.)

    A 1% baseline I was thinking of trying in my next brine may still be over the line. 1/100 to 3/1000? NOT EVEN IN THE BALLPARK…still way off…. but when it comes to flavor? who knows? this is uncharted territory for me. A 4 oz piece of meat at 100 times the salt concentration of my body may actually feel ok?…if it doesn’t kill me. This is the kind of thing you need Bourdain for….Where is he when you really need him?.
    On a more common sense level we/I salt my food with one or two finger pinches/4-6 oz of meat/side… say. Do you guys know what even a four finger pinch of salt comes to in proportion to 8 freaking oz???????? THIS IS INSANE!!!!! Somebody get Hold of Bourdain and make sure his insurance policy is paid up.

  • kmgshade

    never reuse a brine? yes, meat i agree and understand.
    rule #1 in a restaurant is to throw as little away as possible. a used vegetable brine might be a touch diluted, but it has also picked up the vegetable flavor that could in turn enhance a meat that is put in after the veggies.


  • luis

    Healthy choice… web site partial label info… for sake of illustration
    “”Meals – Beef Pot Roast
    Nutritional Information
    Serving size: 1 Meal (11 oz)
    Calories: 310
    Calories from fat: 70
    Amount/Serving %DV*
    Total Fat (7 g) 11 %
    Saturated Fat (3 g) 15 %
    Trans Fat (0g) 0%
    Cholesterol (45 mg) 15 %
    Sodium (500 mg) 21 %
    Vitamin A 60 %
    Calcium 4 %
    Amount/Serving %DV*
    Total Carbohydrates (45 g) 15 %
    Dietary Fiber (5 g) 20 %
    Sugar (21 g)
    Protein (15 g)
    Vitamin C 30 %
    Iron 10 “”

    Conversion factors
    1 milligram = 3.52739619 × 10-5 ounces

    So a tv dinner which is edible and loaded with sodium this one better than most has a tolerable:
    (500) x 3.5 E-5 = 0.0175 oz of salt
    0.0175 / 11oz meal = 0.0015 salt content in the tv dinner.

    This is exactly ½ of the 0.003 proportion of salt in the human body we posted about.
    So even the food that is loaded with sodium for preservative use shows a
    sodium concentration that is lower than that of our bodies by one half. If we were to brine
    a piece of meat to a sodium content of this tv dinner we would be looking for the meat to
    reach a concentration of 0.0015.
    Now here is the big question, if the brining process is 100% efficient and sodium were to be transferred back and forth until exact equilibrium between the brine and the meat were achieved then our ideal brine solution would be 0.0015 + .003 or even 0.005 % concentration. This would come
    to a brine solution of ~ 2/3 oz sodium which again seems ridiculous compared to the volume of recipes out there calling for 8oz sodium in brine solutions.

    It becomes a hit and a miss thing because the rate of sodium transfer to the meat is UNKNOWN. We have no equation to solve here that I can figure out so far. (more research may yield a clue). For Starters If we use a LOWER concentration of salt in the brine to our bodies then the salt will COME OUT of the meat. So we need to go in at a higher Concentration of salt in the brine to the meat. Take the .003 natural proportion of sodium in the meat and add to it .0015
    and you end up with a brine that is approximatelly .005 % A 5 in 1000 proportion and not the 5 in 100 proportion every recipe out there calls for.

    Again the rate of absorption is the UNKNOWN. If you are in a comercial kitchen and can’t wait around for a brine to work you would kick up, supercharge it to the 8oz (5 in 100) proportion. Do that with all the other flavors and CUT your brining time to one or two hrs or whatever you need. But for overnight brines I will assume equilibrium will be reached between the solution and the meat in 24hrs time and start with a 5 in 1000 concentration or 2/3 oz of sodium and scale down all the other ingredients considerable.
    For instance there is a snowballs chance in hell a peppercorn will cross the fluid tissue boundary…So I will grind it into the brine etc.. grind everything even the aromatics.. one big freaking grind into the brine. Cheers… This plan is coming together… next stop turkey breast maple brine a la home cooking.

