Dry Brine vs Wet Brine

Dry Brine vs Wet Brine- The better Way to Brine?

Brining, in general, is a good way to make the meat more tender and juicy. Brining takes time, it is pretty easy to do and the final result is worth the wait.

The common way of brining is wet brining where you soak the meat in a mixture of water, salt, and some herbs and spices.

Then there is a dry brining process where the same concept of making the meat tender and juicy applied but here instead you use dry salt as a rub.

It is worth knowing which type of brining method works better. If you wonder the same, read on as I show some real differences between the two methods.

Both of these methods have their benefits where the meat will get to the desired texture and flavor but they also have disadvantages.

What is Dry Brining?

Dry brining was made famous by the late Chef Judy Rodgers. This method does not use water instead, it takes advantage of the juices already in the meat.

The meat, usually poultry, is covered with salt like a dry rub, the dry brine. 

The salt draws the water/moisture out of the meat and mix before the meat reabsorbs the mixture of salt and moisture again.

Dry brine is concentrated compared to wet brine so the brine(which got reabsorbed)inside the meat will help break down the muscle proteins.

After the proteins break down, the brine helps lock in the meat’s moisture while cooking, thus preventing it from drying out.

One advantage of dry brining over wet brining is the crispier bark or skin on the meat when cooked.

What is Wet Brining?

Wet brine is a brine solution that contains salt and water.

Most wet brines have a 5% to 10% salinity, incorporated into the meat. The salinity slowly works its way into the meat to saturate it and improve moisture retention.

Dry Brining Chicken Wings before Smoking on the grill

Wet brine adds moisture to the meat by up to 40%. That should be a lot of juices but the meat will not ooze with water when cooked because the salinity also helps retain the meat’s natural flavours.

Since the muscles are now more relaxed after brining, they will be able to squeeze less water out of the meat so the result is a tender and a juicy cut of meat.

How Does Brining Work?

When exposed to high temperatures, meat fibers tend to contract and the juices inside are squeezed out. Brining, of any method, helps mitigate this problem for a juicy and tender result.

Salt can loosen and reshape muscle fibers while the juices help relax them, and this combination allows for more relaxed muscle fibers.

So even at high temperatures, the muscle fibers will be less stressed or squeezed so the meat can retain as much moisture inside as possible.

The meat will still lose a lot of juices when cooked, but since the brine gives extra moisture, the result will be a lot juicier than otherwise.

It results in juicier meat after cooking. Brining is perfect for poultry and other relatively bland types of meat as they often dry out when not brined.

STEP- by-STEP Wet Brining Process Explained…

Wet Brining process will help improve the meat texture that you are cooking. Wet brining is pretty easy and common so there will be many recipes online that you can referer to.

Step 1: Prepare The Container

Use a non-reactive container that will fit the whole meat in it. A plastic container is good but I usually recommend using a large zip-lock bag as it is more convenient.

Place the meat in the container and then fill it up with water until the meat is completely submerged. 

Step 2: Measure the Water To Salt Ratio

A rule of thumb for wet brines is to put one cup of table salt in the brine for every gallon of water, and a tablespoon of salt for every cup of water will also work.

Set the salt aside for now.

Step 3: Prepare The Other Ingredients

Sugar is one of the more common ingredients to wet brines to facilitate the Malliard effect where the meat’s skin becomes brown when cooked.

You can use some other spices and herbs for wet brine. Such as pepper, lemon juice, bay leaves, and more so it is up to you which you prefer to go into the brine.

Step 4: Heat It Up(OPTIONAL)

Once the water is measured, remove the meat from it and pour the water into a pot. Heat the water on a stove over medium heat then put the ingredients in the pot.

The goal is to dissolve the salt (and sugar if there are any) in the water so there is no need to boil the water or it will lose a lot from evaporation.

Step 5: Cool It Down

Once the salt dissolves into the water, cool the brine down. One way to do this is to place some ice cubes in a sealed bag and then put them in the hot brine.

The bag will prevent the ice from melting into the brine, which can ruin the ratio or salinity of the brine.

Step 6: Add The Meat

Put the meat in the pot with the brine or transfer the brine to a large zip-lock bag to allow the brine to cover the meat properly.

Cover and chill the meat and brine in the fridge for at least 12 hours.

Once the meat absorbs brine properly, remove it, rinse thoroughly with cold water(you can skip this if you have cleaned the chicken before), season, and it is ready to be cooked!

