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Mar 3, 2011 12:42 AM

Brining Times? (and other queries)

Prelim research reveals the board teems with brining threads, but I find none dedicated to immersion time. Myriad suggestions abound when the topic arises tangentially: <i>Cooks Illustrated</i> and others rock an hour to the pound, while some---including CH-ers I trust---push 8 to 12 hours for a pork loin, which obviously checks in at neither 8 nor 12 pounds. Perhaps this relates to differing Schools of Saltiness: I'm deploying 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup (Diamond kosher) salt in 4 cups of unsuspecting water, if that helps.

The gf dines down in Rip City tonight (March 3), so I thought I'd guinea pig myself on a bone-in center-cut chop or a pork tenderloin. Much indebted to any assistance.



PS: You still reading? Then indulge me in a couple queries regarding the post-brining experience:

1. Rinse before drying? I assume so, but countless instructions ignore this step
2. Salt as normal before browning? Some say no, others don't say no

PPS: If you're <b>still</b> reading, answer me a meta inquiry: Is there actually a CH Home Cooking consensus on whether brining is an unadulterated good? I've gotten to home plate but once with brining, and while the meat was possibly moister (and only possibly), it was, well, watery---especially for the nice pasture-raised pork we ate, and moist and juicy ain't synonymous. I also didn't love the mushier texture. But I lost that brine virginity to a simple water/salt/sugar brine, which is why I'm considering a nice local apple cider spiked with ample spices and herbs in tomorrow's brine. And I'm open to the possibility the bad texture was due to either the vagaries of meat and cooking or a novice briner.

Anyhow, thanks for reading and considering. And mad apologies in advance if a little research failed to unearth a thread nailing all of this.

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  1. I'm a bit confused. You are aware that Cook's Illustrated recommends 1 hour per pound but you are not aware that they recommend 3 tablespoons of Diamond Kosher salt and 1 tablespoon of brown sugar for each pint of liquid.... In your case, that is 6 tablespoons of Diamond Kosher salt and 2 tablespoons of brown sugar in a quart (4 cups).

    1/2 cup (8 tbls) of salt and 1/2 cups (8 tbls) of brown sugar is overdoing it BIG TIME..... I repeat.... That is TOO MUCH SALT AND WAY TOO MUCH SUGAR FOR 4 CUPS LIQUID!

    I suspect soaking any piece of meat in a brine like that for 6-8 hours would result in a mushy piece of meat.

    I only brine pork and poultry. I do not brine beef. It makes my pork and chicken tastier and moister. I do rinse it off. However I still season the meat with a little salt when I cook it.

    I have used much stronger brines but only when I am brining for an hour or less.

    You could certainly use a cider instead of water. I often use Soy Sauce and maple syrup for my brines. Well, when I want that flavor, anyway.

    Most of the spices and herbs are only soluble in oil so the water based brine won't transport them into the meat with the salt.

    By the way, the recommended time for the brine soak is 1 hour per pound but not less than 30 minutes or more than 8 hours. When cooking multiple items, time is based on the weight of a single item (for example, use the weight of 1 of 4 pork chops being brined).

    Cook's Illustrated goes on to say that the sugar can be doubled if the heat will be at or less than 350 degrees F.

    I highly recommend the soy sauce brine on a pork tenderloin. After I have removed the silver skin, I put my tenderloin in a ziplock bag and pour 6-7 tablespoons of soy sauce and 1 tablespoon or brown sugar into the bag. I then squeeze out the air and roll the bag around to dissolve the sugar then put it in the fridge for 45- 60 minutes. Try that, you will never want to eat it without brining again.

    1. I have this in a spreadsheet but I am going to put it in list form.

      Brining Basics

      Soy Sauce 3 Tbls/pint
      Kosher Salt 2 Tbls/pint
      Diamond Kosher Salt 3 Tbls/pint
      Table Salt 1 Tbl/pint
      Brown Sugar * 1Tbl/pint

      Time is 1 hour per pound but not less than 30 minutes or more than 8 hours. When brining multiple items, time is based on the weight of a single item (for example, use the weight of 1 of 4 pork chops being brined).

      * Sugar could be doubled if heat will be at or below 350. Pork likes salt and sugar.

