Roasted turkey, sauteed pork chops and stir-fried shrimp all tend to suffer a common fate when they are cooked even a few minutes too long. They get dry and tough. Turkey, pork and shrimp are particularly vulnerable because they are so lean. Chicken can also get easily overcooked. There is a simple solution (pun intended) to combat drying out your meats . . . brine . . . soaking them in a solution of salt and water for a few minutes or hours before cooking. Meats usually lose about 30% of their weight during cooking, but brining can reduce it to about half of that loss according to some experts.
- For a whole turkey, add 2 cups salt to 1 gallon of water and immerse for 12 (but no longer than 24) hours
- Turkey Breast – 1/2 cup salt to 1 quart water for 4-6 hours
- Large whole chicken (4+ pounds) – 1 cup of salt in a half gallon of water for 3-4 hours
- Large whole game bird (2+ pounds) – 1/2 cup of salt in a half gallon of water for 1/2-2 hours
- Chicken butchered – 1/2 salt to 1 quart water for 1 1/2-2 hours
- Cornish hens – 1 cup salt to a half gallon on water for 45-60 minutes
- Pork Chops – 1/2 cup salt to 1 quart water for 3-4 hours
- Shrimp (uncooked with shell on) per pound – 1 cup salt to 1 quart water for 20-30 minutes
- Fish fillets (thin sliced) – 1/2 cup salt to 1 pint water for no more than 10 minutes
Keep all meat and fish refrigerated during brining, and rinse them really well before cooking.