Dry Brining Process

Dry brining is a much simpler process where the meat just needs to be salted. It is a waiting game and then it will be ready for cooking.

Step 1: Salt The Meat

First, pat dry the meat with paper towels and then sprinkle some salt. The rule of thumb is to put 1/4 teaspoon of table salt or half a teaspoon of kosher salt for each pound of meat.

Thoroughly run the salt in so it starts to get into the meat.

Step 2: Chill The Meat

Put the salted meat in a sealed bag and then palace it in the refrigerator. The bag will prevent other odors or flavors in the fridge to get into the meat. 

This is important especially for poultry as they can easily absorb the other flavors in the fridge from other foods.

Step 3: Wait

For the dry brine to take effect, the meat should be in the refrigerator for 12 hours with the salt on it.

It can be too much for poultry if left in the dry brine for more than a day. 12 hours would be enough for chicken, other types of meat like beef steak can go for up to a day in the dry brine.

Step 4: Cook The Meat

Pat dry the meat with paper towels if there are small pools of water. The best way to cook dry brined meat is to use the reverse sear method for the best results!

Which Is Better, Wet Brine Or Dry Brine?

Dry brine is better for tough cuts of meat like beef and some with more fats like pork chops while wet brine works better with leaner cuts of meat like chicken, poultry, and even fish.

I prefer using dry brine for steaks since it develops a better crust on the meat. Chicken breasts that do not need that much crust or bark work better with wet brine.

I prefer dry brine because it is easier to do and has almost the same effect as wet brine, which needs more work.

This is a matter of personal preference so test which method works better for the specific cut of meat you have.

Which Is Better, Dry Or Wet Brine For Chicken?

A wet brine is better for chicken as it can add more moisture. Chicken, especially the breast part can easily dry out when cooked so wet brine will work better.

There is not much salinity to the wet brine compared to dry brine so the chicken can still retain its flavor.

Is it safe to eat cooked chicken left out overnight

When the chicken is in the wet brine, it is ankle to get up to 40% more water. So even if the chicken loses a lot of moisture during cooking, there is still the extra mixture from the wet brine.

The chicken needs to be processed properly with the brine from making it to the point where it is rinsed, cooked, rested, and then served.

Do You Wash A Dry Brine Off?

There is no need to rinse the meat after being dry brined, and the meat will not be overly salty and even if it is, rinsing it will not be the most effective method to reduce the saltiness.

The salt in the dry brine tends to lock in the moisture so the meat will have a slightly dry look from the outside. This creates the beautiful browning on the meat when cooked.

If you rinse after dry brining, the surface will become wet and slightly softer which will cause the crust to not brown properly.

Since the outer part looks dry, it might leave you wondering if dry brine makes the meat juicier, right?

Does Dry Brining Make Meat Moist?

Yes, dry brine can make the meat moist even though it does not necessarily add moisture to the meat, and it just uses the moisture that is already in the meat and locks it in the muscle fibers.

This results in a juicier and more flavorful finish when the meat is cooked and rested properly. Resting the meat is also essential to make it juicier.

Dry brine reshapes or relaxes the muscle fibers so they do not squeeze out the juices when put under high temperatures.

The salt helps the muscles relax more so that the juices stay in the meat. So dry brine makes the meat moist, but can it also be salty?

Does Brining Meat Make It Salty?

Not really, brining does not make meat salty as the main purpose of the salinity in the brine is to relax the muscles to create a more tender and juicer result when cooked.

In terms of flavor, brine will allow for a deeper flavor in the meat. Since the brine goes into the meat, it also brings in the flavor of the meat with it so it becomes richer.

The saline content of brine does not affect the meat’s saltiness after hours, even days, of being soaked in the brine.

The effect of brine is more on the texture, moisture, and deeper flavor of the meat instead of the saltiness.

Do I Recommend Brining?

I recommend brining meat, especially chicken breasts or turkey breasts. The drier types of meat need the brine solution to retain more moisture when cooked.

Whether it is wet or dry brine allows the meat fibers to relax. The relaxed muscle fibers will keep more moisture when exposed to higher temperatures.

The more relaxed muscles will also tend to be more tender plus the brine that seeps into the meat will also bring more flavors deeper into the meat, so I like brining and I recommend it.

That goes with steaks, poultry, fish, and other types of meat that need more moisture to prevent dryness when cooked!

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