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Jan 11, 2012 01:48 PM

Brining- continue after removing from brine?

If I want to brine pork for 10 hours, do I have to start the time exactly from before when I am going it cook it? In other words, if I did it 18 hours in advance for convenience and then after 10 hours took it out of the brine and rinsed it, would it continue to brine since there is still solution in the meat?

I am worried about the pork becoming to hammy if that makes any sense. I've had that happen if I over brine pork.

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  1. Hammy-ness is more a function of the salt curing the pork. Since the brined pork contains extra salt, the curing will continue. My guess is that there is a high probability that you'll have some hammy pork. It all depends upon your brine strength.

    1. There will be no further introduction of salt or liquid once it's been extracted and 8 hours delay isn't all that big a deal. You can buy brined turkey or uncooked corned beef that's been sitting a round for weeks post-brining and pre-cooking.

      1 Reply
      1. re: ferret

        I have looked on the boards here about freezing without any definitive answers.

        I bought a bunch pork and want to brine it and then vacuum pack it and freeze it. The last time I did it, it was a little over brined. I normally brine for 8-10 hours if cooking after brining. I am wondering if i should only do 4 hours before freezing or what.

      2. Meat will not brine if it's not in a brine, but if your brine is very strong, then the salt level left over in the meat might begin some "curing" effect, which is what makes for ham-like flavors.

        Since you report already having problems with hammy flavor, I think we can help best if you say what cut you're brining, about what weight, and why 10 hours, which would be a long time for all but the largest cuts. And it matters what proportion of salt to water you have to begin with, and whether you use sugar. Also, it's good to know whether your pork is natural or injected with flavoring solution.

        I know all those details might seem busy-making to some people, but that's the way it is with brines and curing. It's practically a science-experiment area of cookery, like much of baking, too.

        12 Replies
        1. re: Bada Bing

          I am using a recipe that calls for 1 cup kosher salt, 3/4 cup sugar and 8 cups of water amongst a bunch of other stuff (1 c maple syrup, aromatics). I am using pork loin chops that are about 1" thick and I would guess 8 oz.

          I have found with this recipe that anything less than 6-8 hours doesn't impart enough flavor. The recipe state "up to 12 hours".

          My concern is that with the brine removed, the salt continues to cure the pork while freezing (which can be several hours) and then when defrosting the chops.

          1. re: michaeljc70

            I think you might be asking too much of brining as a way of imparting flavor, because the standout peculiarity of your approach is how long you keep the food in the brine.
            For me, brining is a chemical salting process, one that helps meats cooked in dry heat to retain their moisture, and it is only incidentally a process for amping up flavors. You'd do better to put dry rubs or pastes on already brined chops, I bet.

            If you're using chops, you should brine for no more than an hour or so. Whole fresh ham, whole turkey, etc., are the only things that most cooks would brine for even 8 hours, unless they wanted to seriously alter the flavor and character of the meat. The bigger the cut, the longer the brine. Even if you brine 4 lbs. of chops, each chop is less than a pound and probably needs only a hour, max. Even larger cuts should probably not be in a strong brine for more than 8 hours. After that, remove and let it all air dry.

            Your brine recipe is relatively typical, if a bit sweet (too sweet, especially,if you want to grill the chops over high heat, because sugar burns). As regards salt, that recipe is pretty normal, although you would want to use a bit less salt (say 15% less) if using Morton brand rather than Diamond. Not a big deal, in any case. For sugar, however, your recipe is a quite high compared to the benchmark offered by Cooks Illustrated, which would call for one cup of sugar for 8 cups water, whereas you have 3/4 cup sugar and then also a cup of Maple syrup, which is mainly sugar.

            Of course, once you like the result, ignore the benchmarks of CI or whomever.

            1. re: Bada Bing

              In looking around the web at many recipes, an hour is a really short time to brine. Maybe that would be okay for a chicken wing or if you used a really strong brine (more salt).

              I went with 4 hours this time before vacuum sealing and throwing them in the freezer.

              I am really not concerned about the total brine time as I am with the affects of freezing on a brined chop. I can assure you that 6-8 hours in this brine does wonders without causing mushiness or drastically altering the texture.

              I also pack the chops tightly into a container to use as little brine as possible which could also impact the amount of time it takes. It probably is more like a shoulder due to the way I pack them tightly in a container. I had around 20 chops in a 1 gallon container this time.

              1. re: michaeljc70

                Cooks Illustrated recommends one hour per pound for brining, with no more than 8 hours regardless of weight. Their content is paid, however, so it might not be accessible for free on the web. But really, to the extent that you're happy with the results, then don't worry!

