How Does Brining Affect the Sodium Content of Meat?

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS,
October 28, 2011

Q. How much sodium does brining a turkey add to the final product once it's cooked? I can taste the salt even though I rinse my bird well after removing it from the brining solution.

A.   When you soak meat  in a brining solution, salt (and sugar, if your brine includes it) is absorbed into the meat.  Precisely how much sodium ends up in the cooked meat depends on how concentrated your brining solution is, how long you soak the meat, and how much surface area is exposed.

For example, cut-up chicken parts would absorb more sodium than a whole chicken.  But brining meat twice as long doesn't necessarily double the sodium.  As soon as the concentration of salt in the meat is the roughly same as the concentration of salt in the brining solution, the meat will not absorb any more sodium.

In any case, short of sending that roasted turkey out for laboratory analysis, it would be pretty hard to say exactly what the sodium content is. However, based on analysis done by America's Test Kitchen and others, it appears that brined poultry can absorb up to 1600mg of sodium per pound.

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