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Slaughter House Brine: What It Is and When To Use It

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slaughter house brine

When browsing through forums dedicated to grilling and smoking, you might come across the term “slaughter house brine.” Though the name is a bit off-putting, this is actually a simple brine that yields delectable results. Read on to learn more about this recipe. 

Slaughter House Brine 

A slaughterhouse brine is a basic brine made from kosher salt, brown sugar, and water. Celery seed is another key ingredient. Most will also contain a hint of spice, such as Cajun seasoning mix. The reasoning behind the name is unclear, but it’s likely that it came about because slaughterhouses often brine the meat during processing. 

What It Is 

You’re probably already familiar with the concept of brining, even if you haven’t yet tried it yourself. The step involves soaking a cut of meat in a saltwater solution for several hours prior to cooking. 

Brining boosts the flavor of the meat and allows it to retain more moisture during the cooking process. That’s because the salt alters the meat’s chemical structure, allowing water to work its way between the proteins, thereby creating a more tender product. 

Slaughter house brine is a basic brine made with the usual suspects of water and kosher salt, with brown sugar and celery seed thrown into the mix. The other ingredients might vary slightly, but there’s usually garlic and onion involved, along with a hint of spice. 

Our favorite version contains Louisiana Cajun seasoning, or Cajun spice. The original recipe we came across included this ingredient, so we consider it an essential component of the brine. Of course, you’re free to adjust the recipe to suit your tastes. 

This brine is superb when used on poultry, particularly whole turkeys. If you’re smoking a batch of turkey legs, it will improve their flavor immeasurably. We’ve also had success when using it on whole chickens. 

Why Is It Called “Slaughter House Brine”? 

Although the recipe we’ve listed below has been touted under this name, the term may actually refer to the processing technique and not the actual ingredients. 

When chicken is slaughtered, the meat is often preserved in a salt brine for a certain period of time afterward. This seasons the meat while allowing it to cool for processing. 

This method isn’t restricted to poultry. Processed ham and corned beef may also be brined and/or injected with a fluid before they’re packaged for sale. But the brine generally uses simple ingredients. 

Since this recipe is fairly basic, that’s probably where the name comes from. It might sound off-putting, but all meat is slaughtered at some point before we eat it. Avoiding the word doesn’t make it any less true. 

Do You Have To Boil the Brine? 

Many brine recipes call for an additional step of boiling the water either before or after adding the salt and sugar. Although this does help the spices dissolve more quickly, it isn’t really necessary in this case. 

The only time we would suggest boiling the brine is when you have doubts about the quality of the water you’re using. For example, if you don’t usually drink the water from your tap, it’s a good idea to boil it when using it in recipes. 

Otherwise, you’re good to go as long as the salt and sugar are fully dissolved by the time you add the meat to the brine. Remember that if you have boiled the mixture, it has to be completely chilled before you put meat into it. 

Slaughter House Brine Recipe

Ingredients 

  • 1-1/2 gallons water 
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt 
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar 
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder 
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder 
  • 1 tablespoon Cajun spice mix (see separate recipe below) 
  • 2 teaspoons celery seed 
slaughter house brine

Directions 

Combine all ingredients in a large stock pot and mix until the spices are dissolved. Boiling the water will make this step go faster, but if you do this, be sure to refrigerate the brine afterward until it’s very cold. 

Use the brine on whatever cut of meat you prefer. The brown sugar and spice go especially well with poultry. You can also pair it with the slaughter house poultry injection or spritz, the recipes of which we’ve included below. 

Cajun Spice Mix 

If you don’t have a store-bought Louisiana spice blend, you can make your own. The ingredients are all pantry staples, and the cayenne adds a nice kick to brine recipes. 

Combine in a small bowl: 

  • 1 tablespoon paprika 
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder 
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt 
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons onion powder 
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Mix until well combined. 

Slaughter House Poultry Injection 

If you want to take the extra step of injecting your poultry, give this recipe a try. 

Whisk together: 

  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons celery seed 
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar 
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil 
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery salt 
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted 
  • 1 cup apple cider

Use the mixture to inject whole chickens or turkeys before putting them on the smoker. 

Slaughter House Spritz 

While the injection recipe works best with poultry, this spritz can be used with any type of smoked meat. The whiskey adds complexity to the base ingredients. If you don’t have any on hand, select a mid-range Kentucky bourbon or Tennessee whiskey. 

slaughter house brine

Combine: 

  • 2 cups apple cider 
  • 1-1/2 cups water 
  • 1 cup whiskey 
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

Add the mixture to a spray bottle and use it to spritz brisket, ribs, pork shoulder or butt, turkey, or chicken as they cook. 

The Bottom Line 

Don’t be put off by the words “slaughter house” in the recipe name. Although the practice of brining meat is common for butchers, it can be done just as easily at home. 

As you become more comfortable with the brining process, you might want to experiment with different flavor profiles. In the meantime, this basic recipe is a good place to start. 

Best of luck, and happy grilling!

Darren Wayland Avatar

AUTHOR

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