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How Do I Brine Brisket?

Todd Podzemny
Todd Podzemny

In order to brine brisket, you must soak it in water with a high concentration of salt, with the optional addition of other seasonings or flavorings. Mix salt into water at a rate of one part salt to 16 parts water to create enough saltwater to completely immerse the brisket. You also can add any other seasoning that will readily add its flavor to the water, such as sugar, herbs or marinades. The brisket should be soaked for 24 to 72 hours at a temperature below 40° Fahrenheit (4.4° Celsius.) Remove the brisket from the salt water, rinse off any excess salt as desired, and then cook as normal.

Brining can alter or enhance the flavor of meat and keep it from drying out as it is cooked. It is a popular form of marination, especially when the meat is to be smoked. Brining is a relatively straightforward process, and at its most basic, it simply requires the brisket to be immersed in a saltwater solution for several hours.

A bowl of kosher salt, which is used to brine brisket.
A bowl of kosher salt, which is used to brine brisket.

To properly brine brisket, it is vital to use a strong enough salt solution. Lower concentrations of salt will result in less salt flavor, but will also prevent the increased moisture retention that is one of the main purposes of brining. A brine solution should contain at least one part salt to 16 parts water by volume. Kosher salt, because of its lower density, should be added at a rate of one part salt to eight parts water.

Spices, herbs and sugar can also be added to the brine solution as needed. If you are using an ingredient that does not dissolve completely in cold water, such as sugar, the brine should be boiled to ensure thorough mixing. Liquids such as beer, wine or beef broth can be substituted for part of the water content of the brine, but make sure to maintain the salt-to-liquid ratio. When you brine brisket, flavorings and seasonings that are added to the brine will soak into the meat and flavor the entire cut.

The brisket must be entirely submerged in the brine for the length of the brining period. You can make enough brine to fill a container such as a cooler or roasting pan, or you can put the brisket in a large plastic bag and fill the bag with brine. If you intend to brine brisket in a rigid container, place a weight such as a dish or lid on top of the brisket to keep it from floating to the surface. A cut of meat the size of a brisket should be brined for at least 24 hours but not more than 72 hours. Brining will not prevent the development of food-borne pathogens, so the temperature of the meat should be kept below 40° Fahrenheit (4.4° Celsius)

After the brining period has elapsed, you can remove the brisket and discard the brine. The brisket can be rinsed to slightly reduce the salty flavor of the meat. Brined brisket should always be rinsed if sugar was part of the brine, because sugar on the surface will quickly caramelize and burn while cooking. The brisket can then be smoked or roasted, with the moisture that was introduced by the brining process helping to prevent drying of the meat.

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    • A bowl of kosher salt, which is used to brine brisket.
      By: Viktor
      A bowl of kosher salt, which is used to brine brisket.