Brining adds moisture to the finished dish, making it juicier and more flavorful. For a chicken, all you do is put about 1/4 cup of salt in a zip lock bag, fill it about half full of water, zip it up, slosh it around to dissolve the salt, and put in the chops, chicken, or chicken pieces. Put the bag in the fridge while it brines. If you have the time, let it brine for about an hour.
For an unusual apple flavored brine, see the recipe on the Rotisserie BBQ Turkey page. I used it with great results, and used apple wood chips to generate the smoke for the turkey.
For something larger, like a turkey, you’ll need a larger bag. I use a trash compactor bag because they are very strong. You’ll also need to make a gallon or so of brine instead of a quart. I put the bag ‘o turkey in a portable plastic cooler and cover it with ice.
I took some heat from one of my cookbook reviewers for using a trash compactor bag for the brining. I assume you would use a new bag, which comes out of the factory sterile. I admit that the germy turkey will pollute the trash bag, but the salt in the brine kills germs, which is one of the classical reasons for brining in the first place. I can’t see how the bag will hurt you or the turkey. But be warned…
Brining also moistens the skin, so if you want a crisp skin, let the food air dry before cooking.
I’ve mentioned several places on the site that if you can only afford one subscription to a cooking publication, make it Cook’s Illustrated. They do considerable research on all their recipes and methods, and you’ll really learn a lot.
They did research on brining and why it works. They compared three methods with chicken: no treatment at all, soaking in water, and soaking in brine. After roasting, the untreated chicken retained 82% of its original weight. The one soaked in water retained 88% of its weight, and the brined on retained 93% of its weight.
The brining works partly by osmosis, but also has an effect on the protein molecules. For more, please visit Cook’s.