As the title of this post suggests, I'm not a brining convert. In theory brining is a tasty idea - who wouldn't want juicier, saltier meats? In practice, however, I don't think there's a noticeable difference in a dish that was brined and one that was cooked properly without brining. For several years now, cooks have been inundated with recipes and products for brining - from Cooks Illustrated to FoodTV to Williams-Sonoma. And speaking of Williams-Sonoma, have you seen their brining bags?
Their photo, seen above, shows the bag in action. Now, I'm a big fan of Williams-Sonoma and, in fact, purchased something in their store over the weekend. However, the brining bag strikes me as a bit over the top - it's just a big zip-top bag. W-S lists its features as: heavy-duty to prevent punctures, re-usable (if you choose to hand wash and dry), double zipper to prevent leaks. In other words, it's the same as the Ziploc bags you can purchase at any grocery store or even the commercial-grade Ziploc bags available at Cabela's (who knew Cabela's customers need to keep things fresh?). So at $4 a piece, why would someone buy the Williams-Sonoma bags? Seeing these a few months ago just cemented by theory about brining. Once you can purchase unnecessary accoutrements for a trend, it's Jumped the Shark.
All trends wax and wane, and I think brining peaked last Thanksgiving and will shortly be on the decline. This leads us to the big question - what will be the next big food trend? I hope it's not more of the weird food combinations like chocolate-covered bacon or Krispy Kreme bread pudding (honestly . . . I've seen this on the menu at a local restaurant) that keep popping up. My prediction? Salt slabs.
In the Himalayas, slabs of salt are mined and cut just like granite and the resulting plates or bricks are beautiful and sturdy - perfect for cooking, prepping, and serving. They retain heat and impart only a mild saltiness, much less than you normally add during cooking. You can check them out at Salt News and purchase them at many gourmet shops (including Dean & Deluca, where the ones shown above are now specially priced). Even eBay has some nice sources for salt blocks.
So let's trade in our brining buckets, bags, and injectors for a few beautiful salt slabs. And if you're feeling adventurous, toss in your cedar grilling planks, too!