Looking to make your pork entrée even more flavorful? The solution is simple: brining. This easy step can make the meat moister while also adding extra flavor to the finished result. Once you master the basics, it's easy to apply not only to pork, but to other types of meat as well.
It's easy to try brining even if you've never done it before. Learn more about what pork brining entails and get helpful suggestions for making your brine as flavorful as possible.
What Is Brining?
Brining is a process of infusing meat with flavor. The meat is soaked in liquid to help this transfer take place. The brining process also helps to tenderize the meat so its especially juicy after being cooked. Better flavor and texture are the two main reasons that professional chefs and home chefs alike use brining.
When most people think of brining, they imagine wet brining in which salt and moisture are used to infuse the meat with flavor and tenderize it. There's also a dry brining process which involves only salt, but in this guide, we'll cover the wet brine as it's far more common.
Pork Brine Ingredients
The brine is the solution in which the pork will soak. The main ingredients are always the same: salt and water. Although you can add other flavorings, the ratio of these two key ingredients should remain about the same. Use about 1 cup of salt per 1 gallon of water. If you're working with smaller portions, you should use ¼ cup of salt to 1 quart of water.
As for the pork, you can choose almost any cut you like, such as pork chops, pork loin, pork shoulder or pork tenderloin.
Additional Brine Flavoring
Although salt and water alone technically make a brine, most cooks add in other flavors that they want to infuse into their dish. Sugar is a common ingredient, and can be white sugar or brown sugar depending on your preference. Honey and maple syrups are other options to add a sweet element. About ½ cup of sweetener per gallon is a recommended amount for your brine solution.
Other options for brine flavorings include spices and herbs, such as peppercorns, garlic powder, thyme, oregano, sage, tarragon or rosemary. You can also add minced garlic, diced onions, ginger, juniper berries, orange peels, apple cider vinegar and other ingredients according to your desired flavor profile.
Pork Brine Recipe
Once you have your ingredients ready, mix the salt, sweetener and water together in a bowl until any sugar is dissolved. Add any other ingredients, such as garlic, onions or ginger. Then, place the pork in the brine. Cover the bowl and put it in the refrigerator.
You should brine pork for anywhere from 4 to 12 hours. The meat needs to remain in the fridge until you're ready to cook, though you can take it out of the brine to dry a bit in the final hour.
Once you're ready to start cooking, pat the pork dry before you begin so you can get a good sear on it.