Why and how to dry brine your meat

Looking for a way to make the meat you cook as tender and flavorful as possible? You may want to try a dry brine. This technique is incredibly effective and deceptively simple. Although it requires some time and planning, the actual brining steps are quite easy. Learn more about how to dry brine your meat and how it affects your cooking results.

Wet Brine vs. Dry Brine

When most people think of brining meat, they think of a wet brine. That's when meat is immersed in salt water for a period of time before cooking. Other flavorings, like spices, can be added in as well, but it only takes salt and water to create this brine at a basic level.

Dry brining takes a similar approach but streamlines it even further. All you need is salt - no liquid is required whatsoever. As with wet brining, you can opt to include other flavorings if you wish to create a custom dry rub. Just apply the plain salt or rub mixture to the surface and leave it untouched like that for a period of time before cooking.

You can basically brine any type of meat you like, including beef, pork and poultry. Just don't brine any meats that are pre-salted or injected with a salt solution. In addition, keep in mind that some high-end cuts authentic Wagyu or Kobe beef may not need brining since they are already so tender and flavorful on their own.

What Does Dry Brining Do?

You might wonder exactly what happens to your meat during the dry brining process. Here are some of the key benefits of a dry brine:

  • Enhanced flavor: Salt is the essential component in brining for a reason. It draws out the moisture, which the salt mixes with. Then, that moisture gets reabsorbed by the tissues, which helps to infuse the flavors throughout instead of only applying them to the surface while cooking.
  • Tender, juicy meat: Salt also has a tenderizing effect on the meat. It helps to relax the proteins and break them down so the meat is tender and moist instead of chewy and dry.
  • Faster cooking: All that tenderizing also helps to speed up the cooking process. Make sure you keep a close eye on your meat so that it doesn't overcook.

How to Dry Brine Meat

Dry brining is relatively easy, which makes it a great option for home cooks and professional chefs alike. Here's how to do it:

  1. Thaw meat and pat it dry with paper towel.
  2. Apply salt or a dry rub mixture over the entire surface of each cut of meat. You'll need about ½ teaspoon of salt per pound. (Kosher salt is considered the top choice by many chefs. But if you don't have any on hand, simple table salt will do the trick.)
  3. Set the meat on a baking rack set in a rimmed sheet pan and place it in the refrigerator uncovered. The baking rack elevates the meat to ensure air circulation around all sides of the meat.
  4. Allow the meat to remain in the fridge for at least one hour or up to 24 hours. The longer you let it brine, the more flavor and tender, juicy texture you'll get.
  5. Bring the meat to room temperature, then cook as desired. You don't need to add any extra salt or other seasonings before cooking begins.

Enjoy experimenting with different flavor combinations or keep things simple with a plain salt rub. Either way, your meat will be undeniably delicious once it's cooked.