Brining is a process that adds moisture to meat, while also tenderizing it, which makes it a great option for lean cuts of pork, such as tenderloin.
However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t attempt brining other cuts of pork as well because the result will always be meat that’s juicier and more tender. So, here are a few tips on how to brine all cuts of pork.
The Basic Brining Formula
The basic brining formula is one cup of table salt, preferably iodine-free, to one gallon of water. If using coarse salt, like kosher salt, then you will need approximately 1.5 cups per gallon, as coarse salt takes up more space, which means it weighs less by volume.
As long as you remember this ratio, you will always be successful in your brining attempts. Just remember that adding less salt won’t hurt the food, but adding to much salt can make the meat inedible. Ideally, the water should taste salty but not so salty that you gag.
How Long to Brine Your Cuts
Like with the amount of salt added, not brining for long enough isn’t a problem, whereas brining for too long will result in meat that is too salty to eat. In terms of how to brine all cuts of pork, there isn’t a standard timeframe that applies to all cuts.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that even a little brining is better than none at all. Ideally, you’ll need at least a few hours, even for smaller cuts.
For a general idea, pork chops that are up to 1.5 inches thick will need to be brined between 12 and 24 hours, while a whole pork loin will take 2 days. The amount of time you brine a cut of meat for will be determined by the thickness, weight and grain of the meat.
Pork tenderloin’s long-running grain, for example, is better at pulling the brine into the meat, compared to pork chops, which is why a tenderloin will need 12 hours whereas chops can take up to 24 hours.
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While water and salt alone will certainly make the meat juicier and more tender, the solution won’t add anything in terms of flavor. At the very least, you should be adding a sweetener, like sugar, maple syrup or molasses. Generally speaking, you should add about a cup of sugar or other sweetener to one gallon of brine.
You can use any other spices or herbs to give your meat that additional dimension. It’s usually a good idea, though, to make sure the spices you are using complement the recipe. For example, if you are making pork in mustard sauce, you could add some mustard powder and peppercorns to the brine.
When it comes to how to brine all cuts of pork, you can see that it’s quite a simple process, but a highly effective one. And it’s only time consuming in the sense that you have to wait for the meat to be ready, which will require some planning ahead. However, you’ll find that the meat is so tasty, tender and juicy that it really is worth it.