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 to Brine All Cuts of Pork
Brining is a process of soaking meat in a saltwater solution to enhance its flavor, tenderness, and moisture. Here’s a general recipe for brining pork:
- 1 gallon of water
- 1 cup of kosher salt
- 1/2 cup of brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon of black peppercorns
- 2 bay leaves
- Optional: herbs and spices such as rosemary, thyme, garlic, onion, or mustard seeds
- In a large pot or container, combine the water, salt, brown sugar, black peppercorns, and bay leaves. Stir until the salt and sugar are dissolved.
- Add any additional herbs and spices you like to the brine mixture. You can customize the flavors to your liking.
- Submerge the pork in the brine mixture, making sure it’s fully covered. You can use a brining bag or a large container with a lid to keep the pork submerged.
- Refrigerate the pork in the brine for at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours, depending on the size of the cut. For larger cuts of pork, such as a pork shoulder, you may need to brine for 24-36 hours.
- After the brining time is up, remove the pork from the brine and rinse it thoroughly under cold running water to remove any excess salt.
- Pat the pork dry with paper towels and let it come to room temperature before cooking it.
Note: When brining pork, it’s essential to keep it refrigerated at all times to prevent bacterial growth. Discard any leftover brine after use as it may contain harmful bacteria.
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 time frame 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.
Read: How To Smoke A Pork Lion
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.