Learned Something New This Week…

I stopped by the Fish Hawk last Friday afternoon to visit and shoot the breeze for a little bit.  At some point the conversation turned to Big Green Egg cooking.  Hmmm, a conversation among fisher folk turning to food…imagine that.  Anyway, I mentioned that we cook a lot of boneless, skinless chicken breasts and pork chops and have become a bit bored with them.  Sure, we can coat them with different rubs but we’ve been looking for some way to jazz them up a bit more.

Gary Merriman, the owner of the Fish Hawk and an Egger himself, asked if I had ever tried brining.  I’ve read bits and pieces about brining on the various BBQ forums I read but had never given it much thought.  Gary told me that brining, at its simplest, is just marinating a piece of meat for a period of time in a brine solution whose salt content is greater than the natural salt content of the meat itself (There’s a bit of chemistry involved that I’m not going to go into here).  The brine solution, in addition to salt, often contains some sort of sugar and other flavorings that when dissolved can be absorbed into the meat.

After doing a bit more reading this weekend I decided to give brining a try.  I made up a simple brine solution consisting of water, kosher salt and brown sugar.  Connie picked up a package of six thick-cut pork chops last week at the store.  I put three of the chops and the brine in a zip-lock freezer bag and put it in the meat drawer of the fridge for a couple of hours and put the rest in the freezer for another night.  After a nice cool bath I gave each chop a light coat of Dizzy Dust and tossed ‘em on the Egg.

Before

I let the chops cook for about 10 to 12 minutes at 375 degrees to an internal temp of 165 degrees before I pulled them off the Egg and headed inside.

After

The Results?  More often than not our grilled pork chops turn out dry and tough, even when cooked on the Egg.  Not this time.  They turned out tender and juicy.  Maybe not cut-with-a-fork tender but much tenderer (is that a word) than I’ve had before.  How about flavor?  Contrary to what one might think, the salt and brown sugar flavors weren’t overpowering.  In fact, they were just noticeable.  On the flip side, it did seem to enhance the flavor of the Dizzy Dust.  Now to give it a try with some chicken and see how much of a difference it makes.

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5 Responses to Learned Something New This Week…

  1. Jeff Fields says:

    Steve, now try brining overnight. A few hours really does not give the solution enough time to do its magic.

    • dppoppers says:

      I’ll give overnight a try on the next batch. Most everything I’ve read so far suggested that a couple of hours is sufficient for small cuts like chops and boneless skinless chicken breasts and more than a couple of hours may make chicken ‘rubbery’…

  2. Clyde Olson says:

    On the other hand, Cook’s Illustrated Magazine whose brining recs I came across about 10 years ago states that brining of poultry or pork(marbled-beef doesn’t really need brining) recommends brining for 30 minutes per pound not to exceed 8 hours. E.g., cut up chicken for my wife and I brined for 30-40 minutes is just fine. Their and my 0.02

  3. griffinsgrub says:

    Brining is definitely the way to go. You might want to pull the chops a bit earlier, as well. The USDA now says 145 is cooked for pork. Some people pull at 140 now and it will carry over, but if people are used to “well done” pork and are a bit squeamish, try pulling at 145 (or even 150). You’ll get better results than 165.

  4. Jody Hurley says:

    I agree with griffinsgrub. I have been an egghead for 17 years and have always cooked my chops, tenderloins, loins to an internal of 140, let rest for 10 minutes and eat. They are done, juicy and wonderful. I have never had an issue with this temp.

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