If you’ve just found a beautiful chicken, a prime cut of steak, or even the prettiest pink pork tenderloin you’ve ever laid eyes upon, it’s time to talk brining.
You don’t want to risk dry, tough, or chewy meat. You want to do your meat justice and brining is the best way possible to ensure a juicy, moist, and perfectly seasoned piece of meat.
Your secret weapon is salt. Amateur briners use table salt. By the time you’ve finished this article, you will know better.
So what is the best salt for brining? Our top selections for best salt for brining include Kosher Salt from either Diamond Crystal are Morton Salt, Light Grey Celtic Sea Salt, or Himalayan Pink Salt from either The Spice Lab or San Francisco Salt Co (formerly Sherpa Pink).
In this article, we’ll explain the importance of salt in a perfect brine as well as the science behind brining. Then we’ll explain exactly why we’ve chosen the best salts for brining.
What is Brining?
In simplest terms, brining is a way to treat food, usually meat, poultry, or fish, with a solution of water and salt to enhance the flavor and tenderness.
Sometimes herbs, spices, sugar, or vinegar is also used in the brining process, but if there are too many additives, particularly acids, it will cross into marinade territory, rather than strict brine.
Depending on the size of the food you are brining, it can take anywhere from 30 minutes to several days to get the desired flavor and tenderness.
You can also dry brine meat simply by coating the surface of your meat thoroughly with coarse salt and letting it rest for several hours, again the timing will be dependant on the size of the meat.
What Does Brining Do?
As mentioned, brining brings out the natural flavor and tenderness of the meat. When you completely submerge a piece of meat in a salty liquid, the meat will absorb the brine in an attempt to balance the salt levels between the meat and the liquid.
By doing so, as your meat cooks the salt inside will naturally flavor the meat, but the higher liquid content will also allow your meat to lose a normal amount of moisture during the cooking process without becoming dry.
Salt also begins the process of breaking down the proteins in our meat, making it more tender and protecting it from becoming chewy or tough.
In a dry brine, the salt coating draws moisture out of the meat onto the surface, where it mixes with the salt and then reabsorbs into the meat, essentially creating a self-brining reaction.
Basic Brine Recipe
A great brine recipe begins with a simple formula that balances the ratio of salt and water. The basic ratio is 1 cup of salt for every gallon of water.
From there, you can add sugar, herbs, spices or other flavorings to complement your unique recipe.
To become a Master Briner, a basic brine recipe won’t be exacting enough. You must consider the salt you’re using very carefully.
Does Salt Matter in Brining?
Not all salt is created equal. Table salt is very different from Himalayan Pink Salt which is also very distinct from Sea Salt. Of course, we also have Kosher salt to consider, and the difference between the size and shape of the tiny crystals.
An amateur briner will assume salt is salt and continue on to cook up a delightful piece of adequately brined meat for their dinner.
A perfectionist will analyze the situation more closely.
Salt Particles – Size Matters
In the basic brine recipe shared above, the salt was measured by volume. This will produce a good brine and most home cooks will be pleased with the results.
It is far from an ideal recipe, however, because salt should always be measured by weight. 1 tablespoon of table salt is much “saltier” than 1 tablespoon of Kosher salt. This is because the particles are tiny in comparison, and it’s much heavier.
A much more accurate brine recipe is 10 ounces of salt per gallon of water.
Another factor to keep in mind is that the larger the particle of your salt, the faster and easier it will be to dissolve in water. Kosher salt will dissolve more quickly than table salt.
In a dry brine, the reverse is true. The larger the salt crystal, the longer it will take to absorb into the meat.
The 5 Best Salts for Brining
By all accounts, coarse salt is the best to use for brining. The critical factor, however, is to weight any salt you choose instead of measuring it by volume. Even scoop for scoop out of the same bag of salt may result in different weights, especially in terms of coarse salts.
There are a few types of coarse salt to consider, the most popular being Kosher salt because it’s very consistent in purity and flavor.
Himalayan Pink Salt and Sea Salt are also popular coarse salts for brining, but they made add subtle hints of flavor to your brine.
