Fish Brine Recipe for Flavor and Moisture

Fish brine recipe
William Reavell / Getty Images
Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Brining time: 24 hrs
Total: 24 hrs 15 mins
Serving: 1 serving
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
385 Calories
27g Fat
36g Carbs
2g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 1
Amount per serving
Calories 385
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 27g 35%
Saturated Fat 4g 19%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 15177mg 660%
Total Carbohydrate 36g 13%
Dietary Fiber 2g 6%
Total Sugars 28g
Protein 2g
Vitamin C 7mg 33%
Calcium 96mg 7%
Iron 1mg 5%
Potassium 173mg 4%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Fish and seafood are delicate and can easily dry out if overcooked. Brining will help your fish and seafood stay moist and flavorful. This is especially critical if you're cooking fish on the grill, since the high temperature, the dry heat can really dry out a piece of fish.

Brining is also a wonderful way technique for flavoring fish and seafood because the ocean is sort of the original brine. Indeed, brining is one of the earliest known methods of preserving foods, possibly because people discovered that immersing food in seawater helped prevent spoilage. That's because the salt kills the bacteria that cause spoilage and food poisoning, by depriving them of water. This is true even if the food is immersed in water.

To preserve meat or fish, you'd want to use a solution of about 10 percent salinity. But we're not preserving here, we're just brining for flavor. Our recipe produces a 4 percent brine, using around 60 grams of kosher salt and six cups of liquid. You could weigh the salt since different brands of kosher salt have different densities, but 1/4 cup is right in the ballpark.

Once upon a time, chefs would test the density of their brining liquid by peeling a potato and dropping it in. If it sank to the bottom, it needed more salt. If it floated to the top, it needed more water. The brine was deemed to be just right when the potato hovered in the middle of the pot.

Even though we're not brining for the purpose of preserving, we still need to be conscious of food safety. The main thing here is ensuring that the brine solution is icy when you add your fish to it. Adding raw fish to room temperature brine could create a food safety hazard.


  • 4 cups water

  • 1/4 cup kosher salt

  • 2 tablespoons sugar

  • 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced onion

  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 cups ice

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Combine water, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Stir to dissolve.

  3. Add remaining ingredients, along with ice, and stir so that liquid is fully chilled.

  4. Pour brine into a heavy gallon zipper bag. Add fish, squeeze excess air out of bag, and seal it. You can use another type of container as long as it has a lid.

  5. Refrigerate overnight, and take it out of fridge about half an hour before you're ready to cook fish. Rinse with cold water and proceed with recipe as directed.


  • This recipe makes about 6 cups of brine (after adding the ice), which is enough to brine about 2 pounds of fish. You can use any shape or size of container but stay away from aluminum, since vinegar can react with aluminum and give the brine a metallic taste.
  • You can even brine frozen fish using this brine recipe. You can skip the ice and just add the frozen fish to the brine and refrigerate overnight. By the next day, the fish will be thawed and brined. Cook the fish immediately.
  • You likely won't need any additional salt after brining, so once you've rinsed the brined fish, it's ready to go.

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