Monday, November 2, 2009

To Brine or Not to Brine.....That was the Question

I keep reading about how great a brine is for meat. I have never used a brine for anything, but I've been curious to see what all the fuss is about.

I had a big pork loin that I was planning to cook for Sunday dinner. I found an easy brine recipe that I thought I would try.

My pork loin was too big to fit in the brine solution. So I decided to cut it in half and brine just one half of it. I wanted to see if we could tell the difference.

I put half of the pork loin in the brine Saturday morning, put in in the refrigerator and left it until Sunday afternoon (I stirred it twice during that time).

My mother-in-law gave us a quart of her homemade sauerkraut which is what inspired the pork loin dinner. I put the sauerkraut on the bottom of a big roaster. Then I browned both halves of the pork loin and put them on top of the kraut. The toothpicks indicate the unbrined half. I salted and peppered only the unbrined half because the brine had a quarter cup of salt and a bunch of pepper in it and I figured the seasonings would get absorbed in the pork. I put them in a 350 degree convection oven for one hour.

The squash and carrots I showed you in Saturday's post were for this dinner. When they were roasted, I mashed them together.

On Sunday I put the carrot/squash mixture in a disposable piping bag and piped this weird design which I stuck in the oven to reheat. As you can see, I am not very good with a piping bag. :) It did taste pretty good, though.

When the timer went off after one hour of cooking, I was shocked to stick in a thermometer and find the internal temperature of the pork was almost 180 degrees! I was just sick. Shoe leather is all I could expect from a piece of meat that over cooked. I really must read about convection cooking.

I was most pleasantly surprised to find that the brined half was still moist and quite tasty even though it was over cooked. The unbrined half was very dry. Even DH swallowed his pride and admitted that the brined half was better (he wrinkled his nose when he saw the brining and promptly declared he was only going to eat the other half).

The simple brine solution I used was:

8 cups of water
1/4 cup salt
1/4 cup brown sugar - I may leave this out next time - there is no sweet taste and I don't think sugar does anything to add moisture.
2 bay leaves
a couple teaspoons pepper
4 cloves garlic, crushed

I put everything in a deep pan over high heat just until the sugar and salt was dissolved. I cooled the liquid and put the pork half in (it was about 4 lbs.) I stuck in the refrigerator for about 24 hours, stirring it twice during that time.

When I was ready to cook, I took the pork out, dried it off with a paper towel, browned it in oil and put it on a bed of sauerkraut in a 350 degree convection oven for one hour. One hour was too long! Next time I will check it after 30 minutes and remove it when it's about 145 degrees. It will go up a bit more as it rests. Oh, and just throw the brine solution down the drain. It's already done it's job.


  1. Interesting post Zoey! I have seen Martha Stewart brine turkeys. I do think because you cut the meat in half it cooked faster, but after an hour-but you also have a new oven. I have found that to be the case too. I also love the Reynold's cooking bags and use them on my turkeys. They get cooked rather quickly too. Wonder if brined meat in a bag would be tasty too?

  2. Hope you understand that-lots of 'buts' in there-lol

  3. I'll have to try this...pork does tend to dry out alot!

  4. I don't know about pork, but I dry-brine my chicken and turkey and they come out moist and flavorful every time.

    1 tsp salt per lb of meat. Rub all over.

    For the chicken, I leave it covered in the fridge or at room temperature for an hour before baking. For the turkey, I just do it the night before and cook as normal.

  5. Zoey, I'm a huge fan of brining - been doing it for years and have since never had a dry turkey breast at Tgiving. I also brine chicken breasts for about an hour before cooking. They all come out very tasty and moist. Brine ON!!


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