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My query is regarding fish in general and specifically types like salmon, tuna and trout.

  1. How long should fish be brined for? Some recipes say 4 hours and others say 8-12 hours.

  2. Should the saline solution be 6% as usual.

  3. How do you know if it has bined properly? Do you expect it to be plump and juicy as with poultry or how exactly?

Thanks

To answer your question, my goal in brining is to simply get as much salt as possible into the cells of the fish. . I do not care about taste, flavour or anything else, I just want salt to penetate into all parts of the fish. As you know if you want salt in your meat brining is the best method and better then normal and slow cooking which do not absorb to the same extent and in the same way.

  • What is your goal in brining the fish? I don't think it's nearly as common as brining chicken and turkey, since fish is already quite moist and tender when properly cooked. This will probably help determine the answers to your questions, especially the third. – Cascabel Jan 5 '12 at 17:53
  • Fish tends to soak up things faster than most other meat. Depending on the thickness, marinading fish can take as little as 30 minutes. I would say that for time, 4 hours should be plenty to get a nice brine. – Jake Robinson Jan 6 '12 at 21:09
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    "I do not care about taste, flavour or anything else" - so why do you want to get all that salt in there? – slim Jan 10 '12 at 14:26
  • I suspect if you want maximum salt absorption, you want a 13% salt brine, and a long brine. – derobert Feb 9 '12 at 16:53
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If you want to cure your fish (basically a brine without moisture) it is dependent on the thickness of the meat mostly. If it's as thin as 1/4", it will take approximately 1-2 hours. If it's more around 1" thick, it could need 3-8 hours.

If you use a dry-cure method you don't have to worry about having too much salt because once you're done, you just wipe it off.

If done incorrectly (ie. not enough time), you should notice a difference in the colour between the edge and the interior. Typically, the colour becomes more pale.

The main purpose of the salt is to dehydrate the meat, not necessarily drying. If you use a brine, it obviously won't become dry.

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It depends on why you're brining. I don't smoke fish so longer brining may be warranted for that use. I brine to keep fish juicy coming off the grill. For this I agree with Cook's illustrated:

We found that, for up to six 1-inch-thick steaks or fillets, the optimum concentration was a 6 percent brine (5 tablespoons of salt dissolved in 2 quarts of water) and the ideal time was 15 minutes. It worked no matter the species, improving the texture of the fish without over seasoning....

And brining works a lot faster on fish because the structure of muscle in fish is different than that in meat: Instead of long, thin fibers (as long as 10 centimeters in meat), fish is constructed of very short (up to 10 times shorter) bundles of fibers.

  • Always love the Cook's Illustrated explanations of the science. Thanks for including that in addition to your own experience! – Erica Aug 11 '18 at 12:51

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