Has anyone created a table of sodium absorbtion during brining vs. other contributing factors such as brining time, meat type, salt ratio, etc.

I'd like to be able to compute how much sodium is absorbed in a cut of meat during brining.

3 Answers 3


Cooks Illustrated apparently sent some brined meat off to a lab for analysis:

We were also interested in finding out how much sodium penetrates during the process. To answer the question, we brined natural pork chops and boneless, skinless chicken breasts in standard quick-brine solutions of 1/2 cup table salt dissolved in 2 quarts of cold water. After 30 minutes, we removed the pork and chicken, patted them dry, and cooked them in different skillets. We also cooked an “enhanced” pork chop (injected with a saltwater solution) and a kosher chicken breast that had been salted during processing. We sent the samples to a food lab to measure sodium content. The brined pork chops had a sodium content of 245 milligrams per 100 grams of meat (just under 1/8 teaspoon per serving); the enhanced pork had a bit more, with 268 milligrams. The kosher chicken breast weighed in at 252 milligrams of sodium. The brined chicken came in with the most sodium of all, at 353 milligrams (just over 1/8 teaspoon per serving). The USDA recommends limiting your daily sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams, about 1 teaspoon. Why did the chicken absorb more salt during brining than the pork? The loose white muscle fibers in chicken absorb salt water more quickly than the tighter muscle fibers in pork.

  • 2
    Seems like an awful lot of work, when you could get a reasonable estimate of the absorption by analyzing the brine water that was left behind.
    – Sean Hart
    Commented Oct 18, 2012 at 14:05

I think it depends on to many things to give a good guide, the shape of the meat being very hard to model. I.e. a very thin piece will 'brine' much faster than a sphere. One way would be to do equilibrium brine (see Modernist Cuisine), i.e. brine for if I remember correctly 2-3 days up to 1-2 weeks (for very large pieces of meat) until equilibrium has been reached, i.e. the meat and the brine have the same salt ration. Calculate the total weight (excluding any bone) of water and meat and add the percentage of salt that you want to get your meats salt content to. I.e. you want a 1% saly meat, it weighs 1 kg, you use 1L of water, i.e. 2 KG total weight, 1% salt in 2KG equals 20g. I.e. add 20g salt to the water, let sit for probably 1 week. Now you will have about 1.1 Kg meat, therefore about 11g of salt in the meat.


For a previous question about brining fish I found a source that stated in a normal brine (10-20% salt) the concentration of salt in meat will not exceed about 5% by weight no matter how long it is brined. Since the salt diffuses through the meat along a gradient, extended brining will only make the salt concentration more even from exterior to interior.


The article I was referring to can be found here. On a second reading, it appears my earlier statement was incorrect. The article states that wet curing methods can reach a salt concentration of 26%, but that maximum water gain is reached once the the salt concentration in the meat is around 5%. This process takes around 30 days.

  • Any luck finding your link? Commented Sep 28, 2012 at 19:34

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