A Closer Look

Brining Explained. Via the Chicken Facts Laboratory

There has always been a suspicion that people buying brined Individual Quick Frozen (IQF) are actually paying for a lot of salt water instead of chicken.

ChickenFacts researchers set out to test this theory.

With the rising cost of living squeezing consumers from every side, the ChickenFacts researchers decided to take a look at the costs of poultry, especially IQF chicken, which is the most affordable type of chicken available and a mainstay of the food basket.

IQF is usually Brined

That means that salt water is added to the chicken before freezing. ChickenFacts investigates what is really ‘brined’ chicken.

Up till 2016 there was no regulation for brining. Producers could add as much salt water as they liked. After a consumer outcry in 2010, tests were done. It was found that producers were adding up to a whopping 60% of flavoured water.

It was regarded as a health risk due to the high levels of salt, and an unfair trade practice because of the amount of water instead of chicken. As a result, in 2016 brining levels were capped at 15%.

All poultry products are distinctly labelled as “brined”. By law, food has to be labelled.

Food labelling has two purposes:

  • firstly it informs the consumer what they are buying from a nutritional perspective so that they know what they are eating;
  • and secondly from a value perspective so that they know what they are paying for.

ChickenFacts and Laboratory Brining test.

We purchased five packages of chicken from five different suppliers – four were brined IQF and one was an unbrined frozen whole chicken. We sent five samples from these packages to a laboratory to test for salt, and we subjected three samples from each package to three different cooking methods, weighing the chicken at every step of the way.

This is What we Found.

Approximately 10% of the weight of the chicken from each sample was lost during the thawing process as water separated out from the flesh of the chicken. A further 20% to 30% of the weight of the chicken was lost during cooking.

Three Cooking Methods were Tested: Steaming, Roasting and Frying.

Steaming caused the least loss of weight (less than 30%), followed by roasting (more than 30%), and the most weight was lost during frying (almost 40%). It must be stated, however, that chicken is usually fried with a basting or coating. It is accepted that frying is dehydrating which is why fried foods are usually coated or basted. The samples were not coated or basted, so the loss of weight during frying was expected.

The difference in weight loss during cooking between the brined and unbrined chicken was negligible.

Scientific test findings.

From the scientific tests, we found that the producers have adhered to regulations with regard to added salt. It must be stated that we thawed and cooked the chicken without any added ingredients during the cooking process and only added salt after the cooking process. It was found that the because of the added salt, we needed to add less salt after cooking.

If you have not already, make sure to visit our brining factsheet that explains the test in graphs, tables and numbers.

Link to Brining Factsheet

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