This is part two of the three-part segment on smoking a bird. Here is Part one.
A brine is simply a salt solution. Brining makes the protein trap the moisture in the meat. This helps keep the meat from drying out during long cooking processes such as smoking. For meats that have a lot of fat, brining is unnecessary since the fat keeps the meat moist. Meats with less fat, such as poultry and fish, need some help.
A brine can also add different flavors to the meat by incorporating spices, vinegars and sugars to the salt solution. Depending on how much the meat weighs, the time in the brine varies but a good rule of thumb is two hours per pound. The meat will then need to rest about 24 hours to create a tacky surface. This helps the smoke really permeate the meat.
You will need a few things to brine. The most important is a large enough pan to completely submerge whatever you are brining. You will also need a rack for the meat to rest on. I like to use a baking rack and set it on top of a plate.
The below recipe is for a chicken, but would work well for a turkey up to 12 pounds, or a turkey breast. I like to use plates to weigh down the meat to keep it submerged. When it comes to the spices and vegetables, don’t worry about stems or wrappers. Rinse them well and add it all.
- 4 liters water
- 1 cup sea salt
- ½ cup brown sugar
- Bunch parsley
- Bunch rosemary
- Bunch tarragon
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
- 1 onion sliced thick
- 1 head garlic sliced horizontally
- 2 lemons
- 4 pound chicken
Add all ingredients to the pot except chicken. Cut the lemons and squeeze the juice into the brine. Bring to a boil then remove from heat. Cool to room temperature, then place in refrigerator and let it get cold. Submerge chicken in brine and weigh down with a plate. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours. Add more or less time depending on the weight of the chicken, two hours per pound is a good estimate. When time is up, remove chicken and discard brine. Rinse off chicken and pat dry. Place on a rack and put back in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Chicken is then ready to smoke.