So ...What exactly does the buttermilk do in a brine?

Discussion in 'Poultry' started by brazosbrian, Nov 28, 2014.

  1. brazosbrian

    brazosbrian Smoke Blower

    Hi ...Tried a buttermilk brine this weekend (from Gary Wiviott's book, Low & Slow) and it was good ...but hard for me to judge since I am just now able to maintain 250 F in my plain ol' Weber Kettle:

    10 F outside, and I have to use two aluminum bread pans and the big drip pan, all full of water, to get my kettle to run at 250 F or lower.  It works though :).  I'll get a WSM in the Spring... 

    Anyway, my wife and I were discussing the buttermilk brine and wondering what, exactly, does it do?  The chicken took 3+ hours to finish, the skin was actually reasonably crispy - but I can't know (yet) what to expect since this was the first cook that I've done that I was able to maintain at 250 F ...all those pans of water ARE necessary!  Does the buttermilk add flavor?  Does it's acid tenderize the meat?  Does it add flavor?  The chicken above was very delicious, smoked perfectly, and was "falling off the bone" tender ...and the skin was relatively crispy as well.  The chicken was NOT too dark in color or 'overdone' in appearance at all was perfect.  Sorry, no pix of the finished chicken ...we ate it :)


    crazymoon likes this.
  2. noboundaries

    noboundaries Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Short answer, yes, the acids and cultures in the buttermilk tenderize the meat.  It does not add any detectable flavor. 

    Chicken, and poultry in general, can actually handle much higher temps, easily 325-350F, and tolerate a dry smoking environment quite nicely.  Sounds like you found a process that works for you so keep doing it. 
    crazymoon likes this.
  3. crazymoon

    crazymoon Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    Thank you both,nice post its very informative.
  4. oldschoolbbq

    oldschoolbbq Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I have a suggestion for you to ponder , start and keep a BBQ Log book , record everythingyou do and add recipes , rubs and anything you want to do. You will see an improvement in your game in a short while...


    Have fun and . ..
  5. brazosbrian

    brazosbrian Smoke Blower

    Thanks.  As for the temperature, I am aware of chicken being more tolerant of higher temps, and in fact, it's probably better at higher temps since the skin will crisp up better.  One of my favorite ways to make chicken is to brine or marinate it, then cut it up and cook it at around 375.  I cook it with indirect heat, half the time on one side and half on the other, then I rotate the grate around so the chicken is over the fire and crisp it up nicely.  The reason for the 250 F chicken is because I'm trying really hard to follow Gary's book, in order, as he suggests.  His biggest reason for low and slow chicken his book to give you plenty of practice building nice clean burning lump charcoal fires, smoking, and temperature control ...if you get the temperature control wrong, the chicken still turns out good.  Once you graduate from the 'chicken chapters', you switch to ribs and cook them low and slow as you've learned to do previously with chicken.  :)

    Thanks for the info on the buttermilk!

  6. brazosbrian

    brazosbrian Smoke Blower

    Good idea ...and yes, will do.  I'm having fun learning all this stuff ...thanks!

  7. The one thing that was not mentioned about buttermilk is that it seems to keep/make your chicken come off the grill more juicy and moist. Or so it seems to me.
  8. welshrarebit

    welshrarebit Master of the Pit

    I would also suggest getting a couple of weber charcoal baskets from HD. You'll only need one but they come in a set of two. Then get a 13.5" by 15 " inch aluminum as the drip pan (you'll have to bend down two of the corners of the pan), if you put foil in the pan the cleanup is easy as well.

