How to Brine

Soaking lean meats in a salt water solution is so easy and it makes such a difference! Here’s how to brine.

You’ve probably heard of brining, and maybe you’ve even done it with your Thanksgiving turkey. But brining is a great idea for all your favorite lean meats, like chicken breasts and pork chops. Why? Because it helps make them both juicier and more flavorful!

Let’s take a closer look at this simple kitchen trick.

What Is Brining?

It’s simply soaking food in a salt water solution. Sometimes for extra flavor, you might add other ingredients, like sugar, herbs, or spices. But all you really need for a brine is salt and water.

How Does A Brine Work?

One, the meats that you’re soaking absorb the brine, making them more moist and juicy. All meat loses liquid during cooking, but since brined meats start out with more, they end up with more, too.

And two, brining dissolves some of the meat’s muscle fibers. The technical term for this is denaturing. But don’t worry about that. The important thing is it literally turns some of the solids into liquid, enhancing your experience of moisture.

Two Benefits Of Brining

The additional moisture makes your meat juicier. The fact that the moisture is salty makes it more flavorful. Win and win!

What Meats Should You Brine?

Because the benefits are juiciness and flavor, the best meats for brining are lean meats, because with less fat they tend to dry out and also to have less flavor. Enter the Thanksgiving turkey.

But also—pork chops, pork loin, and pork tenderloin. Chicken breasts or whole chickens. And some people even brine shrimp!

On the flip side, beef and lamb are not good candidates for brining because they’re fattier and they can be enjoyed rarer than chicken or pork. Both those things mean they cook up juicier and more flavorful by default.

How To Brine

See my recipe below for a basic brine solution. It’ll make enough for 4 pork chops, 4 chicken breasts or 2 pork tenderloins. If you’re making something bigger, just double, triple, or quadruple the recipe! The recipe also tells you how long to brine the different cuts.

Note that the amount of salt in the recipe depends on what kind you’re using—Diamond Crystal kosher salt, Morton’s kosher salt versus any kind of finely ground salt like table salt. Personally, I like kosher salt because it dissolves easily, but any kind will work.

As for additional ingredients, I’ve found that sugar can make a nice difference, but adding herbs and spices makes a very mild difference at best. Experiment and see what works for you.

Happy brining!

Christine :)


How to Brine

  • Author: Christine Pittman
  • Prep Time: 4-24 hours
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 35 minute
  • Category: Entrée
  • Method: Marinate
  • Cuisine: American


Soaking lean meats in a salt water solution is so easy and it makes such a difference! Here’s how to brine.


  • 4 cups cold water
  • 6 Tbsp. Diamond Crystal kosher salt, 4 1/2 Tbsp.Morton’s kosher salt or 3 Tbsp. fine or table salt
  • 2 Tbsp. brown or white sugar (optional)
  • Lean meat for brining
  • Optional ingredients: peppercorns, juniper berries, rosemary, thyme and/or sage sprigs, bay leaves, allspice berries, whole cloves, star anise, other favorite herbs and spices


  1. In a large nonreactive container, combine the water, salt and sugar (if using), stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar.
  2. Transfer to a resealable bag, add the meat and any optional ingredients and seal the bag, squeezing out as much air as possible.
  3. Set aside in the refrigerator for 4- 6 hours for chicken breasts, 1-inch thick pork chops or pork tenderloins, 8-12 hours for a whole chicken or turkey breast, 12-24 hours for a whole turkey or pork loin.
  4. Remove the meat from the brine, pat it dry, and proceed with your recipe.


Note: This recipe makes enough brine for 4 pork chops, 4 chicken breasts or 2 pork tenderloins. Double, triple, or quadruple the recipe for bigger cuts or larger batches.

This post originally appeared in May 2018 and was revised and republished in October 2020.