                To return to your original question: once you take a brined food out of the brine, it won't continue brining. So you're good to go. In fact, as another has noted already, many people (myself included) actually like to air-dry brined meats in the fridge when possible, as the evaporation makes it easier to get browning on the meat.

                1. re: Bada Bing

                  "....Cooks Illustrated recommends one hour per pound for brining, with no more than 8 hours regardless of weight."

                  At what percent brine?

                  1. re: scubadoo97

                    1 qt water to 1/2 cup Diamond Kosher salt (or 1/4 cup plus 2 tbs Morton Kosher salt) with 1/2 cup sugar, as well. Exception is high-heat (450+) roasting, in which case you cut in half both the salt and the sugar.

                    For my own part, I often omit or reduce the sugar component.

                    1. re: Bada Bing

                      That's 10 oz of salt per gal of water or a 6.9% brine or 26 degree Sal

                      The sugar is what gives it a hammy flavor IMO. Or really a combo of salt/sugar

                      One of the reasons I like to use % brine is so I can easily move between salt types. I really like to use pickling salt. It has no additives and is fine grained so it dissolves very well and is very cheap too.

                      1. re: scubadoo97

                        I do baking and strongly prefer percentage weights there, so thanks. How did you get 10oz. for the salt?

                        I never know from recipes what they take a given amount of salt to weigh, unless they specify a brand, I have that brand, and then I could weigh it, which I never bothered to do with brines.

                        1. re: Bada Bing

                          A cup of Diamond brand Kosher salt is 5 oz.

                          Too often a recipe will call for a brine with 1 cup salt per gal or 2 cups per gal but the brand of salt is not given. Two people with different salts will get very different results.

                          You certainly don't need to weigh it if you use the same salt and 2 cups/ gal is what gives you the result you're looking for. Easy to duplicate results.

                          I like to think in % of salt these days. Seems to have more meaning. I'm doing a 7% brine or I'm doing a 10% brine. As a reference, seawater is 3.5%

                          I like to brine shrimp in a brine similar to seawater of 3.5%. When making lox I like to use a very strong brine of 10%

                2. re: michaeljc70

                  FYI... If you search "Cooks illustrated brine", a Cooks Illustrated pdf popped up (first result in google), that shows their basic brine plus a write-up. It appears to be free content so no membership is needed.

                  1. re: dave_c

                    Thanks. That was an interesting read.

                    I think the way I am packing so many chops into the container with so little brine is definitely affecting the brine time. I am essential trying to brine 15-20 chops with 4 cups of brine. Due to the cost of the maple syrup and some of the aromatics, I am trying to get the most bang for my buck out of the brine. I think if I floated the chops loosely in brine, I would get the same affect much faster.

                    1. re: michaeljc70

                      Agreed. This goes to the surface area vs. mass ratio. You're essentially decreasing surface area which calls for increased time to compensate. Don't worry much about the aromatics, etc. If you put a simple salt / sugar brine next to the one you're discussing in a taste taste, you would be surprised how little of the flavor compounds get into the meat - most are only on the surface. Something you can achieve via the techniques another poster mentioned, or in a sauce.

          2. To the contrary, it is good to give the meat a rest between brining and cooking. This gives the brine that has already been absorbed a chance to spread throughout the meat, resulting in more evenly seasoned flesh. Smaller cuts could use an hour or two, a full chicken benefits from spending a night in the fridge, preferably on a rack set over a plate or platter.

            1. I'm too lazy today to read every reply, so this may have been commented on - but it sound like Bada and 8 Inch get it...listen to them.

              Considering that you are thoroughly rinsing the meat, the salt concentration will obviously not increase post brining. Though the brine will continue to spread evenly throughout the meat via osmosis.

              Remember, brining simply does change the structure / texture / flavor of the meat. The key is balance of time vs. salt concentration vs. meat surface area / mass. These three factors are all variables you need to be wary of. So, from you question, there is no definitive answer as to how long - since we are only given one of the variables to solve.

              I peeked below. Personally, 1" chops, I wouldn't brine for more than an hour - 90 minutes in the high concentration you're using may even be overkill. Brine is typically used for adding flavor through salt, and the majority (if not all that are noticeable) flavor agents beyond salt will be too large to pass through the cell membranes of the pork.

              Oh, and please don't freeze them. You're already 'plumping' the cells with the salt solution. Now, by freezing, you're expanding all those gorgeous little cells that hold in moisture...guess what, they will break down. There a reason why when you thaw them, you get a bunch of that pink fluid on the plate. That wasn't on the exterior of the meat when you put it in the've negated the exact effect you were going for!!!

              Unfortunately, today's pork is obscenely lean, and thus lacks much flavor. Stick to a short brine, focused on the juice factor, and spend the time creating a complex / layered flavor sauce. Today's pork just isn't what it used to be...

