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I have a chicken recipe that requires marinating. However, I'd like to brine the chicken as well. How do I go about doing this? Should I brine the chicken, then marinate it? Should I marinate it first, then brine? Or should I mix the marinade into the brine?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Brining and marination do two different things, contrary to popular belief.

Brines allow salt (plus possibly a very few other small flavor molecules) to penetrate into meat, at a rate of about 2-2.5 CM per 24 hours. These deeply season your meat, change its texture, and help allow it to retain moisture when being cooked.

Marinades are a surface treatment, applying flavors to the surface of the food. In actual practice, they do not provide any flavor deep into the food (except possibly salt). Marination generally does not penetrate more than about 2 mm. They are mostly about the sauce adhering to the food.

Your best bet, if you want the best of both worlds is to:

  1. Brine the chicken in a simple unflavored brine (just water and salt and/or sugar)
  2. Marinate in a low salt marination for surface flavor.

You do not want to do the reverse, as the brine would essentially wash away the marinade. You do not want to mix the marinade and the brine, as it will not adhere, and will not penetrate, essentially wasting the marinade ingredients.

It may also be helpful to treat the food with a low salt dry rub for flavor, or baste it with a flavorful sauce as part of the cooking technique.

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Just curious: what is your source for "2-2.5 cm per 24 hours" and "2 mm"? –  CookingNewbie Jun 20 at 23:03
    
Some marinades are as salty as a brine. Wouldn't they be sort of a bridge between the two methods, possibly the "best of both worlds?" –  Carey Gregory Jul 30 at 3:54

Brine and then apply a rub before grilling or a baste while grilling. No need to marinate then. If you're grilling wings which is relatively a thinner part then just go ahead with a marinade and baste - no need to brine IMO.

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