Many people enjoy eating meat on occasion, and some make a regular habit of it. When it comes to special occasions, such as Thanksgiving, meat is the most important thing on the table. If you have ever cooked a Thanksgiving turkey before, you likely have used some type of brining, which is typically a mixture of saltwater and spices. It adds flavor and tenderness to the turkey.
There is also a dry brine that can be used. It typically also involves salt and dry spices and then you let the bird in the refrigerator to air dry. It gives the same results as the more common form of brining but some people find it easier.
For those of you who really want a tender turkey on the table, there is an ingredient you should be used instead of salt. It’s water and baking soda solution that gets the bird just right. It uses a chemical reaction that tenderizes the meat, regardless of whether it is turkey, chicken or even a hamburger. Understanding more about how this special mixture tenderizes the meat will make you a hero in the kitchen.
Salt and Water Retention
We all recognize how our body tends to hold onto more water when we eat a lot of salt. It turns out that soaking meat in a salty brine does something very similar. It is a process known as ‘denaturing’ when the salt causes protein in the meat to form strings that will link with water. When you use a salt solution to brine the meat, it keeps it from drying out as it is cooking.
Baking Soda and Chemistry
When baking soda and water is used as a solution for tenderizing meat it is different than using a saltwater brine. The baking soda works with the pH level in the meat and neutralizes acids. As the pH level increases on the outside of the meat, it keeps the protein inside of the meat from getting too tight. When that happens, the meat stays tender when it cooks instead of toughening up, which is what typically happens.
You will also like knowing that using the baking soda solution will work faster than using saltwater. The meat will only have to stay in the baking soda solution for about 20 minutes but it may take up to 30 minutes before the brine solution even begins working. In addition, you can let the meat soak in the baking soda as long as you want without consequence but if you do the same thing with brine, it will get mushy.
Less Baking Soda Is Used Compared to Salt
For 1.5 pounds of meat, a standard brine is 1/4 cup of salt dissolved in 1 quart of water. All the other hand, it only takes 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda in a pint of water to make a baking soda solution. That is enough for 12 ounces of ground beef. If you are making a baking soda solution for 12 ounces of sliced meat, use a teaspoon of baking soda instead.