Brining is nothing other than the procedure of treating meat with a salt solution for a certain period of time, before cooking. Meat, which is subjected to brining, is found to be juicier and tender than the regular ones. During brining, the meat is kept immersed in a specially prepared brine (salt solution) for a specific period. The salt and water in the brine enters the cells of the meat. The proteins in the meat get denatured, due to the action of salt, and they stick to the water molecules. This increases the water content in the meat, which remains succulent, throughout the cooking. So, brining involves preparation of the brine and treating the meat with this solution.
How to Prepare Brine
Brine is prepared by mixing salt and water. However, there are various additives that can be used to increase the flavor of the meat. Even sugar is added to the brine, so as to balance the effect of salt. So, a basic recipe for making brine involves salt, sugar, and water. In order to prepare a basic type of brine, you have to use one cup of table salt (without iodine) per gallon of cold water. If you have three gallons of water, mix three cups of salt. In case of kosher salt with larger granules, use around 1½ cups for a gallon of water. Apart from salt, add ½ to ¾ cup of brown sugar or granulated sugar, per gallon of cold water. Dissolve the sugar and salt in a cup of boiling water, and let the solution cool, before mixing it with the cold water. You may add a tablespoon of black pepper and a small amount of herbs and spices, to this solution. Other additives include wine, beer, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, honey, tea, and orange juice.
While brining for a short period may not produce any result, it is also not advisable to brine pork for very long durations. So, you must stick to the proper time limit. Brining time is decided on the basis of various factors, like the type of meat, thickness, type of cut, and grain size.
Once the brine solution is made, pour it into a container that can accommodate the solution as well as the amount of pork, you want to brine. Make sure that the container fits in your refrigerator. Chill the brine in the refrigerator, before adding the pork. The brine, along with the pork, must be kept at a temperature below 40°F. So, refrigeration is a must. You may also use a picnic cooler for this purpose, but make sure to keep lots of ice bags around the brining bag. In case of pork chops, you must brine the meat for at least 12 hours. Some people brine pork chops for a day, but if you are a beginner, start from the lower range. For brining pork ribs, the time limit ranges from an hour to eight hours. If you are using whole pork tenderloin, then the minimum time limit is six hours and the maximum is 12 hours. In case of whole pork loin, the brining time is around two to four days.
Once done, remove and rinse the pork, before use. The solution can be discarded. However, make sure not to add salt, while cooking the brined pork. You must also check the doneness of the pork, in between, as brined meat cooks faster than regular ones. Use a meat thermometer for this purpose.