My wife and I were eating some rotisserie chicken the other night and she commented something to the effect of "I think they brined this because I can taste the seasoning pretty deep in the meat."

I she probably right? Is there a surefire way to tell if what you're eating has been brined? Perhaps by telltale marks or coloring?

  • Shouldn't it taste a lot saltier? Feb 22, 2011 at 19:53
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    Actually, this question is also useful before cooking -- if you had a pre-salted (eg, kosher) bird, it'd be pointless to brine it ... I don't know if you could over-brine it. (I don't think so, unless the solution was too salty, but I coul be wrong)
    – Joe
    Feb 22, 2011 at 20:17
  • Interesting (brief) article here: guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2005/may/28/foodanddrink.shopping3 . I don't know enough about brining but perhaps they hadn't washed the bird as well as they could.
    – tonylo
    Feb 23, 2011 at 3:30
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    Maybe the bird had been injected with marinade? I don't know the correct term for it, but I know you can get syringes that you fill with marinade and use to inject marinade deep into the meat. For industrial purposes I am sure they have machines for it. Feb 23, 2011 at 8:25
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    @Chad - I have no idea how the industrial machines work, but this method is often used to inject brine into the meat with the specific purpose of selling more water and less meat. For this reason it seems likely that they would try and hide it from the consumer by making the needles as small as possible. Feb 24, 2011 at 10:39

2 Answers 2


Empirically, you could use a salinity meter-- one that is made for checking salt water fish tanks. The only other thing I can think of that would drive seasoning into the meat would be cooking in a pressure cooker. I believe some grocery stores employ such a method on chicken before finishing in a rotisserie. Certain fried chicken chains also deep-fry in a pressure vessel which could yield similar results.

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    pressure cookers in fried chicken are to create a certain skin profile and fat structure, it doesn't drive the seasoning into the meat. Brining is based around a cells osmosis which is why it actually moves the salt deep into the meat. Feb 23, 2011 at 6:24
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    Injection, which is very similar to brining, would also move flavor in deep.
    – justkt
    Feb 23, 2011 at 13:49
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    Good point with osmotic pressure @sarge_smith. My thought is that given that the steam in a pressure cooker is applying 15 psi of pressure against the walls of the vessel, one can infer from Pascal's Law that it's also applying 15 psi against the food inside. That pressure can act on parts of the food that are less dense than water (like fat). Feb 24, 2011 at 5:36
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    @kelly You aren't wrong, but sadly, steam doesn't carry flavor very well with it. What we taste in most spices is basically oils in various configurations, very few of whom are water soluble. In relation to this question, which is dealing with salt, which we know is not steam soluble or the ocean wouldn't be salty and rain would be, that psi isn't going to driving anything anywhere. However, the reason to cook in a pressure cooker is exactly as you said, to let that steam alter the parts that are less dense than water and quickly render and restructure them. Feb 26, 2011 at 5:55
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    @Chad - I suppose either way would work. Another way would be to remove some undesirable part of the chicken (like the neck) before brining, brine the remaining tasty parts, and then cook everything together. Comparing measurements of both should give you some empirical data. Mar 9, 2011 at 17:53

It would be hard to tell with rotisserie chicken, because of the way it's cooked. Flavors penetrate it very easily due to the whole "impaled on a spit" aspect of the cooking process, and rotisserie style meat is basted often. The best way to find out is to simply ask the cooks.

  • You mean that impaling the chicken provides more surface area for juices and seasonings to get to or are you saying that somehow the spit actually gives it a flavor... or something else?
    – Chad
    Feb 26, 2011 at 11:25
  • @chad: Basically it's like flavor injection. Make a bunch of holes in the meat, then baste it, and the flavors will penetrate deeply. You will lose juices though, so it's more suitable to this sort of slow cooking. Feb 27, 2011 at 4:34

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