Dry Brine vs Wet Brine

steak brine

Brining is a pre-refrigeration era method for preserving meats that would get a unique flavor and feel. Now, the two variations, i.e., dry brine and wet brine, have made brining almost mandatory and a whole new prep stage before you cook any type of meat. So now that brining is well known, dry brine vs wet brine, which one is better?

If you are a quality food lover, you will know how brining gives a savory, tender taste to meat and helps the meat retain moisture during cooking.

In this blog, we will share the differences, advantages and which we think is the best method to brine whatever you are cooking.

Let’s first discuss brining, its purposes and why brining is beneficial.

What’s Brining

Brine is a solution made by a mix of salt and water, i.e., 5% to 8% salt by weight.

Brine or Brining is a process for immersing a cut of meat in a solution of sodium chloride (salt) and natural water. Some recipes add sugar in brining, but basic brine is a saltwater solution.

Brining Purpose

Why brine meat anyway? Well brining the meat to enhance its flavor. The meat absorbs extra liquid and salt, giving you a juicy and rich flavor in the food. This technique performs well with lean cuts of meat that get dry during cooking but almost any cut of meat can benefit from it.

Why Brine?

It adds flavor and changes meat’s physical nature. The salt (in the brine) denatures the protein’s cells to keep the moisture intact.

There are two different processes to brining something.  A dry brine and a wet brine. Let’s get to dry brine first.

Dry Brine

steak on cutting board brine

Dry-brining is a captivating and simple process of salting and putting food to rest before it hits the grill, smoker or oven. It will offer you juicier food that won’t dry out as easily.

Dry brining – A Better Method?

Some say dry brining is now more of a global method instead of a local method. It has made its way to different cultures, traditions, and food lovers across the globe. One thing is for sure, if people all across the world are doing it, it must work.

You can dry brine small pieces of meat, seafood, poultry, etc. This will bring you juicy flavor and tasty food like no other method for brining. It’s a simpler method than a wet brining as well.

How Long Should You Dry Brine?

You must let any meat dry brine for at least an hour to get any benefits.

For chicken, it’s different; leave it in your fridge for 24 hours. On the other hand, a turkey will take about 2 to 3 days to get dry brine.  The rule of thumb to follow is the larger and thicker the piece of meat is, you need to brine it longer.

How Do You Dry Brine Meat?

In dry brining, you simply sprinkle salt on the meat a few hours before cooking. Add 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt per meat pound or 1/4 teaspoon of table salt per pound. Then refrigerate for two hours. Do not rinse excess salt.  Feel free to add other seasonings to your brine if you would like but remember, salt is the key.

Wet Brine

whole chicken brine

At its simplest level, it’s immersing meat in salt water. If you like, you may add flavors of your choice besides salt.

In this method of wet brining, you submerge a chicken breast or another piece of meat in a salt solution for about 24 hours before putting it on the stove for cooking.

The brine soaks directly into the flesh and skin. It plumps and accumulates water and moisture as it soaks in its salt water. Hence, you get a juicy turkey.

You should not confuse marinating with a wet brining process.

Wet brining steak is not common like dry brine. Its most aggressive use is for wet brining turkeys and chicken. However, it works well, especially in a more vigorous manner on a tougher cut of beef like brisket. I would opt for dry brining beef though.  I think it turns out better.

The basic ratio for any wet brine is a cup of salt to water gallon. If you like, get some garlic paste, clove, citrus, or even a sweetener like white sugar or natural honey.

How Old Is Wet brining?

Wet brining is not a new concept. It dates back thousands of years and is as old as are meat curing techniques.

Then, its sole purpose was to consume the meat at a later stage. This process or method will get salt deeply into the meat.

Ever since the use of fridges or refrigerators has become common, it has given rise to fresh looks to wet brining in terms of flavor, savor, and tenderness.

Wet brining is no more in use for preserving the meat. It’s now a modified cooking tool to improve the meat flavor and make it tender. Wet brining is a slow process, and it requires lots of patience. However, the end result is worth the wait.

What To Wet Brine?

Wet brining works best on fish like salmon, trout, breasts (chicken and turkey), pork loin chops, beef (the shoulder part), lamb, and many veggies. The solution dilutes their rich flavor.

Once done with wet brining, thoroughly rinse the solution under cold water to remove salt and seasonings. Then feel free to season whatever you are cooking with your favorite seasonings.

Brining Don’ts

salt on cutting board

Any meat food with the label “enhanced” or “flavor enhanced” or “self-basting” has surely got injections for a salt solution at the plant it came from. Do not brine these meats.

Do not brine any meat product with the tag “pre-salted” or “pre-seasoned.” They already have enough salt in them.

Do not brine a slice of kosher meat, as they already have enough salt.

Furthermore, many ask if brines kill bacteria. Marinating or brining meat help enhance spice, flavor, and tenderness; these methods do not kill bacteria. Thus, adding acid to such a marinade or brine meat does not kill bacteria.

The Difference Between A Wet Brine And A Dry Brine

In wet brine, a bath of salt-infused water permeates the meat.

A dry brine draws the natural moisture out of the meat. Then, the salt mixes with the meat juices and gets reabsorbed into the meat.

In a nutshell, wet brine gives you taste, flavor, and ripe or tender meat. In comparison, dry brine will make the process quick and gets you tenderness, which hard to beat.

The Final Word On Brining

So, when it comes to a dry brine vs wet brine, which is better?  I don’t really know if there is a clear answer.  Like a lot of things in life, the answer is, it depends.  It depends on what you are cooking. 

It depends on how long you have until you cook it.  It depends on how much space you have in your fridge (submerging a whole turkey in a bucket takes up a lot of space!). For beef and pork, I prefer to dry brine them.  For chicken or turkey, I prefer a wet brine.  Give them both a try and see what you like. 

Either way, brining whatever you are cooking will make it juicier, so you will be miles ahead of where you would be if you didn’t brine it. 

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