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The Science Behind Dry Brining a Steak

The Science Behind Dry Brining a Steak

What is Dry Brining?

Dry brining is the simple process of rubbing the steak with salt. You can use any type of salt, however the finer the salt grains, the less you need to use in order to avoid over salting. Here at that fat cow, we prefer using kosher salt as the grains are larger and its clearly visible what areas have been salted.

If using kosher salt, the general rule of thumb is to use half a teaspoon per pound of meat. If only table salt is to hand, use a quarter of a teaspoon per pound of meat.

How Do You Dry Brine a Steak?

This usually is best done when placed in the refrigerator as it allows the salt to penetrate the meat for easily. Depending on the size of the steak cut, the time required for this to effectively work could be anywhere between 45 minutes and 48 hours. Of course, the longer – the better. 

What is the Science Behind Dry Brining a Steak?

To summarise the whole process of dry brining a steak in a nutshell, the high concentration of salt usually leads to the salt ions entering the cells via diffusion and begins to work on the protein complexes within the muscle fibres. This whole process is vital in making sure the meat is juicier and more flavoursome than steak cooked using other methods. The salt helps the meat retain its original juices and flavour.

The whole process of dry brining is quite interesting, we’ll be keeping it simple it 3 simple steps easy to understand. Once the salt and spices are rubbed over the meat, the salt then draws out the meat juices via a process known as osmosis. After this, the salt mixes with the juices extracted and turns into a natural brine of sort. The final and most important step is when the brine is then reabsorbed back into the meat or steak and break down the muscle proteins.

The most effective and best results are obtained when left for over 24-48 hours, as the steak proteins are quite tough and will need longer to be broken down properly to be seasoned correctly. It is usually recommended you leave it in the refrigerator during this time.

Is Dry Brining Meat Safe?

The short answer is yes, dry brining itself is completely safe. We need to remember meat before the 20th century was preserved in salt. It was only when refrigerators were invented this method became less popular. However, there are certain precautions you can take to ensure food safety when dry brining. As the meat will be left uncovered, some helpful tips we recommend are:

  • Try to place the meat at the bottom of the refrigerator so in the event of a leak, nothing else is going to be affected.
  • Place the meat separately, away from other items in the fridge to avoid any possible contact.
  • Set the fridge temperature to 4°C or below, anything above this would take you into the danger zone of where bacteria is likely to multiply faster.

So overall, there isn’t much to worry about, however it does always help to ensure you’re following basic health and safety as you would with any other meat or food products. If you ever do plan to dry brine your halal meat from The Fat Cow, then do message us and let us know how it turned out.

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