Basic Brine Recipe {Salt and Brown Sugar}

Basic Brine Recipe

Taking the time to brine your meat is one of the easiest ways to improve your cooking.  This is a basic brine recipe that uses water, kosher salt and brown sugar.

Let’s take a look at how to make and use this simple brine.

Make the Brine

This recipe is extremely easy to remember when you keep the following ratio in mind, 1:1:1.  This ratio means:

  • 1 gallon of water
  • 1 cup of kosher salt
  • 1 cup of brown sugar

Mix the ingredients together in whatever container is needed for the amount of meat you have.  You can use a turkey bag, stock pot, bowl – whatever is around and needed.  Just make sure that the container is small enough to fit inside your refrigerator.

Use the Brine

You want the brine to fully penetrate the meat so the tenderizing and flavor enhancing capability of the brine is fully realized.  The amount of time required will vary based upon the type of meat you are working with.

Brining times for common cuts are given below:

  • Fish/Shrimp: 30 minutes
  • Chicken Pieces: 4 hours
  • Pork Loins: 12 hours

As you can see, smaller cuts need a short soak time while larger cuts should be brined overnight.

The meat MUST be refrigerated as it brines.

When you remove your meat from the brine, rinse thoroughly with cool water. Pat dry and your meat is ready for spices/rubs and off you go!

Recipe Adjustments and Substitutions

Below are some of the most common substitutions and adjustments people make to the basic brine recipe.

Type of Salt

If you are out of kosher salt then you can use coarse sea salt as a straight 1:1 substitution.

If you want to use iodized table salt then only use 3/4 cup instead of a full cup.

Amount of Salt

There are times when I want to start brining chicken pieces tonight so they are ready to grill for lunch tomorrow.  If you use the standard brine recipe on small pieces overnight then they can come out too salty.

In these cases where I want to brine small cuts for extended periods of time I will cut the salt in half and use 1/2 cup salt per gallon of water.

There are also times, like at a barbecue competition, where you will want the meat to brine fast.  In these cases I will double the salt concentration as you can see in this brine for chicken thighs.

Type of Sugar

The brown sugar in this recipe helps counteract the salt flavor of the brine.  I like brown sugar the most for this recipe but it can easily be substituted on a 1:1 basis for white sugar, turbinado sugar, honey or even maple syrup.

Addition of Aromatics

You can dress up the brine by throwing in your favorite aromatics.  People routinely add ingredients such as:

  • Onion slices
  • Crushed garlic cloves
  • Celery stalks
  • Black peppercorns
  • Rosemary sprigs

There is no set amount or limit of aromatics you can add.  Use whatever you have on hand and enjoy.

To get the most flavor from the aromatic brine the mixture should be brought to a boil and simmered for a few minutes.  Place the warm brine in the refrigerator and make sure that it has completely cooled before use.

Basic Brine Recipe

Basic Brown Sugar Brine Recipe

This is the basic brine recipe that every cook should learn by heart.
Prep Time 5 mins
Total Time 5 mins
Calories 10 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar

Instructions
 

  • Mix all of the ingredients together in whatever container is needed for the amount of meat you have.
  • Add your meat and don’t forget it MUST be refrigerated. Small cuts should be brined for four hours while larger cuts can be brined overnight.
  • When you remove your meat from the brine, thoroughly rinse with cool water. Pat dry and your meat is ready for spices/rubs and off you go!

Notes

There are many brine recipes that include a kitchen sink full of aromatics but in reality all you need is this simple recipe.
You need the salt to dissolve into the meat. The salt relaxes the protein making it more tender. The salt also increases the amount of water in the meat making it more juicy.
The sugar in the brine is important to help balance out the harshness of the salt.

39 thoughts on “Basic Brine Recipe {Salt and Brown Sugar}

  1. Have a ? . Smoking some venison . Friend told me 1gal 2cups of salt 1 cup sugar 1 cup brown sugar and 1 cup of Morton’s tender mix . Seems like a lot for one gal of water

    1. Absolutely. I use garlic all the time. Love it. You can add any herbs/seasonings/ingredients you prefer. Have fun messing with it!

  2. Trying this for the first time tonight, probably will brine for 4-5 hours. New smoker with a new smoker… Wish me luck

    1. Jeff what did you smoke and how did it come out? I am also new to this. My hubby got me a smoker for Christmas. So far I’ve only had one fail my very first one but I’m real curious about the brining.

  3. Fixing the third time. Only recipe I use. Try a little Pure maple syrup w/the b sugar or a bunch of instead of.

  4. Hi Kevin,
    If the chicken was frozen and then thawed, can it still be brined? If so how long do you recommend to keep it the refrigerator.

    Thanks!

    1. Shane – definitely still safe to brine. I do that all the time. I would say it’s safe for a few days in the fridge before cooking. But I usually try to cook chicken that has been frozen as quickly as possible, just to be safe.

  5. Just put a hip of venison in this simple brine, I will take it out Friday afternoon and it will be cooked in a garbage can Saturday afternoon. I’ve done lots of turkeys this way but never brined and I’ve never done venison I will let you know Saturday evening how it turned out! Cheers.

      1. Thanks for your response! I did four chickens and tripled the recipe and got excellent reviews. Live your site!!

  6. Kevin, whats the minimum amount of time ????
    I’ve never brine befor and the bird has just goneback into the fridge

    1. I haven’t tried – but I’m SURE you could. Just be careful with the salt – seafood really takes in any flavors you brine with. I’d either cut back the salt or just brine for a shorter period.

        1. Absolutely! Add whatever flavors you prefer. Anything you add will definitely change/enhance the flavor you give the meat through the brining process.

  7. I am looking forward to having my husband smoke the chicken for tomorrows dinner guests. I was wondering if I could use pickle salt instead of kosher salt?

    Thank You

    Michele Forster

        1. It can be for as many chickens as you can fit! The basic brine recipe is just that – basic. A starting point. Feel free to increase or decrease as needed for how many chickens you’re doing.

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