      Sodium Content

      Soy Sauce 307 mg/teaspoon
      Kosher Salt 480 mg/teaspoon
      Diamond Kosher 312 mg/teaspoon
      Table Salt 590 mg/teaspoon
      Sea Salt 590 mg/teaspoon

      recommended daily sodium intake is 2400 mg

      hank the engineer is very sad that you can't see his spreadsheet on this.

      1. Thanks so much for the great responses, Hank! Will definitely come in handy tonight (and I'm a spreadsheet junkie myself so I feel your pain). But I wonder if CI changed their methodology? If you google "basics of brining" you'll get the CI PDF I referenced as your first hit. Neither the basic brine nor the high-heat brine listed there quite match what you're saying. The file is a decade old, though, so maybe they've updated their guidelines since then.

        4 Replies
        1. re: eight_inch_pestle

          There are lots of brine recipes out there, but the one you found is the saltiest I've come across. I checked my copy of CI's Best Recipes and for roast chicken their brine is 2 tbsp/pint, which is half what you came up with and twice what Hank uses. I don't brine pork or chicken before cooking anymore (I find it mushy as well and not juicier, just more watery), but when I did I used 1-2 tbsp/pint. A weak brine is more forgiving. With a strong brine time is too critical a factor. Too short, and you only brine the outside. Too long and it's a meaty salt lick. With weak brine you don't need to worry so much about hitting that sweet spot where it's just right.

          I don't have much faith in formulas for brining time per pound, but they might be a good starting point as long as you use weight per piece rather that total weight. Eight hours is good for a whole chicken or pork roast, but chops or a cut up chicken probably would be ready in a couple of hours.

          1. re: eight_inch_pestle

            I apologize. My numbers were wrong and your numbers were correct. I have corrected my spreadsheet. I am not sure how I got my numbers but they have been adjusted.

            1. re: Hank Hanover

              Don't apologize, Hank. If your ratios have been working for you that's more than enough for me to start baseline experiments, old PDFs be damned.

              1. re: eight_inch_pestle

                It has become fashionable on chowhound to down talk Cook's Illustrated recently. I, however, still trust them.

                The fact is that I rarely measure the salt and sugar unless I am brining something large like a turkey. 80% of my brining is with small stuff like pork tenderloins and chicken parts.

                Those only require an hour of brining and it really doesn't matter how salty your brine is.

                I don't use anywhere near CI's sugar recommendations though. Maybe I will try it.

          2. I'm with Hank. I brine a LOT at our house - only poultry and pork. Rather than water I prefer to use a cider or soy (as Hank does, too). One of my favourite books on the topic is Tarantino's I use it often not only for brines but the excellent glazes and so on.

            4 Replies
            1. re: chefathome

              Thanks for tip, that looks like a great read.

              ...And do you rinse after brining and/or salt as usual before browning?

              1. re: eight_inch_pestle

                It is a good read - quite different from most books (and I have TONS). No photographs but in this case it just doesn't matter (who needs photos of brines, anyway?).

                I don't rinse after brining, either - just dry off first for proper searing.

              2. re: chefathome

                I think a cider or juice for the sugar and soy sauce for the sodium would be great on pork.

                Of course, you could get carried away.... root beer comes to mind or peach juice. Ooh mango, pineapple or papaya juice and take advantage of that papain enzyme that tenderizes.

                Oh I have to try that.

                1. re: Hank Hanover

                  Have tried mango and it is amazing! Have not tried pineapple, though, but it would work wonderfully. Even papaya would probably be nice (if you like them).

                  Getting hungry once again...

              3. Funny how I'm brining 2 Cornish hens at this very minute. I put them in around 2:30, maybe 3, and won't take them out until 6 at the earliest. I used a bit more than a third of a cup of kosher salt, and a third of a cup of raw sugar in maybe a gallon or a little more of water. I don't rinse them, but I do wipe them dry before roasting.

                1 Reply
                1. re: EricMM

                  I always use double the amount of sugar to salt, If brining for the next day (20hrs) 2L water 1/8 cup kosher salt 1/2 cup raw sugar. Less than 8hrs 2L water, 1 cup raw sugar , 1/2 cup kosher salt. Rinse and dry. This is pretty standard for smoking recipes for fish and chicken , I just use the same for pork.