  • luis

    Turkey breast defrosted a few days ago. In a cold fridge so I will check it out.. it’s probably still good. So the regular Eureka kitchen moment..if nothing else but to see were we are at. I have MOJO marinade. It’s a typical spanish marinade and its fairly liquid. everything in solution already with 270 mg of sodium. Easy enough two ounces in a brine solution overnight should give me a better read of were my understanding of brining is at. There is so much to learn and it is so exciting to be learning….
    Can’t wait to get my hands around brining. My Julie Chen cast iron wok is in the house. It is gorgeous…and for the first time I feel I might actually stir fry something right.

  • luis

    Interesting read on salt penetrating spanish ham…..from
    “Research and Reviews: Meat
    Special Circular 172-99

    Results and Discussion
    The results obtained in this study establish that salt penetration during the salting step is not a simple process with a constant diffusion coefficient.
    The total amount of salt penetrating each day in jamón is presented in Figure 1. It is possible to see that that there is a complex penetration pattern and most of the salt penetrating the jamón tissue occurs at the end of the salting process. These are not the expected results since the differences in salt concentrations are much higher at the beginning of the salting process.

    Figure 1. Total amount of salt penetrating in Spanish Jamón during salting. Figure 2. Apparent diffussion coeficient (D) of salt in the Jamón salting step.

    To further clarify these results, the apparent D(diffusion) values were calculated and presented in Figure 2. It is possible to see that the D value changes during the salting step in a rather complex pattern.
    The D values calculated from our results in the first day were lower than the normal effective diffusion coefficient found for fresh pork by Fox (1980) and were further reduced in the following days to very low values until the 11th day of salting. Then the effective coefficient of diffusion increased to values close to those found in the literature.
    The low initial results might be due to the time required for the initial brine formation outside the ham tissue. Initial salt penetration in meat requires that water from the product escapes from the ham to create a brine solution. According to Saravacos (1994), in salting food products, complex mechanisms operate. In addition to the simple diffusion due to the differences in concentration, salt diffuses into meat tissues due to osmotic processes in the membranes, flowing through capillary spaces between fibers and hydrodynamic flow (Bruin and Luyben, 1980). It is also necessary to realize that salt can influence the tissue structure (Raoult Wack, 1994).
    In fact, the existence of “speeding paths” into meat tissues would explain the relative high D value for salt in meat vs. the D value for salt in water (Saravacos, 1994). As salt diffuses into the tissues, there is an interaction with meat proteins that increases their WHC (Hamm, 1960). As proteins hydrate, there is a “closing” of the paths for salt penetration, and a very low D value is obtained until the salt concentration reaches 6 to 8%. When the salt content further increases as diffusion proceeds, proteins shrink and the paths again open, increasing the D value.
    These results are very significant in ham processing since it suggests that most of the salt penetration during ham salting occurs at the end of the salting process. Therefore, it is necessary to maintain close control at the end of the salting step, to be able to obtain at least the minimum salt level required for processing, as well as to avoid too much salt in jamón. “

    This is a very complicated process…to say the least. If there was a little gizmo we could pop into the ham to see were its salt content is at, then we could monitor the brining process intelligently. I am sure such thing exists out there in the comercial world….

  • luis

    This bit from WEBER BULLET Q…. Pretty much shots down brining at lower strength which is were I am at for a very interesting reason.
    The end result is less moist….or you don’t achieve the optimun juiciness…o’course salt RETAINS WATER… We are all too familiar with the water retention bit… here this is worth a read:

    “”Low-Salt Brining Doesn’t Work

    Some people find that flavor brined meat is just too salty for their tastes. Will a flavor brine still work if you cut the amount of salt in half? Not according to the November/December 2002 issue of Cook’s Illustrated magazine.