We’ve researched coarse salt extensively and have collected a list of the 5 best salts for brining.
|1.||Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt||Best choice overall|
|2.||Morton Salt Kosher Salt||Runner up (has an anti-caking agent in the ingredient list)|
|3.||Light Grey Celtic Sea Salt||Unique salt, feels slightly damp to the touch (but don't worry, it's normal)|
|4.||The Spice Lab Coarse Himalayan Salt||Best rock salt option, includes 84 trace minerals|
|5.||Sherpa Pink Authentic Himalayan||Runner up for Himalayan salt, free of anti-caking agents|
1. Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt
Diamond Crystal is one of two major manufacturers of Kosher salt. They’re traditional, very reliable, and easily accessible nearly everywhere.
- Very precise and consistent texture, making this a great choice if you choose to measure by volume, rather than weight
- The large crystals prevent over-salting because they’re not as salty as traditional table salt
- Is available in a large 3 lb container, solving your brining needs for many months at a time
Biggest Drawbacks: If you’re not measuring by weight, you’re probably going to be under-salting your brine because most recipes will measure based on table salt, even though coarse salt is ideal for brining.
2. Morton Salt Kosher Salt
Morton is the second major manufacturer of Kosher salt that has been depended upon for quality through many generations of Kosher cooks and at home brine chefs.
- The large flakes are perfect for dissolving in a wet brine or sticking to your meat in a dry brine
- A coarse salt, but smaller particles than some other brands, bringing the best of both worlds – quick dissolution in water and more potent salty flavor
Biggest Drawbacks: It includes an anti-caking agent in its formulation which is completely fine for brining but isn’t ideal to mix with vinegar so it shouldn’t be used for pickling.
3. Light Grey Celtic Sea Salt
The Celtic Sea Salt company is a highly reputed brand well known for its health benefits and very unique, salty flavor.
It’s recommended by chefs and nutritionists alike, and therefore a great choice for a healthy, delicious brining salt.
- High-quality standards, each batch being scientifically analyzed by a certified third-party laboratory
- Kosher Certified, NON-GMO Verified, Women-Owned Certified, and Organic Compliant Certified
- Great salty flavor, but for a brine measuring by weight or volume will be slightly unreliable due to the moisture content – trust your tastebuds!
Biggest Drawbacks: This salt is harvested from natural pools in France that have a bed of slick grey clay. Because of this, the salt is naturally slightly damp and this is off-putting to people who aren’t ready for it. Considering we’re talking about brine here, and the salt is going directly into water, a wet salt should be of no concern in this instance.
4. The Spice Lab Coarse Himalayan Salt
The Spice Lab is a family-owned and operated business that focuses on sourcing premium salts, spices, seasonings, and teas.
Their Himalayan Pink Salt is of the highest quality but, as a finite resource, you’ll want to enjoy it now while you can, because the mines will not last forever.
- Includes 84 trace elements and iron, giving a great burst of essential nutrients to your brine along with flavor and tenderness
- Subtle flavor in comparison to Kosher or Sea Salt, but draws out the natural flavor of the meat perfectly
Biggest Drawbacks: Because this is a rock salt, occasionally you’ll find a bit of rock mixed in with your salt. It’s mined from the side of a mountain. In a brine, this doesn’t present any problem whatsoever, but if you’re using it to season your food, simply use your fingers to measure out the salt and remove any small rocks that infiltrate your salt.
5. Sherpa Pink Authentic Himalayan
The fastest-growing salt company in America also happens to be a source of some of the finest Himalayan Pink salt on earth.
The company is focused on customer service so, if you have any questions or comments, instead of relying on the 3rd party sales facilitator, try going directly to the source and meeting their friendly team.
- Packed with essential trace minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, copper, and iron
- Free from anti-caking agents and iodine
- Kosher certified and available in a variety of crystal sizes
Biggest Drawbacks: Like the other Himalayan salt, this will contain some rocks or sand particles, despite the producer’s best efforts. It is arguably the highest quality salt on earth, however, and as previously mentioned, the rocks will not infiltrate your meat so it won’t affect your brine in the least.
Up Next: The Best Salt For Cooking