“Although both Thailand and Malaysia claim it as their own, its Southeast Asian origin was in Java, Indonesia. There satay was developed from the Indian kebab brought by the Muslim traders. Even India cannot claim its origin, for there it was a legacy of Middle Eastern influence.”
— Jennifer Brennan /Encyclopedia of Chinese & Oriental cookery/
In response to our quick conversation the other day, I want t explain further the importance of brining. After slaughter of an animal’s filaments no longer repel one another as the acidifying ions accumulate in muscle fibres and as a result they collapse into a tight bundles and they squeeze out some of the liquid that was stored between them.
Although the liquid forced from between filaments mostly remains inside muscle fibres, cooking causes muscle fibers to shrink. The fibers spring leaks, and the juices start to escape. The more juices leak out of the food during cooking, the less juicy it is when you eat it.
By weakening this connective tissue the marinade/brine not only tenderizes a tough cut of meat but also frees the muscle fibers in it to swell further, and they draw in more liquid as they do. The meat ends up both juicier and more tender.
Brines and cures and marinades frequently contain salt, which help modify the proteins in meat so that they hold more water, particularly after cooking. Flavour enhancing ingredients in marinades run the gamut from salts and sugars to herbs and spices.
Marinating like brining, is a diffusion process, and the time required scales approximately with the square of the thickness, so meat twice as thick takes four times as long to marinate.
Marinating chicken breast is easily done by using one of the most common curing salts called Insta Cure #1. It contains 6% sodium nitrite and 94% table salt. It is recommended for meats that require short cures and will be cooked and eaten relatively quickly.
Mature of 100% of water and meat (ex-bones) and add 2% salt and 0.14% Insta cure #1. Mix the salt and other ingredients (if you prefer to use any herbs) in the water and stir to fully dissolve – then refrigerate the chicken breasts in the brine solution for 4 hours.
To chill the mixture faster you can dissolve the ingredients in part of the water and then add ice to reach the full amount of water required. Make sure to account for the addition of ice in the water weight.
After the brine, remove it from the brine and rest the chicken breast for 2 hours and it is ready. You can also cook the chicken breast sous vides after brining at 58°C for 30 mins and then colour it over the grill, or in a pan. I prefer a grill.
Note: some recipes call for a marinades and certain types such as shrimp satay calls for a marinade of thick coconut milk with sambal chill paste, etc. Shrimp satay is seldom served with the peanut sauce because it can overpower the shrimp’s flavour.