Whether you’re planning to roast a big ‘ol turkey or a head of cauliflower, a good brine ensures the final product is tender, moist, and flavourful throughout. Simple brines are little more than sugar, salt, and water, but peppercorns, citrus zest, bay leaves, and all sorts of plant parts can be used to make things more interesting. One universal truth about brines, however, is that you must heat the liquid to get those crystalline solids into solution.
If your brine is meant for meat, it must then be cooled completely before your pork chop, turkey breast, or troupe of shrimp is submerged into those salty, sugary waters. You can wait for this to happen, or you can use some ice.
Usually, I tend to favour a dry brine over a wet one, but I might switch sides for a bit to try the Kitchn’s feta cheese brine, which requires only two ingredients: Feta (duh) and water.Read more
Of course, you can’t just dump a bunch of ice in your brine; that will throw off your proportions and dilute your flavours. Instead, divide the amount of water called for by your recipe in half, use that volume to dissolve your salt and sugar, then add the rest of the water in the form of ice. The ice will chill the brine as it melts, bringing it to the correct temperature and volume.
You will — I’m so sorry about this — have to do a tiny amount of maths to calculate the correct amount of ice. Water expands as it freezes, meaning one cup of ice is not equal to one cup of liquid water. Luckily, a millilitre of water weighs one gram at room temperature, so all you have to do is count your millilitres, convert to grams, and weigh out that many grams of ice. Let’s use this very simple brine recipe to illustrate:
- 1 cup salt
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 1.9 litres cold water
- 3 bay leaves
The recipe instructs you to add all the ingredients to the pot and heat to dissolve the sugar and salt, then wait for the brine to cool completely before proceeding. To speed the process up with ice, add the salt, sugar, and leaves to the pot with a single quart of water and heat it up, dissolving everything but the leaves.
Next, grab a bag of ice and weigh out 950 grams. Add that to the brine, stir to dissolve and cool, and submerge your meat. No need to wait.