5 Smart Tips for Better Brined Meat

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

Brining is one of the simplest things you can do to make just about any cut of meat super juicy and more flavorful. It’s common practice with Thanksgiving turkeys and corned beef, but small cuts — like pork chops and chicken — also reap huge benefits from some soaking time.

Whether you’ve just started brining meat or you’re a pro, try these smart tips for better brining results every time.

1. Remember! You only need 15 minutes.

Don’t shrug off brining because you don’t think you have enough time. Yes, large cuts — like a whole turkey or corned beef — need a couple hours, but small, single-serving cuts — like chicken and pork chops — can benefit from just 15 minutes of soaking in brining solution. Meat will cook up juicier and more flavorful.

2. More brining time isn’t always better for small cuts.

More time isn’t necessarily better when it comes to brining. For cuts like pork chops, chicken, and other small cuts, brine up to two hours, but no longer. After a couple hours, the meat can start to become mushy.

3. Save time by thawing and brining meat at the same time.

Yes, you can wet-brine single-serving cuts of meat, like chicken pieces or pork chops, 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.

4. When brining a large cut, like a whole turkey, use one of your refrigerator drawers.

It sounds a little out there, I know, but hear me out: You could buy a brining bucket for your bird, then figure out how it will fit in the fridge. Or you could clean out a crisper drawer, make sure there are no leaks, line it with a brining bag, add the bird, and go. You won’t have to buy any extra equipment, the bird is out of the way, and it’s guaranteed to stay at the right temperature.

5. The best place to put a dry brine is between the meat and skin.

Separate the skin from the meat so you can rub some of the brine directly on top of the meat — just sprinkling the brine on the skin means it will need more time to penetrate the skin to get to the meat.