ChickenFacts, the mouthpiece of the meat importers and exporters association AMIE, has released an investigation into brined chicken in South Africa.
The investigation is interesting for a number of reasons, not least because importers have spent years attacking brining, a process in which salt water is added to chicken pieces before freezing. Importers said it was unnecessary, would hinder exports and made local consumers pay for a lot of expensive water content.
Local producers on the other hand maintained that brining benefited consumers because it made the chicken more tasty.
ChickenFacts undertook its own research exercise. They bought packs of frozen chicken, and commissioned the University of KwaZulu Natal to measure the salt content.
They also conducted what they described as “informal kitchen testing”. This involved taking two samples of IQF (individually quick frozen) brined chicken and one sample of non-brined frozen chicken. They weighed each sample on a digital kitchen scale, before defrosting, after thawing and after cooking.
The chicken was cooked three different ways – frying, steaming and roasting. All samples, brined and unbrined, had lost about a third of their weight once cooked, regardless of the cooking method used.
Then came the taste test.
“Steaming definitely resulted in a juicier chicken portion, while the fried chicken (without basting or coating) was the driest and most flavourless,” ChickenFacts said. It found almost no difference between steaming and roasting.
“However, the brined chicken was tastier than the unbrined chicken, because of the saltwater bath before freezing.”
So, chicken importers have gone to all that trouble to establish what local producers knew all along – brining is better. And it’s a fairly safe bet that most if not all of the IQF chicken they liked so much was South African, not imported.
Local really is lekker.