    Cook’s brined shrimp, pork chops, and whole chicken in a full-strength solution and a half-strength solution for 1 hour per pound. After cooking and tasting, they found that the meats brined at half-strength were a lot less salty than those brined at full-strength,””((EUREKA THIS IS WHERE I AM AT)) “”but the improvement in moisture content was marginal, at best. In fact, for shrimp and chicken, Cook’s felt that there was no point in flavor brining at half-strength at all.
    “If you are very sensitive to salt, we recommend that you skip brining,” says Cook’s””

    But another way to have moist meat is to use a siringe thing and inject the moisture/butter solution directly into the meat… Of course again if you added the salt in the siringe… skip brining, but don’t forget brining still infuses other flavors into meat so I am thinking go ahead brine at low concentration and mechanical inject moistness prior to roasting.

  • luis

    Well reading some more on Salt testing of foods seems to suggest that measuring the impedance of the meat (typical resistance measurement)might be usefull in determining the salt content of the meats.
    Haven’t found anyone making such a meter but would not surprise me if they were already out.
    I did find salinity meters that are used in fish farming and other techniques. If brining for flavor really takes off….$$$$$$$$cha ching!

  • luis

    Turkey breasts in home made mojo sauce with guava shells and plump sweet prunes was a big succes. I was told it was the star of the Easter pot luck. Thank you Ruhlman for pointing out this great technique.

    While I agree with the Weber bbq brining primer that some people (I suspect a lot of people) find the 5% brine solution delivers a very salty meat, I disagree with their take on lower salt brining. If you increase the salt proportion in the meat the moisture content of the meat should rise accordingly. A little or a lot still delivers moister meats. Where as if you dust the outside of the meat with salt…it DRAWS THA WATER OUT.
    Besides salt it infuses all other flavors you choose to combine in the brine.
    Also I think the mojo brine was a success because everything was in solution already, nothing big..pepper was in there ground up and garlic and orange and salt etc… large chunks of garlic or peppercorn will never diffuse across the brine/tissue boundary into the meat in my opinion. In my brines I will make Pesto out the ingredients going in and dilute them as much as I can. The home made mojo I used to bake and baste the turkey in contained all traditional mojo ingredients I could find laying around including garlic and shallots ground up and a fine extra virgin olive oil to make a nice emulsion. But NO salt. The turkey meat did not weep when I carved it but it was not dry either. I have to say lower salt brining works fine and that goes for moderation of the proportions of all the ingredients in the brine. You don’t need to blow your wad in the brine. You simply re-enforce the work of the brine in the sauce you baste the meat in.

  • Shelley

    Luis, maybe you should get your OWN blog? Give it a rest, please.

  • luis

    Shelley, I think brining may change the way I roast and the way my food tastes. Forgive my enthusiasm on the subject. I am excited about brining and I am learning a lot here even if I have to dig some of it on my own.

    Didn’t intend to add anything to what I had already shared on brining. I look forward to reading what others think and say on brining.

    I thank Rhulman for bringing this technique to our attention. Brining is imprecise and I found out the recipes out there do not work for me(and lots other folks). There must be a reason for it?

    I think brining is a well guarded secret and an art outside comercial kitchens that have the ability to measure and monitor the salt content of meats in their processes.

    YOu don’t see many folks other than Ruhlman here divulging their little brining secrets and recipes? Am I right?

    Rhulman in the “Elements of Cooking” is trying to bring some these techniques to the professional and also the home cook too. This could be the missing gap also, the information vacuum you perceive I am trying to fill?.

    In any case I am moving on to stir frying….with my new cast iron wok. If that topic opens up and I go apeshit over it..don’t say I didn’t warn you in advance.

  • ruhlman

    luis, thanks for your great enthusiasm. but don’t over think it. or over think it for a while and then recognize there are too many variables to account for and so only pratice brings understanding. also, morton’s salt has an equal volume weight relationship. a cup of diamond crystal weighs around 5 or 6 ounces.

    sarah: if your corned beef tastes sour and you didn’t add vinegar, you really pickled it. did you brine in the fridge or at room temp?

    nycook: yes, finished the pork confit on a flattop weighed down with sheet trays.

