by Cat, Jan 2008 (Image, right, from Wikimedia Commons)
This article includes: 1. Why and How to Brine Pork; 2. Flavorings for your Brine; 3. Determine Amount of Brine; 4. Timing the Brine; 5. Sweetener; 6. Brine Recipe and Charts
I highly recommend brining pork to boost its juiciness and flavor, especially since today’s hogs have been bred to be lower in fat. Traditional brining was done not only for these reasons, but also to preserve the meat (in lieu of modern refrigeration).
Salt: For brining, I prefer to use Kosher salt (used for koshering meat), but you can also use non-iodized table salt or unrefined sea salt; however, the amounts will differ (see sidebar, left). DO NOT USE IODIZED SALT.
A rule of thumb is 1 cup fine-grind per gallon of water, if you don’t plan to use sugar or other sweetener. (1) See recipe, below, for amounts if both salt and sweetener are used.
You can brine a large batch of pork at one time and then freeze the meat. Or you can just brine what you intend to cook for a single meal.
Flavorings: You can use a simple brine (salt and water); or you can add sweetener and flavorings such as:
- chilled apple cider (instead of cold water and sugar in the brine)
- minced garlic
- fresh minced ginger
- fresh or dried herbs
- juniper berries
- cinnamon stick
- vanilla bean
- mustard seed
- coriander seed
- star anise
- hot pepper flakes
- whole black peppercorns
- Sichuan peppercorns
Amount of brine: To determine how much water you need, put roast in a pot or roasting pan. Add cold water to cover. Remove meat and measure water. Use list below (see recipe) to determine how much salt is required; then use the egg test (sidebar, right) to determine if there is enough salt.
Timing the brine: The longer the time in the brine, the saltier will be the meat. Best to start with the shorter listed time (see recipe, below and then alter as desired the next time you cook your meat.
Several factors affect the timing (1):
- thinness of the cut(the thicker, the more time);
- weight of the cut (the heavier, the more time);
- type of cut (tenderloin takes less time than chops for equivalent weight because the long loin muscles of the tenderloin pull in the brine faster). (1)
Sweetener: Sugar, molasses or maple syrup is added to enhance the flavor and increase the browning of the meat, about 1/2 cup per gallon of brine (or 1 Tbsp per 2 cups of brine). You can eliminate or decrease the amount, as desired; however, you will then need to increase the salt.
Pork Tenderloin.org (4) recommends maple syrup with pork.
To use apple cider: replace water with equal amount of cider. You may wish to reduce some of the sugar if using fresh cider (but not if using hard cider).
Recipe: How to Brine Pork
Ingredients & Equipment:
- kosher salt or (less) table salt
- sweetener: Rapadura sugar, molasses or maple syrup
- cold filtered water
- pepper and other flavorings
- stainless steel pot; or glass, ceramic or stainless steel bowl (do NOT use plastic)
Amounts of Sweetener, Salt & Water:
For large amounts of meat, calculate for each gallon of water :
- 1/2 cup sweetener; and
- 1 cup Morton kosher salt, OR
- 3/4 cup table salt or unrefined Real salt
For smaller amounts of meat, calculate for each 2 cups of water:
- 1 Tbsp sweetener; and
- 2 Tbsp kosher salt, or
- 1.5 Tbsp table salt or unrefined Real salt
Brine Time for Pork:
- Tenderloin (~ 2 pounds): minimum 3 hours (4), maximum 6 hours (3)
- Chops (1 – 1.5″ thick): minimum 2 hours (3,4), maximum 4 hours (3,5)
- Pork spare ribs or back ribs: 2 hours (5)
- Loin Roast (4 – 5 pounds): minimum 4 hours (4), maximum 48 hours (3)
- Pork shoulder: 24 to 36 hours (5)
Note: bbq about.com recommends much longer times: 12-24 hours for chops, 12 hours for whole tenderloin, and 2 days for whole loin. I think this is way too long, but perhaps appropriate if you intend to smoke the meat.
- Determine how much brine will be required for your meat (see above). See chart to left for amounts of salt and sweetener to use.
- Bring to boil 1/4 of the total water required. Stir salt and sweetener into boiling water until dissolved. Add this to the cold water. Add pepper and other desired flavorings, and stir to combine. Then chill completely in refrigerator before adding meat.
- Place meat in brining container (stock pot or roasting pan); cover with brine. Use plate or other weight to keep the roast submerged. Place in refrigerator for desired brining time (see chart to left).
- Remove meat from brine and rinse well, then pat dry. Keep covered in refrigerator until ready to cook.