Fish and seafood are delicate and can easily dry out if overcooked. Brining will help your fish and seafood stay moist and flavorful. This is especially critical if you're cooking fish on the grill, since the high temperature, dry heat can really dry out a piece of fish.
Brining is also a wonderful way technique for flavoring fish and seafood because the ocean is sort of the original brine.
Indeed, brining is one of the earliest known methods of preserving foods, possibly because people discovered that immersing food in seawater helped prevent spoilage. That's because the salt kills the bacteria the cause spoilage and food poisoning, by depriving them of water. This is true even if the food is immersed in water.
To preserve meat or fish, you'd want to use a solution of about 10 percent salinity. But we're not preserving here, we're just brining for flavor. Our recipe produces a 4 percent brine, using around 60 grams of Kosher salt and six cups of liquid. You could weight the salt, since different brands of Kosher salt have different densities, but 1/4 cup is is right in the ballpark.
Once upon a time, chefs would test the density of their brining liquid by peeling a potato and dropping it in. If it sank to the bottom, it needed more salt. If it floated to the top, it needed more water. The brine was deemed to be just right when the potato hovered in the middle of the pot.
Even though we're not brining for the purpose of preserving, we still need to be conscious of food safety. The main thing here is ensuring that the brine solution is icy when you add your fish to it. Adding raw fish to room temperature brine could create a food safety hazard.
This recipe makes about six cups of brine (after adding the ice), which is enough to brine about two pounds of fish. You can use any shape or size of container, but stay away from aluminum, since the vinegar can react with aluminum and give the brine a metallic taste.
You can even brine frozen fish using this brine recipe. You can skip the ice and just add the frozen fish to the brine and refrigerate overnight. By the next day the fish will be thawed and brined.
- 1 quart (4 cups) water
- ¼ cup Kosher salt
- 2 Tbsp sugar
- 2 tsp white wine vinegar
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- ¼ cup thinly sliced onion
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
- 1 tsp cracked black pepper
- 2 cups ice
- Combine the water, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Stir to dissolve.
- Add the remaining ingredients, along with the ice, and stir so that the liquid is fully chilled.
- Pour the brine into a heavy gallon zipper bag, then add the fish, squeeze excess air out of the bag and seal it. You can use another type of container as long as it has a lid.
- Refrigerate overnight, and take it out of the fridge about half an hour before you're ready to cook the fish.