Brining is when you treat food with coarse salt or brine, which preserves and seasons your meat. This process enhances tenderness and adds flavors, especially when you decide to use herbs sugar or vinegar in the brine.
You submerge the cut of meat in a brine solution, which is just salt and water solution. Brine works in that it adds more moisture in the meat, and when some are lost while cooking, the meat won’t be dry.
All meat loses liquid when cooked, but brined meats start with more giving them an advantage over the heat. It also dissolves some of the meat’s muscle fibers turning some of the solid parts of the meat into liquid.
That explains the softness of the meat once it is cooked. The most common meat to be brined are lean meats like beef and turkey, which tend to dry out real quick, but pork chops, pork loin, and pork tenderloin are also candidates for brining.
Pork chops and pork tenderloin are super lean cuts of meat and dry out quickly when cooked. Most people opt to marinade rather than brine, but what that does is add flavor to the surface o the meat but leaves the meat dry.
You can brine pork, but make sure that your pork tenderloin is not labeled enhanced if you buy pre-packaged because that means it has already been injected with a brine solution.
Another thing to note is that different cuts of pork are brined or different times. Some cuts of pork can handle days of brining, and others can benefit from a little time.
If it has not been cut into smaller pieces, pork can take a long time to get results, but if it is reduced to more minor cuts, up to 5 hours is fine. Below is a guideline that can help:
- Pork chops – 12 hours
- Whole pork tenderloin – 12 hours
- Whole pork loin – 2 days
In this article, we will look at how to brine different pork cuts and everything you need to know about that.
Table of Contents
Seasoning Your Brine
As we now know, the essential ingredients for making brine are salt and water, but most times, you just don’t want to make it juicier but also flavorful. Brining will save you time that you would have used to create a marinade.
If you’re going to keep it simple with the flavors, you could add sugar, brown or white sugar, molasses, or maple syrup. The quantity of the brine is determined by the container and cut of meat you have.
You could use herbs and spices like garlic, onions, or any other you prefer for additional seasonings.
Brine For Pork
All you need is water, salt, brown sugar, and 2 cups of ice cubes.
- Stir them all together until they dissolve. Add the ice, then cool the brine to 45 degrees or lower than that.
- Place your pork ribs in a container or ziplock bag then pour the brine. Seal the bag tightly, or if you are using the container, make sure you have a lid for it. Place it in the refrigerator for 6 hours. The time will depend on the thickness of the meat. Remove them after time is up and pat dry the pork. Then proceed to cook it as you please.
Brining pork ribs
As we saw earlier, the salt and sugar solution denatures the pork. It keeps the ribs moist and juicy. What you need is:
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- ½ cup of salt
- 2 tsp pink salt
- 1-gallon water
- Untrimmed pork ribs, the quantity of your choice (4lbs)
- 1 tsp onion
- Black pepper
- Ground mustard
- Chilli powder – optional
Pink salt should be used sparingly because if using much of it is lethal. It helps in preserving meat, though.
- Clean up the ribs by pulling the silver skin and trim the chunks of meat. Cut the rack in half to fit in your container.
- Mix up the brine ingredients and place the cut chunks of meat n the solution.
- Refrigerate for 12 hours.
Many choose to smoke or bake them. Make sure you pat dry the meat after you rinse the brine off the meat. Apply the selected spices then refrigerate for a couple of hours to set it—Prep your oven or smoker.
Brining pork shoulder
Brine times heavily depend on the size of the meat you are working with. The pork shoulder and pork butt naturally have high-fat content, so they both don’t need to be brined, or long. Some people do not do it at all, but for the sake of infusing flavors, we 100% recommend it.
If you have an 8lb cut of pork shoulder, brine it for a maximum of 4 hours and a minimum of 8 hours. You could choose your time between that time frame.
Try to know when to stop the brining because if you leave the pork shoulder in the solution for too long, the meat can end up too salty and inedible. For the pork shoulder, focus on the flavors you can add to the brine because it already has enough moisture to avoid drying it out. What you will need:
- Six peeled garlic
- 10 cups water
- ½ onion
- Bay leaves
- ¾ cup of salt
- 1/ cup sugar
- Ziploc bag
- 8lb of pork shoulder or pork butt
- In a large bowl, add your water, salt, sugar and mix them till they dissolve.
- Add the other ingredients and mix well. Get two cups of the brine and save it for later. Put your meat in the sealable bag then pour the rest of the brine until the meat is submerged fully. Seal it and refrigerate.
- The reserved brine is for when you smoke the meat. It will enhance the flavors while also maintaining moisture as it gets smoked.
Pork tenderloin brine recipe
Brined pork tenderloin is that dish that you can prepare and hardly mess up anything about it. The brining is easy and adds so much moisture and flavor to it. It is one of those meals you can choose to have if you want a fancy dinner for two.
It takes about 30 minutes to cook after the brining is done. Like we said earlier, brine not just to add moisture but make it flavorful while at it.
- 4 cups of water
- Three tbsp honey
- ½ cup kosher salt
- Bay leaves
- Six crushed garlic
- One pork tenderloin with silver skin and fat removed
- Boil the water with the ingredients until the honey and salt dissolve. Transfer the brine in a large enough container that can hold the pork and the brine. Cool it before adding the meat, then place it in and make sure it is submerged. Refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours.
- After that time is up, rinse the brine off the meat and pat dry it. Let it sit at room temperature for a few minutes then cook it as desired.
To cook it:
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and heat your desired oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Season the pork with pepper since it is already salted then sear it in the hot skillet. Cook it until it turns golden brown on all sides.
- Reduce the heat and add butter, rosemary thyme by spooning them over the meat or two minutes.
- Transfer the pork to a sheet pan over a rack and roast for 20 minutes till it registers 140 degrees.
- Move to your chopping board and cover the pork with foil and let it rest.
- Slice and serve as desired.
Pork Brine Injection
We’ve looked at how you brine by submerging your meat in a salt mixture already, but there is another way to do it. It is way easier than the latter because the brine is injected inside the meat. You get to use an injector to deliver the flavorful liquid inside the meat.
It works faster than brining, and you don’t have to refrigerate for so long to let the liquid sip into the meat. Despite being disadvantageous if your mixture has solid ingredients, you can add fats like melted butter in the meat by delivering it deep into the meat. It makes it so easy to cook, right?
Pork chops cooked with apple cider vinegar brine
- 2 cups apple cider vinegar
- 2 cups ice
- 12 bone-in pork chops
- 2 tbsp red pepper flakes
- 7 cups cold water
- 2 cups dark brown sugar
- 1 cup of salt
- ¼ cup barbecue sauce
- Black peppercorns
- Bay leaves
- Rosemary sprigs
- Ziploc bag
Make the brine.
- Combine all the dry ingredients with the water and apple cider vinegar in a large container. Mix well and boil the mixture to help dissolve before cooling.
- Add in your ice if you do not want to wait for it to cool, then submerge the pork chops. You can use the container or the Ziploc bag.
- Allow the meat to brine at least for 4 hours or overnight.
- Cook it as desired.