A Brine for All Seasons

Years ago, the San Francisco Chronicle published Alice Waters’ brine recipe as part of their research on how to make best Thanksgiving Turkey.  Over the years, I’ve played with mix and always change it to suit my mood.

Since I don’t usually make a turkey, I tend to make a much smaller brine.  I also use heat to dissolve the salt and sugar and draw out the flavors of the spices.  I generally brine my chicken before it goes in the smoker to add a layer of complexity.  I brine poultry for 24 hours or so (but 8 to 12 will give you some good flavor as well) and my pork for 3 days.  I haven’t done much with beef to be honest.
brined chicken

Being a weeknight in the fall, I didn’t smoke the chicken in the picture.  I broiled it for 8 minutes a side and then moved it down to bake at 350 for another 15 minutes.  I have my standard rub and a bit of sweet/spicy BBQ sauce on the top.

Lee’s Brine du Jour

3/4 cup Kosher Salt

1 Cup Sugar

3 juniper berries, smashed

4 allspice berries, smashed

1 clove, smashed

1 tbs Smoked Paprika

1 Tbs Red chili flakes

1 large head of fresh time

10-500 cloves of peeled garlic, whole

1 Tbs fine ground black pepper

3 dashes Angry Chef Hot Sauce

3 cold cups water

4 cups of ice or so

More water – about 3/4 gallon


In a large sauce pan add the 3 cups of water with the salt and sugar and turn the heat to medium.  Stir the liquid to help dissolve the salt and sugar.  As the liquid heats, add in the spices.

In the container you will use for the brine (and I have about 4 different sizes) put in the thyme, garlic and ice.

When the salt and sugar are dissolved, give it another moment and then add the liquid to the ice.

Stir the ice and hot liquid.  If the ice is dissolved and the liquid is till warm, add more ice.  Once the liquid is cool, add about half the cold water.

Add in the meat you will be brining, and then water to fill or cover the meat.  Sometimes a plate or bowl in the liquid will help keep the meat submerged.

refrigerate and wait

Rinse off the meat when it is time to cook it and pat dry with a paper towel.  Don’t stress, the salt encourages osmosis and the flavors are now in the meat.

From here it is up to you.


I often play with the recipe using these ingredients in various combinations.  I would encourage experimentation to discover what you like best.

Brown Sugar for depth

Jalapenos for spice


Chili powder

Bay leaves

Fresh Oregano

Mustard Powder

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1 Comment

  1. The Coffee Brined Rib, Why Not? | stuff and things with lee

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