Once you know how much liquid is needed start by boiling 2 cups of water for each cup of salt you will need. Once it boils, add the salt (and sugar if you are going to be using sugar) and stir until dissolved. Add other spices and herbs. Combine with the remaining liquid (should be cold). The brine should always be cold before you add the meat so you should refrigerate it before you add the meat. You don't want the brine cooking the meat.
At this point you can add other brine ingredients like juices or cut up fruit. Submerge the meat into the brine. You can use a plate or other heavy object to keep it down. It is important that no part of the meat be exposed to the air. Saltwater brine will kill bacteria and keep the meat from spoiling but it doesn’t work if part of the meat is sticking out.
Brine meats for about 1 hour per pound in the refrigerator. It is important that the whole thing be kept cold. The specific amount of time will vary. Lighter meats like poultry or seafood do not need to be brined as long as denser meats like pork tenderloins. Use the following chart to give you an idea of how long to brine. Remember that the longer you brine the stronger the flavor will be. If you over brine you could end up with some very salty meat.
Once the meat is properly brined remove it. You do not need to rinse unless you were using a high salt concentration in the brine or if there is a layer of visible salt on the surface. Otherwise you can take cuts of meat straight to the grill, smoker, or oven. Whole poultry is the exception however. To get a crispy, brown skin, whole birds should be removed from the brine, wrapped in foil or plastic and put in the refrigerator overnight or for at least 12 hours.
|Whole Chicken (4 to 5 pounds)||4 to 5 hours|
|Turkey (12 to 14 pounds)||12 hours|
|Pork Tenderloin (whole)||12 hours|
|Cornish Hens||1 to 2 hours|