Brining is an excellent technique to prevent chalky, dried-out meat. But sometimes we prefer a different way to season. After all, the added moisture of a brine makes it difficult to get the bronzed, crispy poultry skin that we love. In some cases, we lose the water and turn to straight salt. Here's why.
How the Science Works
Salting poultry fulfills many of the same roles as brining. The salt, which slowly penetrates the bird's flesh, helps to break down proteins and retain moisture. But salting is different from brining--in more ways than the presence of a bucket of water.
Poultry naturally contains some salt and lots of water, which normally coexist in a happy balance. But when salt is applied directly to the meat, it starts by drawing the moisture out to the surface of the bird via osmosis.
On the surface, this moisture dissolves the applied salt in an effort to restore balance.
But wouldn't drawing all that water out of the chicken make the situation worse, simply causing the meat to dry out?
Chicago chef Grant Achatz of Alinea, Next, and the Aviary talks kitchen rules, food innovation, and edible balloons
What’s a new food trend you’ve noticed?
Lily bulbs. I ate them at a restaurant in Paris and then saw them everywhere in New York. It’s the new hot ingredient, like yuzu was five years ago.
How do you feel about being seen as the king of molecular gastronomy in the U.S.?
I hate that. It seems very soulless. Great cooking--whether it's your mother's or a chef's--has an emotional, visceral component. We're communicating with
food. We prioritize science, but we use it as a tool to manipulate food so that we can convey emotion.
Dried beans defy most of the rules of cooking. For something so small, they sure do require a lot of cooking. And while the active work is minimal, it can be frustrating when a considerable investment of time yields subpar results. You want beans to be creamy, with soft skins. But often the skins are still tough despite hours of cooking. Or worse, the beans have exploded and formed a starchy mass. What to do?
Ingredients - Fish
- 1 teaspoon lightly toasted coriander seeds, ground
- 1 teaspoon lightly toasted fennel seeds, ground
- 1 lemon, scrubbed
- Freshly ground white pepper
- 7 egg whites
- 5 cups kosher salt
- 1 whole 1 1/2 pound fish, cleaned, but scales left on. Rinsed and dried.
- 3 thyme sprigs