              8 Replies
              1. re: ssgarman

                I agree with ssgarman that today's pork makes it very difficult to extract any porky flavor from some cuts, most notably the loin and chops. I also agree that freezing after brining may be doing more damage than if you never brined - brining plumps the cells, and by freezing, you are actually probably damaging more cells after brining than if you never brined to begin with, resulting in the loss of all the added fluid.

                As for adding aromatic to a brine, I've rarely been able to tell a difference in flavor because of aromatics added to a brine, save for whatever spices stuck on the exterior and didn't get washed off. Given the relatively large size of many aromatic compounds, it's hard to imagine that (m)any would actually travel into the meat, as opposed to the very small size of water and salt.

                Short brine, no freeze, create a good crust to maximize flavor on the exterior of the shop, and a good sauce are steps to enjoy today's mass produced pork chops.

                1. re: foreverhungry

                  I boil the brine so a lot of the flavors are extracted into the liquid. I use juniper berries, cloves, rosemary, thyme, garlic, ginger, red pepper in addition to the maple syrup. You really do taste a lot of it in the final chop.

                  Personally, I am not a big fan of sauces with meat. I enjoy a grilled steak or pork chop perfectly cooked. I think a lot of people use sauces on meat because they over cook it and dry it out. A good glaze/sauce you slap on while cooking the meat can be good though-especially if it carmelizes on the meat.

                  1. re: michaeljc70

                    I agree with you on sauces with meat - I don't understand people putting sauces on steak. With some cuts of commercial pork, I can see it though - loin is so lean, and so flavorless, that something has to be done to it, otherwise eating a commercial porkchop is really about consuming protein.

                    Some sauces can really complement a meat, bring out the best qualities in it. Commercial pork has so little to offer, though, that there's simply not much there for any sauce to bring out. The chop becomes a vehicle for protein and for the sauce.

                    Boiling does a great job of getting aromatics into the water. I still wonder, though, how some larger aromatics, and especially oils, find their way into the meat in any kind of appreciable quantity. Personally, I've experimented with cutting away the outer 1/8 inch of meat after brining with aromatics and cooking, and was hard pressed to find any flavor from spices. I concluded that whatever flavor there is from spices in a brine are either on the surface and tough to wash off (such as oils), or do penetrate, but only a fraction of an inch. Given that, I'm more of a fan of rubs or glazes on the finished product. Much cheaper that way. But YMMV.

                    1. re: foreverhungry

                      pork chops and loin are so utterly flavorless and ridiculously lean i have completely given up buying them. why expend all that effort, time and the cost of ingredients to "brine" that stuff?

                      i can buy pork belly for 1/2 the cost and butt and shoulder for even less. with minimal pre-oven effort i plate an incredibly delicious protein. yes, the cook time is longer, but they are all "set it and forget it" kinda cuts.

                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                        I have several excellent recipe for glazes, marinades and brines that produce great pork. You're right that on it;s own, pork is like chicken and very bland.

                        You can also stuff pork loins or chops with a flavorful stuffing and it is good.

                        I also take a loin and put honey, mustard (dijon and whole grain), rosemary on top and cover it in bacon. How bad could that be?

                        1. re: michaeljc70

                          you mean white meat chicken, which i never buy either. :)

                          i simply don't understand buying expensive meat that has zero flavor and an unpleasant texture for lack of fat. might as well buy tofu.

                    2. re: michaeljc70

                      Escoffier is turning is his grave. I'm not saying to slap Heinz 57 on a prime New York here. You're cooking a blah piece of meat. Sorry, but unless you've found a pig that has avoided being genetically mutated over the past 60 years to be too lean, and flavorless, a correct sauce is great with it. Trust me, pork is not overcooked in my home. Here's a dish from my kitchen. It was a locally raised hog, excellent reputation farm, not cheap. Though it did outperform supermarket fare, it was still not great in terms of flavor - even after brining and cooking correctly. BUT, making a cider jus by deglazing the fond with a bit of apple cider, apple cider vinegar, and some veal glaze, fatted prior to serving made it a meal worth remembering. Without that sauce, it just wouldn't cut it.

                      The sauce was just a suggestion to your issue of brining. If you've got a better solution (no pun intended) I'm all ears for improving my techniques!!!

                    3. re: foreverhungry

                      I find that you can taste a variety of herbs and spices and fruit in brined meat and poultry if you boil them into your brine beforehand. Less so of course with a briefly brined pork tenderloin than a whole chicken that receives the 12-hour treatment.

                      I also find much more flavorful pork from local farms that raise their pigs more humanely, let them outdoors, and feed them a more varied diet.