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Jul 3, 2008 09:27 PM

Brining a small amount of chicken

I want to brine 2 small chicken breasts but all the recipes I have found call for 1/2 cup of salt to 1 gallon of water. Do I really need to follow that for 2 small breasts? It seems kind of wasteful. I was wondering if it would be ok to cut down by half or a third. Is it the amount of salt that is important or is it a ratio to water that I need to get right?

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  1. Honestly, I just do it by taste since I am single and rarely brine whole birds. I go for a seawater flavor, and try to do it in advance to give whole spices time to infuse. I like to keep good marinades or brines in a jar and reuse them a few times in rapid succession rather than going through the whole process every time. Just my workable habits to try, not necessarily what you should always do.

    1. Cut it down, keeping the ratio of salt to water - use 2 cups water to 1 tablespoon salt for your breasts.

      1 Reply
      1. re: janniecooks

        I agree with cut it down and the ratio looks pretty good to my eye.
        Whatever ratio you decide to use, just remember that a gallon = 128 ounces and a cup = 16 tablespoons. I always try to err on the side of caution when brining after having an embarrassing experience using a brine recipe that created a dish so salty it was barely fit to eat - and I did it with company for dinner. I've found that if I use less salt and more time I get pretty good results after rinsing and patting dry. If the brining doesn't provide the juiciness I had hoped it would, at least the meat doesn't resemble a salt lick.

      2. The salt : water ratio AND the right timing is what you need. Cooks Illustrated (I believe) did a bunch of tests, and they found that low-salt brining wasn't any better than not brining at all in terms of juiciness. In this case, though, all you need is enough water to cover the chicken.

        I use the brine recipe from The Gift of Southern Cooking by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock, and it's always been successful:

        Brining for Poultry and Meat

        To make the brine, stir kosher salt (do not, under any circumstances, use table salt here) into cold water until dissolved, in the proportion of 1/4 cup salt to 1 quart of water. Mix enough brine to cover the poultry or meat completely in a nonreactive* bowl or pot. Store refrigerated for the times specified below. Do not brine for longer than the recommended time or your meat will become too salty.

        Cut-up chicken: brine for 8-12 hours
        Whole chicken for roasting: brine for 8-24 hours
        Whole turkey for roasting: brine for 24-48 hours
        Pork chops: brine for 2 hours
        Pork loin: brine for 8-24 hours
        Pork shoulder: brine for 24 hours