  • Sarah Romine

    Michael–I brined it in the fridge. Do you think 10 days was too much?

  • luis

    Sarah Romine , I HAVE GOT THE ANSWER! Remember what “Kamal Lodaya said….atthe institute… (For example, your body will have about 100 grams of salt for every 40 kilos of weight. So when you grow from 40 kilos to 50 kilos, the salt in your body goes up from 100 to 125 grams.)”

    That is the answer the weight of the brined meat is the answer. This is why you can not just brine at five percent unless you are brining a twenty lb ham or turkey.

    Remember an oversalted tv dinner approx 11 oz contains 500mg of sodium?
    and we figured…
    if (500mg) x 3.5 E-5 = 0.0175 oz of salt
    and if 0.0175 / 11oz meal = 0.0015 salt proportion in the tv dinner. then if so then assume a lb would take up a 0.003 salt proportion and 20lbs would take 0.003 * 20 = 0.06 EUREKA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 or 6% salt to brine proportion for at least 20 lbs of meat.
    But for a say 3 lb roaster…. your brine should only be .003*3= 1% brine solution. Lodaya is tha man.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    YOU NEED TO BRINE TO THE CORRECT WEIGHT YOU GUYS OR YOU WILL SCREW IT UP. I am assuming that again if equilibrium is not reached overnight and if we don’t get all the diffusion in the world overnight then we just don’t care. It will never happen for us cause I am not brining a chicken for 12 days.

    YOu guys need to take the right weight into account to make things work. DO NOT TRY TO BRINE a 3 lb fryer with a 20 lb recipe or you will get one major heart attack.!!!!!!!!!

    I really didn’t intend to stay on this path but I feel I understand why the 5% brine didn’t work for my one lb pork tenderloin and my less than 1% mojo brine kicked ass with the turkey breasts. As I set out to do.. I feel I have my brining under control and I again thank Ruhlman for exposing me to this great technique.
    I plan to leave everyone alone and concentrate in improving brining and mastering stir frying with my new beautiful Joice Chen cast iron wok.

  • luis

    Michael Rhulman, I apologize for misdirecting my answer to sarah. My eyes are not focusing about now. Never thought you’d write me. I do believe the five percent brine works for bigger cuts of meats…Because of the proportion of salt they can handle per Lodaya’s work. I only consider overnight 24hr case. If you shorten the brining time then my approach to calibrate the salt to the weight of the meat won’t work the same of course. I agree there are many other variables which is why I say that you have given me a very powerful tool to work with in my roasting. Now I need to learn to use it and moderate it and make it my own.
    Thanks again man….best of luck to you.

  • romine

    Luis–appreciate your commentary–albeit, a little to technical for me and slightly neurotic. I agree that percentages or salt vs. pounds may indeed be a factor. I also think time probably factors in as well. I agree with Michael when he says that “practice brings understanding.” I am certainly not a “trained” chef. However, I have found that cooking is really about trial and error—the more you prepare a dish with eliminations or additons from the time before, the greater understanding you have for the process as a whole.

  • luis

    Romine, thank you. I agree with you and Michael.

