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Jun 19, 2010 09:52 PM

Brining Chicken - does brine need to simmer?

I'm cooking an awesome recipe for grilled chicken that calls for brining - Gourmet's "Foolproof Grilled Chicken" - - Great recipe if you haven't tried it.

The directions for preparing the brine suggest that it should be prepared, brought to boil, and simmered uncovered for 15 minutes. In the past I've always done this but this time around, it's hot and I'm short on time. So now I'm wondering what exactly the simmer does. I'll assume it reduces liquid volume by a bit, but at only 15 minutes, not much.

What I'd like to do is put the full amount of salt and sugar called for in a reduced amount of water and bring it to a boil to dissolve, as if preparing a simple syrup, to make something of a brine concentrate. At this point, I could add the remaining water, COLD, and thus have a brine that's cool enough to add chicken to a lot sooner. To compensate for an reduction provided by the simmer, I could reduce the water added by a little bit - maybe a cup.

This makes sense to me, but I don't really do a lot of brining. Can anyone comment as to what might be the best way to proceed?


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  1. Andytee, I am not a brining expert, but I don't boil mine. I put the salt and sugar in the vessel I intend to put the chicken in. I have a kettle boiling, add some boiling water and stir til it is all dissolved. If I need I will put more boiling water from the kettle and con't stirring until it is all dissolved and then I add COLD water. I suppose if you have some ice around you can throw some of that to quicken the process.
    Again, I don't know if that is the correct or proper way of doing it but that's what I do and I have had no problem. Hope that helps and am looking forward to hearing from other chowhounds....

    2 Replies
      1. re: heylids

        I brine in cold water (for all meats). But whether to heat or not I think is really a personal preference.

      2. I'm no brining expert either, but.........

        1) America's Test Kitchen doesn't heat at all:

        2) I've seen Alton Brown on more than one occasion do your "heated concentration" method and then not only dilute, but also rapidly cool at the same time by adding just ice.

        Both methods have worked for me. On more than one occasion (in an attempt to add more flavor) I've even used frozen homemade chicken stock instead of just ice cubes.

        1. I'm puzzled that they suggest boiling this brine--the only time I've used anything but a cold brine has been when I wished to infuse the brine with some kind of seasoning (say, star anise or bay leaf) that the heat might help to open up. This recipe's brine is just salt and sugar, both of which can be dissolved cold with some patient whisking. The time on heat here also doesn't seem long enough to significantly effect the concentration.

          So I have to think that heating the brine isn't necessary, provided the salt and sugar are fully dissolved.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Bada Bing

            I think the boiling is solely to ensure that the salt and sugar dissolve completely. My first attempt at brining was following Cook's Illustrated's recipe, which was stirring salt into cold water. Took FOREVER. Afterwards I always made a super-concentrate with a cup or two of the water, boiled, and all the salt/sugar, then diluted with cold water. It's annoying to me that in the many ATK and CC episodes involving brine preparation, they always use cold water - to the inexperienced cook it looks as though they are only stirring for a few seconds. You'd think they'd mention the hot-water shortcut but maybe they are afraid of legal repercussions if someone brines poultry in a too-warm solution and sickens people.

            1. re: greygarious

              A trick I often use for dissolving salt and/or sugar in tap water: put the salt/sugar into a gallon ziplock bag with the water (not all the water is necessary for this stage). With the bag sealed, it's easy (even fun) to squish and poke the bag, and you can hold it at an angle so that the undissolved stuff gathers into the lowest corner of the bag. Just keep poking up at that corner and agitate until there's no more visible stuff.

          2. Bringing the salt, water and or sugar to a boil is to ensure that they dissolve completely. The simmering sounds needless to me.
            Just use half the water for the boil and then add Ice or very cold water to make up the other half and it is ready to use. Do not put your meat into warm brine.
            It is quick easy and foolproof. If you are using and spices it also draws their flavor out as well.

            1. thanks folks - i went for the boil and add cold idea and it worked fine. beyond dissolving salt and sugar, the one other thing i could think of about boiling the brine was that it would ensure a fairly sterile brine in a way that cold tap water might not. didn't seem too important, thought, esp. when brining only 6 hrs and in the fridge.

              anyhow - it's a great chicken recipe if you want to try it and i can attest that not heating the brine is ok.