For the recent market I had the idea of handing out little bags of salt and sugar that, when dissolved in half a gallon of water, would make a good brine for pork chops or a loin roast. I assumed most people would be familiar with the concept, but a surprising number of our customers had never done it, so I thought I’d write a brief how-to. The idea with brining a piece of meat is that the salt and sugar, via osmosis, will travel to the interior. Once there salt alters the protein structure such that it can retain more water, meaning your chop or roast is less likely to get too dry. While sugar does not have the same effect on the proteins, it is hygroscopic, meaning it will also help retain moisture.
I don’t always use brine when I cook a chop for myself. I find that meat from older animals, both cows and pigs, raised on a varied diet rarely needs much to make it shine. The caveat to this is that temperature becomes critical. A quality instant read thermometer is as important as any tool in the kitchen. I am even thinking of selling them without a markup at future markets, simply because a roast tastes so much better when it is not overcooked.
Basic Brine Recipe
½ gallon cold water
⅓ C. plus one tablespoon table salt
3 T. sugar
Combine all ingredients and whisk until salt and sugar are dissolved. Put meat into the bowl, and stick the whole thing into the fridge. Some people do a fancy thing where they heat up a portion of the water to make the salt dissolve faster, then chill it afterwards, but I find this extra step unnecessary. Timing is relatively forgiving, though it’s always best to err on the side of less rather than more.
6-8 hours for a roughly 3 pound loin roast, or a whole chicken for that matter.
2 hours for a pork chop or shoulder steak, a little more for skin on, bone-in chicken pieces.
Remove the piece of meat, rinse it off, and cook it to a finished temperature of 145 (for pork!), meaning you can remove it from the oven or grill a few degrees before it gets there. If you have time it’s theoretically good to let a roast sit for an hour or so after coming out of the brine, but this isn’t critical.