by: Max M Rasmussen

Brine for curing meat, poultry and fish

There are many ways to make a brine for the various uses. The only thing that is absolutely necessary is salt and water. This recipe is a general brine that never goes wrong. You can then make your meat more or less salt by allowing it stay longer in the brine. This is also a starting guide to marinating in brine. With only this guide in hand, you can get very far, just using these guidelines. So enjoy yourself. Brine is fun! Unlike "fresh marinated" chicken from the supermarket, no water enters the meat when it is marinated in brine. The high salt content in the brine actually make water seep out of the meat. Chemical processes called "diffusion" and "osmosis" is to blame. You can easily google more if it interests you.

Ingredients, general

  • 4 liter/quarts water
  • 225 g (8 oz) salt
  • 125 g sugar (4 oz)
  • spices (optional)


Heat the water to a boil

Mix in all the ingredients. Dissolve sugar and salt.

Cool to room temperature

Put the brine into the refrigerator and allow it to cool completely. Since we want to keep food in it for a period of time, we heat it to kill all the bacteria. Then we cool it to hinder any new bacterial growth,

The brine must be cold when the meat is added.

Quick alternative: I often make a simple brine of salt, sugar and dried spices for fish and thin pieces of meat. Then I usually don't boil the water first, but simply make sure that the salt and sugar is dissolved in cold water using a stick blender. After which I add the dried spices. It saves a lot of waiting time.

Extra herbs and spices for most meats

Any combination of the following flavors usually gives reasonable results. It's hard to use too much. Chop the vegetables coarsely.

  • onions
  • carrot
  • celery
  • garlic
  • peppercorns
  • parsley
  • thyme
  • laurel
  • chives

Spices for pork

  • sage
  • garlic
  • Juniper berries
  • toasted coriander seeds
  • brown sugar
  • Juniper

Spices for poultry

  • lemon, squeezed over and thrown in
  • tarragon

Spices for fish

  • 2 lemons, sliced
  • 60 g (2 oz) dill
  • 6 cloves of garlic 

General marinating time

Marinating time is critical. Mariante for a long time, and it becomes very salty. So it is better to marinate too little than too much. Small pieces of meat need only a few hours. Large pieces may require several days. In any circumstances you should marinate the meat for quite in advance, before you want to cook it. This gives the brine a chance to distribute itself into the meat.

Chicken breasts: 2 hours

Pork chops, 3-5 cm (1-2 inches) thick: 2 hours

Whole chicken, 1 kg (2 lbs): 4-6 hours

Whole chicken, 1.5 kg - 2 kg (3-4 lbs): 8-12 hours

Turkey breast: 12-18 hours.

Roast pork / pork neck roast / whole piece of pork, 2 kg (4 lbs): 12 hours

Turkey, whole, 4 kg - 7 kg (9 lbs - 15 lbs): 24 hours

Turkey, whole, over 7 kg (15 lns): 24-36 hours

Filet, thin: 1 hour

Filet steaks and more than 2.5 cm (1 inch): 6-8 hours