Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Daring Cooks November 2012: Brining

Audax of Audax Artifax was our November 2012 Daring Cooks’ host. Audax has brought us into the world of brining and roasting, where we brined meat and vegetables and roasted them afterwards for a delicious meal!

I apparently cannot read instructions this month. Generally I think the brining process is used for poultry, I had only previously heard of it in connection with turkeys on Thanksgiving. However, as I was going to do this challenge just for me, I didn't want to go down the chicken route, so I chose fish. Specifically I chose gurnard, a sustainable white fish, which has been championed by Hugh Fearley-Whittingstall and others as a sustainable alternative to cod and haddock. Its a very ugly fish but it is incredibly tasty, much better than the pasty coley or hoki. However, when I actually read through what I had to do, after buying the fish, it said "ITEMS THAT BENEFIT FROM BRINING - Seafood: salmon, trout, shrimp" nothing about white fish!

So I hummed and hawed and asked Audax and he said go for it anyway and I did and boy am I glad I did. This was the tastiest fish ever. The brining really brought out the flavour of the fish. I used the recipe below for brining the gurnard and I left it for about 5 hours in the fridge, then I roasted it with carrots, peppers and onions for 25 mins and served it with potato and leek mash and coleslaw. So so good.

Recipe One – All-Purpose Brine:
Makes 4 cups of brine enough for about one pound (½ kg) of meat
This is the brine to use for most cuts of meat and poultry that will be roasted.

4 cups (1 litre) of cold water (see note 1)
¼ cup (70 gm) table salt or ½ cup (70 gm) Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt
optional 2 tablespoons (30 ml) (30 gm/1 oz) sugar (see note 2)
optional 3-4 peppercorns, a few springs of herbs, a garlic clove or two, a knob of ginger etc. (see note 3)


1. Heat 1 cup of water to boiling point add the salt and stir until all the salt has totally dissolved.

2. Place in a non-reactive container (glass, plastic, stainless steel, zip-lock bags etc). Add the remaining water and stir. Make sure that all the salt has dissolved. Wait until the brine has reached room temperature.

3. Add your cut of meat make sure that the meat is completely submerged (that is totally covered in the salty water) if need be you can weigh down the cut of meat with a clean plate (etc). If using plastic bags make sure that the meat is totally covered in brine and make sure that is bag is locked securely.

4. Cover the container with plastic wrap to prevent odours contaminating the flavour brine or the brine leaking.

5. Place the container into the refrigerator for the soaking time suggested by the guidelines above.

6. If desired you can air-dry your poultry (usually over night) in the refrigerator if you wish to have crispy skin on your bird. It is best to pat dry your brined item (inside and out) with paper towels before cooking.

1. You can replace all or some of the water with a combination of wine, cider, beer, tea, coffee, fruit juice, most sauces (tomato, soya, BBQ, chilli etc), chicken stock, beef stock or fish stock. Be careful with acidic liquids like wine, cider, fruit juices which can turn your meat to mush if brined too long.

2. A little sugar can help overcome the saltiness of the brine and helps to give a nice sheen to your piece of meat when roasted. You can use up to ¼ cup of sugar (use the lesser amount (2 tablespoons) for high temperature roasting since the brine can burn at high heats if you use too much sugar). You can use brown sugar or honey or other sweeteners if you wish.

3. Any combination of spices and herbs can be used to flavour the brine. Garlic powder, onion powder and ginger powder are excellent to use for brining.


  1. That really is an ugly fish! I'm glad it worked out for you!

  2. OK, the fish IS really ugly in the bowl but on the plate it has transformed into tasty looking morsels. That is talent, when you can turn an ugly fish into an appetizing dish. Wonderful job!

  3. Fantastic! I have to say I saw the picture before I read your post and did wonder for a moment if you'd brined a big goldfish! Glad you didn't :-) It looks really tasty!