You might think that brining is something you only do once a year with the Thanksgiving turkey, but think again! It's an easy way to season meat and help keep it moist at the same time.
While brining recipes usually assume you're using fresh or thawed meat, did you know that you can actually wet-brine meat directly from the freezer?
Since one common method of thawing meat quickly is to place it in cool water, you can use that same principle but just swap out plain water for brine. As the meat thaws in the brine, it also uses that time to absorb the seasoned water.
And in terms of getting dinner on the table, it's a win-win for all — you never have to worry about thawing your meat ahead of time, and you know that it'll cook up juicy and well-seasoned.
The Best Cuts to Brine Frozen
This shortcut works best with small cuts of meat that would thaw in cool water in about the same amount of time it would normally sit in the brine. Think single-serving cuts like chicken pieces or pork chops.
Larger cuts like roasts or whole poultry don't work quite the same way, however. They need to be partially thawed in cold water before they can finish thawing in brine. Sitting in brine for too long will change the texture of the meat and is not recommended.
How to Brine Frozen Meat
First, make your brine, which is really just dissolving salt in water (we like the ratio of 1/4 cup salt to 4 cups of water). Adding flavorings like peppercorns and bay leaves is entirely up to you.
Make sure your brine is no warmer than cool room temperature, then place your frozen meat in the brine. Place the whole thing in the refrigerator, and check on it after an hour — if the meat is thawed, then you can remove it from the brine and proceed with cooking. If it's still frozen in the middle, put it back in the refrigerator until it is completely thawed. When I did this with a very thick bone-in pork chop, it took about 1 1/2 hours to thaw and brine.
Give it a try — you don't have any excuses to skip brining anymore!
(Image credits: Christine Gallary)