I've been thinking a lot about pickles recently.
It all started because Whitney Stropp, one of the hosts on Austin360Radio, mentioned how much she loved to drink pickle. I concurred, we drank pickle juice together, and then I started noticing just how many pickle products are on the market these days.
In this week's food section, I have a whole story on this latest pickle craze, which includes everything from pickle-flavored sparkling water to pickle sunflower seeds, and while researching that story, I discovered a surprise, at least to me: Chick-fil-A doesn’t use pickle juice as a chicken brine.
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Despite internet rumors that led me and countless other foodies to think otherwise, several Chick-fil-A-philes (and anonymous employees) have debunked the idea that the key to their chicken bites and chicken sandwiches is a pickle brine. The notable pickle taste comes from the pickles on top, while the chicken itself has a salt-sugar brine that, according to the ingredients list, also has MSG, a chemical that makes everything taste good.
What remains true is that the fast food chain continues to support anti-LGBT groups, which is why "The Food Lab" author J. Kenji Lopez-Alt recently challenged his fans to make their own DIY Chick-fil-A sandwich. You won't find any pickle brine in his recipe, but you will see powdered sugar in the breading, which is even more key to the chicken's signature flavor than the pickles on top.
You can, of course, use pickle juice as a marinade or brine for chicken. Salt, not dill or cucumber or the other spices, is what tenderizes and flavors the meat, but don't leave it for too long or the salt or pickle flavor might overwhelm the meat. It also might turn green, but that's another story.