    You'll be able to control the heat better and you'll have a lot more usable smoking area.
  9. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    The same Enzyme that breaks down the Lactose (milk sugar) is what does the tenderizing. The enzymes dissolve the muscle protein and connective tissue. Acid has a different effect, It denatures the protein in a similar way cooking does. Think about Ceviche. Soaking seafood in lime juice chemically cooks the proteins rather then dissolve them. Leave the seafood in more than a few hours and it will become tough. The enzymes in Yogurt work the same way...JJ
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2014
  10. bear55

    bear55 Master of the Pit

    I learned something this morning as I too, brined my Thanksgiving turkey in buttermilk.  It was tasty and I wondered about the process.
  11. brazosbrian

    brazosbrian Smoke Blower

    My drip pan fits as you say ...I had to bend the corners for it to fit the curve of the kettle.  I'll measure it later today ...BBQ'ing again tomorrow :)

    I'll look at the charcoal baskets... I haven't noticed them yet, but HD does have a big selection of BBQ stuff ...nice for Alaska.  You can get anything you want up here ...just not quite what you want, if you know what I mean, e.g. got at least one of everything, but not necessarily the selection.  My wife and I almost moved out of Alaska because of all these little trade-offs ...but have now decided to stay (accidentally got too good of a promotion, healthy raise, and extra vacation at work ...the "golden handcuffs").

  12. brazosbrian

    brazosbrian Smoke Blower

    Interesting.... Love all the info from everyone.  It explains much.  Although we're not big fans of dairy, we WILL definitely continue using buttermilk brines.  (BTW ....Ceviche?  Yechhh... haha ...I'm not a fan!  Everyone else that I know loves halibut ceviche ...a common dish in these parts.  I'm just weird ...or maybe everyone else is?  Who can tell?  [​IMG])

  13. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    Ceviche can be delicious. Anyway it has to beat the hell out of STINK HEADS on a warm Alaskan day...JJ
  14. brazosbrian

    brazosbrian Smoke Blower

    OK ...I've been in Alaska for 14 years but don't know ...What is a stink head???

  15. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    Here you go. Sounds, Mmm...Mmm...Good!...[​IMG]

    Salmon is a staple of the native Alaskan diet and natives have traditionally used all parts of the fish. One of the traditional delicacies is fermented salmon heads. Colloquially the dish has earned the name “stink heads.” Essentially the heads of King salmon are buried in the ground in fermentation pits, put into plastic or wooden barrels, even plastic food storage bags, and left to let nature do its thing for a few weeks or more. The heads are then harvested and consumed as a putty-ish mash. 

    “Stink heads” as a distinct ethnic cuisine have been covered in various mainstream media the latest of which is The Food Network’s “Bizarre Foods” show. In and of themselves salmon heads are not repulsive, whole fish dishes are a legitimate part of rustic AND haute cuisine everywhere and King salmon is a real world delicacy. What has struck the “gross-out” nerve is the overriding fact that much of the stink head prep process is less about fermentation and more about rot and decomposition. The dish, by modern culinary standards, is nothing but rotten salmon heads, albeit treasured tribal fare. Imagine, a bucket load of large King Salmon heads left outside during the warm summer months for a few weeks….Outside the native Alaskan culture the stink head topic is nothing but a novelty, but health-wise the tradition of stink head consumption poses a real and continued challenge to regional Alaskan healthcare professionalsfaced with frequent and, sometimes serious, totally avoidable botulism cases.
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2014
  16. Now, down here in the lower 48, that is a recipe for catfish bait. Well ripened fish heads, a heavy rock and a gunny sack. Then well placed in the river.......and wait for the catfish to move in.
  17. brazosbrian

    brazosbrian Smoke Blower

    Very interesting... I've been here for a a long time, and I am actually employed by the Native Alaskans and am in the healthcare field as well ...And although we have native foods potlucks and get-togethers and provide native foods to residents of the hospital and I work with many native Alaskans from all over the state, I've never once heard of the fermented salmon heads.  I guess I've just been unlucky enough to never be around someone mentioning it!  I think I'll ask around at work and see what they say about it native Alaskan associates that is.  As for ME, we usually toss the salmon heads into our composter, and pick the bones out later.  We save heads from reds (Sockeye) and use them for halibut bait ....why eat a teaspoon of meat when it'll land you 50# of halibut meat instead?


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