    Basically I have set up my own brining program with a little model I plan to use to converge in some “REAL” recipes that work for me.
    My model is based on proportions.
    Lodaya writes that the human body regulates salt at a proportion of 1:400. That is .0025
    From the body of work in comercial frozen meals I basically guestimated/calculated that the typical lb of well brined beef has also a ratio of .003/2
    So .003 is my fuzzy variable. The number I can begin with and then adjust.
    I also asume the 24 brining time might yield a 50% Transfer of salt to the meat. (to be determined..more research…)
    So basically say if I wish to brine a 3lb roaster then I add Lodayas .0025 which is in the meat already to .003 which I hope will go in half way for a true .0015 salt infusion.
    I add it to my .003(x(times) the number of lbs) which in this case is 3.
    .009+.0025 = .0115 That is the proportion of salt in my brine for a 3lb roaster.
    A gallon of water is 128 fl oz so 128*.0115~1.5 oz of salt. Or 1 1/2 oz of kosher salt.
    Very simple and it all depends on how much salt is really absorbed by the roaster in 24 hrs. This is very realistic. Also as I said I will take the vegies, herbs and spices in a beaker and put the stick blender to everything until everything is pureed and disolved in the brine.
    As long as the numbers are in the ballpark I can adjust them up or down as I go.

  • luis

    Guys, I wonder if I can do a jalapeno/mojo brine for a 3 lb roaster….hm hm hm..hm…hm…and if I can figure out how to brine…..who says I can not do seviche…. some day?

  • luis

    From Bruce Aidells…

    “Brining vs. Marinating
    Technically, a brine is a type of marinade. But marinades principally impart flavor, while brines improve the texture. The problem with most marinades is that they usually add flavor only to the surface of the meat, but brines penetrate to the center. When it comes to tenderizing moderately tender cuts of meat and poultry, brines are probably more effective than acidic marinades because the brine penetrates the muscle fibers, causing them to swell and soften.
    We could find no conclusive answer for how much sodium is absorbed from the brine. Estimates ranged from 10 to 15 percent, so we split the difference and calculated 12.5 percent sodium absorption.
    Bruce Aidells arrives at his culinary expertise by way of a Ph.D. in biology “”

    So basically if 15% is the amount of salt absorbed over 24 hrs and not my guestimated 50% then my numbers are ok but off by a factor or 3. This would yield a brine of 4.5 oz of salt in one gallon of water for a 3lb roaster. And 1 1/2 oz of salt for a one lb pork tenderloin.
    I can feel the convergence thing happening…the quickening… it’s coming together. Keeping the model as posted and just multiply a factor of 3 to it to account for a LOWER than assumed absorption rate. Bruce in his website @ cooking Light also came to the conclusion to brine for 24 hrs to keep it simple. he is a good read and smarter than me. I recommend you guys google him sometime.

  • luis

    The voice of REASON. Bruce Aidells brining primer at cookinglight.com shows a well thought out brining process which includes the parameters I have been stressing over. Lodaya’s proportion of salt in the meat really falls out of the equation at this point due to the ~15% absorption rate calls for a bigger amount of salt. Other than that
    He goes for the longer brining time citing the shorter time to be unreliable which I like. Also I read all his recipes and they calibrate the salt to the weight of the meats. Bruce’s recipes and approach seem very sensible to me and validate what I have been thinking all along. I heartily recommend that some of you read Bruce’s brining primer and recipes at cookinglight.com They are very very sophisticated and seem very very yummy to me.

    yes yes…now on to stir frying at last….

  • luis

    Couldn’t help myself… stirfrying is going well but… I bought a 3lb fryer. Oh yes I want to test my brining model. Honestly I haven’t found any absorption figures bigger than the 15% Bruce Aidells blogged.
    Still 24 hrs flavor brining is longer than anyone really is doing for poultry. So…
    I will brine it next week with my model and a x2 fudge factor instead of a three per Bruce’s absorption rates. A mere three oz of kosher salt may be too much I feel. I will do the homemade sauce in whatever the brine is and inject tha bird with it prior to roasting.
    It occurs to me that a brined bird is a wet bird and hence you can really crisp its skin.
    I will butterfly it, bake it and broil it. And it will kick ass….That is my homework for next week.

  • luis

    Well the chicken is in the house…my bro is asking for more turkey breasts….don’t want no chicken…. can’t win. He will love the chicken I am working on for next week…next week is here now! damm.

