Ask a Cook: What are the basics of brining chicken?

Chicken-brining basics

Question: What’s a good mix of salt and water for brining chicken? Is there a time difference for whole chicken vs. parts?

Answer: Brining, or soaking food in a mix of salt and water, adds moisture and flavor. A good formula is 1 ounce of salt to 20 ounces of water, or 2 tablespoons coarse kosher salt to 2 1/2 cups of water.

You can add other flavorings, but you need to heat the brine long enough to dissolve the salt and bring out the flavors of other ingredients. Make sure the brine is cool before adding meat. One quick trick is to reduce the amount of water and add ice before adding meat; when the ice melts, the brine should be cool.

Vary the time based on the mass of the item being brined. Go 15 to 30 minutes for seafood or fish, 30 minutes to 1 hour for skinless, boneless chicken breasts, 1 to 3 hours for bone-in chicken parts and pork chops, 4 to 6 hours for a whole chicken and 24 to 48 for a turkey. Refrigerate brine and food if it sits longer than an hour, and rinse thoroughly before cooking.

Kathleen Purvis, The Charlotte Observer

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