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Why Should You Brine Chicken?

Two cooked chicken breast---one chopped and one whole---sit on a metal cutting board.

We can’t all be A+ quality home chefs, and that’s totally fine. There are, however, some cooking techniques you could be curious about. For me, that’s brining chicken.

So why should you brine chicken, and how exactly does it help make your poultry taste better? It all comes down to food science.

While brining recipes can be different, almost all require salt. Both of these compounds interact with the meat to make it juicier and more tender. Salt in a brine helps to unwind the protein strands in the meat. When that happens, the proteins then tangle and form a matrix that traps water.

Brining with high levels of salt also helps protein to precipitate, where they’ll combine and clump together. Low salt concentrations increase protein solubility and help protein dissolve. The result in both cases is a reduction in toughness.

Brines can also be wet or dry. Wet brines typically require a chicken to be fully submerged. You’ll need to bring the brine to a boil, and then, you’ll let it cool completely as placing chicken in lukewarm water can be a safety hazard. Once cool, add the chicken and allow it to sit in the fridge for at least 12 hours.

Dry brines are a quicker and easier option. You’ll simply make a rub with salt and sugar as well as any herbs and spices you want to use for seasoning. Apply and rub it all over your chicken’s skin. Allow it to sit in the refrigerator for several hours. Then, take it out and allow it to reach room temperature. Rinse the brine, pat the skin dry, and cook.

If you’ve been struggling to get the juiciest chicken possible, brining might be your next culinary step.

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