    On another journey into uncharted territory Michael, gang.. I am thinking of making a sushi california roll tapa style and I am wondering about the proportions. For Protein I am thinking anchovies or sardines. But I need a powerful veggie ingredient. It should be a vegetable or vegetables of some sort in the right proportion. No cheese pleeze.. What veggies can actually stand up to these proteins? I am thinking sweet red and yellow peppers no skin and a tiny sliver of skinned seeded jalapeno? But I also have some organic grown green beans I could steam and shock.
    This one is in the back burner too…. just needs more research..cooking can be soo much fun..

  • luis

    Hey I just remembered…I have those yummy sundried tomatoes packed in super olive oil… hell are they tasty!!!!!!. A little garlic shallot thing…sundried tomatoes..and spanish capers with shrimp, sardines, anchovies…Now the sushi rice is dicey… perhaps a nice yellow sticky saffron rice with pimentos and the sliver of jalapeno. The whole thing held together by Nori. Damm this isn’t easy but the right proportions of the right ingredients will blow it outa tha park.

  • luis

    Rice? maybe filo or puff pastry rolled like sushi would be better…no nori in that case.

  • Donna

    Wow. I just wrote this whole thing, and then it disappeared.

    Anyhow, I’m so delighted I found this page! My husband is Irish, not Irish-American, and he misses home and especially the foods of home like Irish Bacon. We’re lucky that we can find it here in San Francisco, but it’s very expensive as much as $8.99 a pound. I’m excited about trying the Rulhman 5% salt solution, and I’ll let you know how it compares in taste to the Irish Bacon we’re familiar with. I’m a biologist by trade and a foodie by nature, and I have to say, the one that wrote about correcting the volume had a good point. To accurately make a 5% salt solution, you would measure out 5 grams of salt, then tip it into a calibrated container and fill with water until it reached 100 mLs. That is how a 5% solution is made. Increase your mass(salt), and increase your solvent(water) do this proportionately, and you will maintain a 5% solution at whatever volume you choose.

    As regards another writer’s curiosity about the quality of Niman Ranch, I can only give my experience. It’s the best quality meat product I’ve ever had. It’s so good! We’re fortunate to live in San Francisco where the markets carry them because Niman Ranch is located in Northern California. They even have a stand at the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market, only they’re sellers are very uptight, they won’t bargain, which is so wrong. It’s just the wrong attitude in a local open farmer’s market, haggling is tradition, and it upsets me when they refuse to follow that tradition, but I digress. Niman Ranch is a great product, pricey, but worth it for a special occasion at least.

    I’ll let you know how it compares to our notion of Irish Bacon!

  • Ryan O'Rourke

    Is the pink curing salt you’re referencing in the original post (your link is 404, btw) also referred to as “Prague Powder #1” or is that something different?

  • Ryan O'Rourke

    Ok, updated link for the pink curing salt is here.

    However, the purveyor seems to be slightly wrong in their product description when they state:
    All pink tinted cures have the same sodium nitrite concentration, which is 6.25%. Prague Powder # 1, Insta-Cure, Modern Cure are all the same.

    whereas Wikipedia, in the Sausage Making article, states:
    Morton’s Quick Cure is the brand name of another formulation of sodium nitrite with salt and sugars added. It is not the same concentration as either “Prague powder #1 or #2”. Since the amount of nitrite present in the recipe is essential for safety, one cannot take a recipe designed for Prague powder and simply substitute. To do so will invite botulism poisoning.

    also noting that:
    … there is enough sodium nitrite in 2 ounces of Prague powder #1 to kill a person.

  • ruhlman

    actually ryan, the purveyor is correct. instacure 1, prague 1 and DQ are all the same thing. morton’s does have sugar and stuff in theirs and i would advise people to buy the real stuff and add their own sugar and seasonings to their cure. basic recipes of course are in charcuterie.

    it’s pink to prevent accidental ingestion (though how anyone would eat that much salt and not know it i don’t know). it causes i believe the hemoglobin in your blog do bond with it and there for your body doesn’t get the oxygen it needs.