Barbecue season has arrived, and just thinking of that delicious meat makes your mouth water. You are ready to soak it in the brine. But, unfortunately, the recipe calls for brown sugar, and your grocery cupboard is not rewarding you with any. So a frustrating trip to the grocery store might be necessary. Or maybe not. Will regular sugar be a satisfactory substitute?
Can You Use Regular Sugar for Brine?
Regular sugar can be used in brine. Although sugar does aid the process a little. Its function is related more to flavor than to the texture and tenderness of the meat. Different types of sugar may change the taste slightly, but the kind of salt used is the more important ingredient in brine.
Substituting one type of sugar for another will not impact the success of the brine or the final product gracing your table. Granulated sugar dissolves faster than raw sugars, making the process slightly faster.
For a simple substitution, swap the different sugars to a ratio of 1:1 according to weight rather than volume. I know this sounds confusing, especially if you’re new to brining meat. Don’t worry, we’ll cover this in more detail below, so keep reading.
Regular Sugar In Brine Is Beneficial
Meat is typically the center focus of a meal, especially during holiday celebrations like Christmas and Thanksgiving. But it is such a letdown when the delicious smell is followed by the meat tasting as tough as an old boot. Brines add moisture and tenderness to the meat, but why do we add sugar to them?
A simple salt and water solution is technically all that is required for brining. But a brine can bring so much more to the table than simply tenderizing your cut of meat.
Adding sugar to the brine along with herbs, spices, and vegetables can make all the difference between an average tasting or delicious cut of meat.
Sugar In Brine Accelerates Browning Of The Meat
When sugar is heated, it caramelizes, and research has shown that regardless of the type of sugar used, brining will hasten the browning of the meat. It also aids in the formation of bark on meat, which is what many BBQ enthusiasts strive to achieve.
Therefore, any cut with no sugar or glaze would take much longer to brown, resulting in a dry and tough burned offering.
Sugar In Brine Lessens The Salty Flavor
Apart from influencing the flavor and color of the meat, the sugar helps balance out the brine’s saltiness. Salt is the ingredient that enables the meat to absorb moisture and soften it, but with sugar added, the brined meat will have a more well-rounded flavor, especially if you add other spices.
Sugar Types Vary The Brine Flavor Slightly
Different types of sugar in the brine can also influence the flavor of the meat. Regular or granulated sugar adds a delicious sweetness to any brine, and the darker colored sugars may add slightly different flavor nuances to your now delectable meaty feast.
Different Types Of Sugar
All sugar variants originate from extracting the juice from sugar cane or beet plants. The different types of sugar are made by adjusting the cleaning process, drying and crystalizing it, and then increasing or decreasing the molasses levels.
We categorize sugars according to their crystal size (whether superfine, powdered, or granulated) and color. Different-sized crystals are suitable for different types of food and drinks. The color and taste vary according to the amount of molasses left in the sugar or added to them after processing.
Sugars suitable for making brines include white granulated sugar, turbinado sugar, and brown sugars. White sugar crystals are finely ground and dissolve quickly, making it an easy swap if you don’t have enough of the sugar required in your brine recipe.
Turbinado sugar is a light-colored variant that has only been partially processed and still has a decent amount of natural molasses in it, making it a good choice for adding to a brine.
You can also use light and dark brown sugars in brine recipes. The higher the molasses content in the sugar, the darker it is, and the deeper the flavor will be.
How Much Sugar To Add To Brine
A simple ratio to remember for making brine is 1:1:1. For every gallon of water needed, you add 1 cup of Kosher salt and 1 cup of brown sugar. Of course, if you don’t have brown sugar, you can substitute it with any of the other types of sugar mentioned. One can also use coarse salt in place of Kosher salt if you have run out.
Sugar in Dry Brines
One nearly always equates the word “brine” with a liquid, but a process called dry brining is also referred to as pre-salting. This method requires the salt, sugar, and other seasonings to be rubbed onto the turkey or other meat, which will then go into the fridge for a certain length of time before cooking. As with wet brines, any sugar will work for this dry-brining process.
While resting in the fridge, the dry brine will draw out the meat juices via osmosis. Then the juices dissolve the salt mixture, which changes into a natural brine.
The meat absorbs the brine, breaking down the tough proteins, tenderizing, and flavoring it simultaneously. Sugar fulfills the same purposes in dry brines as liquid ones.
How To Thaw And Brine Simultaneously
How often do you forget to take our meat out of the freezer when you’re planning on grilling? I’m sure it happens to most people occasionally. But if you had planned to brine your still frozen meat, it is still possible to save the day.
A common shortcut for thawing meat is to place it in cool water. However, instead of just using cool water, you could also make your brine and allow the meat to thaw in the brine.
A pound of meat can thaw in less than an hour, which can be great if it is being brined simultaneously.
Sugar is a great additive to brine for improving the flavor and color of the meat. It is inconsequential whether it is regular or brown sugar because it does not significantly affect the brining process.
Your uncooperative grocery cupboard with only its regular sugar won’t inhibit that scrumptious grill about to happen in your backyard, so get cooking!
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