The Science Behind Brining

With Turkey Day quickly approaching, there has been a lot of talk on the web about whether or not you should brine your bird. Although there are good arguments from both camps, I think it is first important that the science of brining is understood before making any decisions.

A traditional brine is a water based liquid that contains between 3-6% salt by weight. Along with salt, a brine will contain aromatic herbs, spices and sometimes vegetables (usually mirepoix, garlic, etc).

So Why Would You Brine Meat?

Brining has two distinct effects on muscle tissue.

First, the high salinity of the brine “disrupts the structure of the muscle filaments” (On Food and Cooking, Pg 155). At about 3% salinity, the brine will partially dissolve “the protein structure” which supports the muscle filaments that contract when cooked. The more these muscles filaments are allowed to contract, the tougher your meat will be.

At about 5.5% salinity, the muscle filaments themselves are partially dissolved. Since their contract