The Public Pursuit Brine
by Ian Burrow
The first time chemistry ever proved useful.
When the chemical compound NaCl engages with a piece of meat, it has the capacity to denature the meat’s proteins, enabling H2O to penetrate deep within enemy territory and maximize the meat’s capacity to have a positive experience in your mouth.
I first encountered the guidance to “brine” something when I started cooking wild game at the beginning of Public Pursuit.
Following a few Google searches, and a momentary pause to look back on all of the high school chemistry classes I slept through, I was able to grasp the concept behind brining a piece of meat, and why it is such an important step in the cooking process. A brine consists of water and salt. Any additional components fall to personal preference. The salt will denature the meat’s proteins and allow the water to penetrate the membrane of the meat. What does this mean? Simply put, it tenderizes the meat. Other components of a brine (in this case, parsley and peppercorn) can travel with the water and enter the meat. While a marinade simply impacts the surface of a piece of meat, a brine works its magic deep into the tissue. Just how deep is determined by the toughness of the meat and the length of time it is brined. Timing can be a bit of a guessing game but I’ve outlined my typical timelines below.
4 Parts Salt - the MVP of the process. When in doubt, add more salt.
2 Parts Parsley - I like parsley because it isn’t overpowering yet it still brings a naturally fresh, additional flavor to the meat.
1 Part Peppercorn - Pepper has become a staple in dishes world wide. The added pepper helps bring a more recognizable flavor to the meat for those who haven’t eaten wild game before, or don’t eat it very often.
By the Numbers
Place your meat in a bowl that leaves enough room for water to rest 1-2” above the meat and not overflow.
Add salt, parsley, and peppercorn.
Fill the bowl with cool water until the water line hovers 1-2” above the meat.
If brining for longer than an hour, place the bowl in the fridge.
Time to Brine for Big Game: 1 Hour +
I prefer to keep my brine under two hours for steaks and ribs. For a roasts, an afternoon. For quarters, overnight.
Time to Brine for Fowl and Small Game: 30 Minutes - 1 Hour
Light meat (upland birds, squirrel, rabbit), 30 minutes. Dark meat (waterfowl, turkey), an hour.
Time to Brine for Fish: 15
Much longer than fifteen minutes, and I’ve found my fish to be saltier than I prefer.