RECIPE: For juicy grilled meat every time, start with a brine

It’s hard to beat grilled chicken breasts for an easy summer supper. I know, because I serve them at least twice a week. But even a super fan like me has to admit that boneless, skinless breasts dry out faster than wet footprints on the pool deck. As I watched my family politely but joylessly chew their hockey pucks of protein, I wondered if a pre-grill brine would infuse the meat with moisture and flavor?

At its most basic, a brine is simply water and kosher salt. The fluffy kosher salt crystals dissolve quickly, without the iodized flavors of table salt. My Thanksgiving brine recipe also includes a cornucopia of fall-scented aromatics; I substituted lemon and lime for summer citrus notes. A whole turkey brines for 18 hours; I guessed and soaked my chicken breasts for two hours, then grilled as usual. The good news is the chicken was delightfully juicy. The bad news is the flavor was outrageously salty. My palate detected no citrus. No chicken, even. Just salt.

I skipped the aromatics, reduced the brine time to an hour, and tried again. Even with the minimal ingredients and marinating time, the chicken breasts were juicy with a well-seasoned, not too salty, flavor.

Heady with success, I tried the same technique with another lean protein, boneless pork chops. Ah, readers, the brined pork chops were the best we’ve ever had. Full of moisture. Full of rich pork flavor. Yes, brine your chicken breasts, but really, really brine your pork chops. Also brine your salmon. And your steak. In fact, I have yet to find a meat that isn’t improved by a basic brine. Start with an hour-long soak, and see how good your favorite go-to grilled meats can truly get.

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Note: Boneless, skinless chicken breasts may be substituted for pork chops. Follow the recipe as written, grilling about 6 minutes per side, until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

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