Brining and low sodium diet

Is there ANY way to achieve the same outcome of brining without all the salt?? Husband is on a low sodium diet!



sonya August 10, 2015
I heard on cook's illustrated that the brined meat doesn't absorb all that much salt, but let me just cut and paste what they said:

How Much Sodium Is in Brined Food?

From Cook's Illustrated | May/June 2014

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We sent cooked samples of food that we brined to an independent lab for sodium analysis.

There are a number of foods that we typically soak in a saltwater solution, or brine, before cooking. The salt in the brine doesn’t just season the food; in the case of meat, poultry, and fish, it improves juiciness and tenderness. It also helps dried beans cook faster and gives them a creamier texture and more tender skin. That said, we’ve often wondered just how much sodium ends up in brined food. To find out, we sent cooked samples of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, boneless center-cut pork chops, skinless salmon fillets, and black beans that we brined for our standard recommended times to an independent lab for sodium analysis. We also analyzed plain water–soaked samples so that we could then subtract any naturally occurring sodium. Here’s how much sodium brining adds to each food. (Note: The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend less than 2,300 milligrams daily for people under 51 and less than 1,500 milligrams for those 51 and older.)

6 Ounces Cooked Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast

BRINING FORMULA: 2 quarts water, 1/4 cup salt, 1 hour
ADDED SODIUM: 270 milligrams
SALT EQUIVALENT: Less than 1/8 teaspoon

6 Ounces Cooked Boneless, Center-Cut Pork Chop

BRINING FORMULA: 2 quarts water, 1/4 cup salt, 1 hour
ADDED SODIUM: 218 milligrams
SALT EQUIVALENT: Less than 1/8 teaspoon

6 Ounces Cooked Skinless Salmon Fillet

BRINING FORMULA: 2 quarts water, 5 tablespoons salt, 15 minutes
ADDED SODIUM: 173 milligrams
SALT EQUIVALENT: Just over 1/16 teaspoon

3 Ounces (1/2 Cup) Cooked Black Beans

BRINING FORMULA: 2 quarts water, 1 1/2 tablespoons salt, 24 hours
ADDED SODIUM: 52 milligrams
SALT EQUIVALENT: Less than 1/32 teaspoon

I have no idea if that's still too much sodium for him, and just in case it is, I'm trying to think as I write here... the objective of brining is to moisturize the meat, and so perhaps you could focus on recipes where the meat is already moist where it wouldn't need to be brined in the first place? Also I heard (also from CI, whom I follow pretty religiously) that the typical watery chicken from the supermarket that is not air-chilled doesn't really benefit from brining anyways, the idea being that it's already absorbed so much water from the processing plant when it soaks in water/bleach, so perhaps you could skip the brining? I don't know exactly but I hope those ideas are helpful in brain-storming some other ideas :)
Obmex July 4, 2015
I brined jumbo shrimp (yes, shrimp!) according to a recipe in Cook's Illustrated but I used 1/2 the salt. We also cooked them on the BBQ instead broiling; they were the best shrimp I have ever had!
Kristen M. October 10, 2012
Sorry, that last answer was actually from me!
Genius R. October 10, 2012
If your husband is on a strict low-sodium diet, you can still get juicy, flavorful meat just by being careful not to overcook it. (For example, the juiciest roast chicken I know isn't brined at all -- just cooked really quickly:

You should also check out Sodium Girl's website -- it's a great resource for no- and low-sodium cooking with lots of flavor:

If his sodium restrictions aren't very strict, you might be okay to brine though (he should check with his doctor) -- most of the salt that's used in a brine gets left behind in the solution.
Merrill S. October 10, 2012
You might want to check out SodiumGirl's website for some wisdom on this -- and all other low-sodium topics.
Lindsay-Jean H. October 10, 2012
Cook's Illustrated magazine found that a low-salt brine wasn't effective, so if it's a really strict diet you might want to skip the brining altogether. Maybe you could try injecting your turkey (or whatever) with a low-salt flavorful marinade?
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